The abuse of social media at work

With increasing use of social media in the working world today, the chances of it being inappropriately handled only gets higher with each passing day. The convenience that Internet provides makes it a whole lot easier to find out who did what on the net and things others said that might be inappropriate.

The key issue that I would like to address is DEFAMATION.

Be it intentional or not, defamation is one of the most common issues that companies face today. If you think you can make use of anonymity to cover your tracks, think again! One good example would be Whole Foods CEO, John Mackey whom “attacked” Whole Foods’ competitor indirectly through the company’s blog. He maligned that the other party would fall into bankruptcy and their stocks would not be worth purchasing.

Although Mackey used an alias to avoid getting discovered but it eventually backfired. This only goes to show that the Internet is not as private as you think it is. I feel that there is no need to put yourself at risk by posting a nasty comment or remark about others on the web. The Internet is after all available and seen by others all over the world so one should be smart and choose their words carefully.

Any preventive measures? 

With every issue comes a set of preventive measures. Here are some ways that I feel would be helpful in minimising the risk of defamation:

1. Training programmes 

Many companies neglect the fact that training is in fact much needed to educate employees on how they should conduct and portray themselves on social media platforms. Employees are representatives of the company and the way they conduct themselves on the Internet reflects the company values and practices.

2. Keep track of what is posted on the company’s social media platforms

If you do not want your employees to post inappropriate remarks about other individuals or companies, it would be necessary to monitor the kind of content that they post on social media. This way, the company would be constantly updated on whether an employee posted offensive remarks or not and once spotted, the firm would be able to act on it immediately before word spreads. It is always better to take corrective measures before the damage is done.

All in all, I feel that it is paramount that companies adopt these preventive measures and also be QUICK to counteract before the situation blows out of proportion.


References

TransportCanada, 2012. Social Media at Work. [Online]
Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRvY1SzWhl0
[Accessed 5 December 2014].

Anon., 2007. Whole Foods CEO’s anonymous online life. [Online]
Available at: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/19718742/ns/business-us_business/t/whole-foods-ceos-anonymous-online-life/#.VIFN_zGUeSp
[Accessed 5 December 2014].

Anon., n.d. 5 Social Media Mistakes Your Company Can Learn From. [Online]
Available at: http://www.socialmediaworks.com/news-tools-tips/social-media-mistakes/
[Accessed 5 December 2014].

Barry, D. J., 2014. 7 Ethical Dilemmas Faced in Social Media Marketing. [Online]
Available at: http://blog.socialcontentmarketing.com/7-ethical-dilemmas-faced-in-social-media-marketing/
[Accessed 5 December 2014].

Vinjamuri, D., 2011. Ethics and the Five Deadly Sins of Social Media. [Online]
Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidvinjamuri/2011/11/03/ethics-and-the-5-deadly-sins-of-social-media/
[Accessed 5 December 2014].

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8 comments

  1. yimingsoton · December 7, 2014

    Hi Corinne,

    Nice video to show on tips for using social media at work! It gives me a good overview of the do’s and don’ts.
    Your take on defamation got me to think on the legal side of the issue. So let’s say if an employee was found to post something inappropriate and have damage the company reputation, should the company sue them besides just firing them?

    I agree with you that being anonymous cannot save you from not revealing your identity with the technology we have now.

    While i believe training programme is necessary, do you think an enforced policy serve more purpose in ensuring employees abide by the rules?

    While your suggestion of monitoring what is posted online is worth mentioning, to what extent do you think the monitoring should go so as not to affect employees morale since most employees would prefer to have some kind of autonomy in work? .

    Like

    • corinnesyq · December 8, 2014

      Hey Yiming,

      Whether or not a company should sue their employee depends on which state or country that they are in as well as the amount of damage that has been done to the company’s reputation. If the issue is minor, there will be no need to sue the employee as it is costly and might blow out of proportion if mishandled.

      For example, in Australia, “under the Uniform Defamation Law, corporations with 10 or more employees cannot sue” (The News Manual) if the company is a non not-for-profit organisation. You can read more about that here: http://www.thenewsmanual.net/Resources/medialaw_in_australia_02.html

      An enforced policy might help ensure that employees abide by the rules but I feel that training would be more effective as you are targeting the root of the problem and ensuring that the foundation is set right. Once employees understand the severity of the consequences brought about by defamation, they would most probably think twice before doing something stupid.

