Decades ago, the grumblings, complaints, and revelations of employees were limited to the watercooler. Outside of the office, those grumblings may have found their way to the dinner table or the local watering hole, but that was about the extent of it.
Today, of course, social media has dramatically expanded the reach of anyone with an Internet connection, a connected device, and an opinion on something—including employers. This newfound power can be tricky business for employers. How can an employer balance a need to protect its image and confidential information against employee privacy rights, particularly when it comes to speech that occurs off-site and after hours?
TikTok: Powerful New Platform for Employee Complaints
More fundamentally, how can employers even monitor what’s being said about them across the entire global media landscape? In an article for BBC Worklife, Bryan Lufkin discusses one of the most trendy job-bashing platforms, particularly for younger workers: TikTok.
“The app, in which users dive down an infinite scroll of short videos filmed by other users, attracts thousands of workers complaining about and making fun of work and their day jobs, mostly in the form of short comedy sketches filmed on their phones, often set to music and sometimes peppered with explicit language,” Lufkin writes. He also shares some popular TikTok hashtags that are used to find these sentiments—#worktok, #careertok, and #work, for instance. They’re followed, he says, by millions.
Keeping Tabs on Employee Sentiment
Employers might not stumble across their own staff ridiculing them on platforms like TikTok and others. Indeed, even if they did, they’d have to tread lightly when thinking about what, if anything, to do in response to an employee’s post. The NLRB has explicit guidelines prohibiting employers from limiting or sanctioning employees’ communications about work-related issues and conditions, including pay and benefits.
However, employers can, and should set up processes to help them listen in to these discussions by simply scrolling through some of the corporate commentary coming from younger workers. They may be surprised by the insights they glean.
Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.