Social Media Madness in the Modern Workplace

Don’t overreact. Doing nothing is always a viable option.

Posted by Dawn Lomer in on July 17th, 2012

There’s been so much fuss about social media in the workplace that you’d think it was the end of the workplace as we know it. And maybe it is. But it isn’t the end of the world, as some managers and employers seem to think.

“Everybody’s terrified of it, but mostly because they don’t understand it,” says Heather Bussing, a California employment attorney, writer and law professor. “It’s not any different from employees talking on the telephone or sending emails or hanging out with their friends at the bar. It’s just louder, more immediate and moves faster,” she says.

Training for Managers

Managers need social media training way more than employees do, says Bussing, citing the recent barrage of lawsuits resulting from employees being fired for social media posts.

Just because a social media post is getting a lot of attention doesn’t mean it will last, she says. “It all goes into the stream. If you just do nothing for a little while it will die down. They don’t see it that way because they don’t understand the media. They want to fix it. And the more you fix it the worse it gets… That’s true with drama in general.”

Just Let it Go

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Bussing’s advice to employers:  If it’s not something that will cause long-term damage to the company, just let it go. “It’s the classic PR dilemma. The minute you start denying it you just start drawing attention to it,” she says.

When a social media problem does arise, Bussing advises employers and managers to:

  • look at the circumstances of each incident
  • put your feelings aside
  • assess what’s really happening and whether there is any actual damage
  • decide, if there is damage, whether it’s something you should deal with or whether it’s something that will fade away if ignored

“That whole letting-go-and-doing-nothing thing… it’s such a good option that people don’t remember,” she says. “Doing nothing is always a viable option.”

Prevention

Bussing stresses that employers should be focusing on prevention. “Employees know how to use social media and managers often don’t, but everybody has an expectation that it can be controlled, which is not really true.  Nobody really understands that everything you put on social media is findable by somebody eventually, so if you don’t want to say it to everyone in the world, don’t put it on social media.”

Training for both employees and management will ensure that everyone understands how and why social media is used and the dangers it holds for companies. Whether or not this takes the form of a policy isn’t all that important to Bussing.

Sense More Important than Policy

“Sometimes it’s just about getting everybody to pay attention and be informed about what this really is. It’s nothing to be afraid of, but it is extremely public. And if you wouldn’t normally do or say it in public, don’t do it or say in on social media,” she says. “And that’s really all the policy you need, but you need everyone to really understand it.”

Employers have three concerns when it comes to social media, says Bussing. They are:

Companies are already in the best position to figure out how to address these concerns in their policies. “They know what the issues are on the ground. And so all of the things that you already have policies about, because you’re worried about non-disclosure, for instance, probably apply to social media anyway,” she says, adding that it’s not a bad idea to look at the language in existing policies and tweak it.

“Management owes it to itself and the future of the company to become technologically savvy,” says Bussing.  “Your employees are bringing their technology to work. They are using social media. Deal with it. What are you afraid of? What do you want to address? If it boils down to ‘we don’t want to look bad in public,’ get over it.”


Dawn Lomer
Dawn Lomer

Managing Editor

Dawn Lomer is the managing editor at i-Sight Software and a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). She writes about topics related to workplace investigations, ethics and compliance, data security and e-discovery, and hosts i-Sight webinars.