      The main focus of monitoring the employees’ actions would be carried out mainly through the company’s social media platforms. I feel that the company has the right to know what employees are posting on the firm’s social media sites as they have to ensure that their professionalism is not compromised.

      As for what employees post on their own social media sites is their own business. However, fellow colleagues who are friends with them on Facebook, Twitter etc.,can indirectly “monitor” and raise an issue if they feel that something inappropriate is being posted.

      Hope this helps!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Isaac · December 8, 2014

    Hey Corinne.

    Pretty informative video, thanks for sharing it.

    You brought up an important issue of defamation. While the internet and social media are certainly a great thing for people and society in general, they can be an effective breeding ground for potentially libelous statements.

    Some people may even feel that the internet allows us to speak our mind almost too easily which could intentionally or accidentally result in a potentially defamatory comment or post. Have you look into how easy it is for someone to get sued, or to sue others?

    Like

    • corinnesyq · December 8, 2014

      Hey Isaac,

      As I’ve mentioned to Yiming in the above comment, different states and cities have different laws regarding defamatory cases. There are several factors that have to be taken into account before the individual or organisation can decide if the matter is serious enough to take to court.

      Some of the factors are as follows:
      1. There is actual damage done i.e. reputation is affected
      2. Statement posted is false
      3. Severity of damage
      4. If the statement was made public

      You can learn more about the basics of defamation here: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/defamation-law-made-simple-29718.html

      Hope this clarifies your concern!

      Like

  3. Ling Zi · December 8, 2014

    Hi Corinne,

    I talked about companies need to take relative measures because of social media is moving forward as it is expected. And I found you mentioned some ways to prevent future issues to keep away the risk defamation. As an employee posts anything relate to conflicts of company interests is unprofessional performance and unethical. Training programmes is a good approach to educate employees how to portray themselves exposured to different scenarios. Especially on the Internet, they need to respect company value and practices.

    I also agree with you the idea to keep track what is posted on company’s social media platforms. You can deal with inappropriate remarks before they spread out. As for employees post on their social platform, if the company is very large, it is not easy to monitor. And do you feel that people behave unethical online because they think they are safe behind the screen?

    Like

    • corinnesyq · December 8, 2014

      Hey Ling Zi,

      Thanks for your comments! I do agree that it is not easy to monitor the actions of every single employee but I believe that the preventive measures would help to some extent!

      Many people post remarks online without putting much thought into it and before they even realise it, the damage might already have been done. In some cases, individuals treat social media as a platform to vent their negative feelings without having actual intentions to tarnish the other party’s reputation.

      As for individuals that post negative comments using an alias, their main aim is usually just to get their point across and in the process, they forget about the fact that the Internet is not entirely anonymous.

      Overall, I feel that it depends on each individual’s motives and mindset as different people would have their own set of criteria as to what is considered unethical and damaging and what is not.

      Like

  4. rochellezc · December 8, 2014

    Hi Corinne!

    That is a great video you have shared with all of us, very informative and easy to understand. It is so true that the most crucial issue to a company is defamation. That the company can simply ruin its reputation by its own employees with a harsh and reckless comments to the competitors or customers.

    On top of the 2 preventive measures you have mentioned, do you think that by hiring the right employees to do the job could directly tackle the potential issues that may or may not happen? This is to know if that individual is the right fit for the company itself.

    Cheers,
    Rochelle

    Like

    • corinnesyq · December 8, 2014

      Hey Rochelle!

      I wouldn’t really say that hiring the right person for the right job has any relations as to whether or not potential issues would arise in the near future. These issues may surface due to various reasons such as:
      1. conflict at work
      2. dissatisfaction with higher-ups
      3. unhappy with current or new policies implemented

      The above issues are some classic examples that would spark off negative comments on the web and if uncontrolled, may lead to one employee slandering another employee or organisation on social media.

      Hope this helps!

      Like

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