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Social media stupidity … and how HR should respond

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Among the carnage in the streets of Vancouver after last week’s Stanley Cup playoff loss comes the story of people who were victims of their own social media stupidity.

Exhibit A: Connor Mcilvenna, a 22-year-old Vancouver construction worker, said he was downtown "watching the riots” and decided to post a few pro-riot updates on his Facebook page. They included: “that riot was AWESOME!!!” and “atta boy vancity!! Show em how we do it!!” and “Vancouver needed remodeling anyway.” His profile included his employer’s name.

The morning after, Mcilvenna’s supervisor called him into the office, read him the riot act and then fired him. As the boss told CTV News, "I just didn't feel like what was said was appropriate, and I didn't want any affiliation towards my company with the things he said on Facebook."

facebook vancouver
Do your employees know that their Facebook foibles and Twitter trip-ups could affect their employment status? Have you given them fair warning?

These days, every employer should have a policy on employees’ social media usage. Here are the five points to make clear:

1. Don’t expect privacy. Employees need to know that information posted on social media sites should not be considered private. Remind them that their postings will exist in a public forum for a long time.

2. Use good judgment. Warn employees that if information they post on a social media site violates any company policy, affects the employee’s job performance, or hurts the reputation of other employees or the company’s business interests, they may be subject to discipline up to and including termination.

3. Only on your own time. If you want to draw a hard line, inform employees that they are prohibited from participating in social media during working time.

4. Post as yourself. Tell employees that if they make references that could in any way be attributed to the company, the employee must notify readers that the views, opinions, ideas and information are the employee’s own, and are not sanctioned by the company.

5. Keep secrets and don’t steal.
Remind employees that they are prohibited from disclosing proprietary information, data, trade secrets or other confidential nonpublic company information. Inform them that they may not use or disclose the company’s intellectual property online without advance, written permission.

Have your employees caused social media troubles … and, if so, what’s been your response?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan July 25, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Deloris, your comment about the coffee shop reminds me of something in AP's newly-updated social media policy for its employees (as of 7/13/11) in the Privacy sec.

Here's the excerpt that specifically refers to comments over a beer with friends (being OK) vs. online … (not OK):

Employees should be mindful that any personal information they disclose about themselves or
colleagues may be linked to the AP's name. That's true even if staffers restrict their pages to
viewing only by friends. It’s not just like uttering a comment over a beer with your friends: It's
all too easy for someone to copy material out of restricted pages and redirect it elsewhere for
wider viewing. As multitudes of people have learned all too well, virtually nothing is truly
private on the Internet.

And this sec. reveals something I didn't know: it is against FaceBook's terms of service to maintain 2 personal profiles (i.e., w/ 2 different sets of 'friends') I don't think too many people read those long "Terms of Service" notices and know that's a violation …

All AP journalists are encouraged to have accounts on social networking sites. These sites are
now an integral part of everyday life for millions of people around the world. They have become
an essential tool for AP reporters to gather news and share links to our published work.
We recommend having one account per site that you use both personally and professionally.
Many AP journalists have had great success with this strategy, since social media is inherently a
personal space. And on Facebook, for example, it’s a violation of the Terms of Service to
maintain two personal profiles.


Deloris July 18, 2011 at 4:05 pm

As a manager at a large corporation, my contract includes an agreement that I will not say anything bad about the company online or in a public location, such as a restaurant, where customers might overhear my conversation. I would never say horrible things about my employer in a blog or public forum. However, disallowing employees the right to voice complaints about unethical practices in the workplace to their family and friends seems rather autocratic. I deserve the right to speak openly about the things that impact my life on a very personal level, but I agreed to their requirement and have upheld my contractual obligations. Is it legally acceptable for a company to relinquish your freedom of speech not only online but during a private conversation with friends at a coffee shop or similar venue?


Carol June 23, 2011 at 8:51 pm

We recently disciplined an employee who got into an argument over Twitter with a “friend”. Turns out the “freind” was also a customer and threats were made and private information about the customer was shared on Twitter. Ooopsie!


Karen June 23, 2011 at 3:06 pm

We had to terminate an employee who used a Company computer on Company time to post on Facebook that her new supervisor was a b**** and she wishes she were dead. She was upset that she didn’t get the job. Gee – I wonder why?


Debra June 23, 2011 at 2:29 pm

We just had to terminate an employee two weeks ago because when IT checked her computer usage (she’s been unusually unproductive in recent months), they found that she spent about 40% of her workday on Facebook. We didn’t have a policy before. We do now.


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