It's well-documented that a person's behavior outside of work—including online—can impact their employment.
Just ask the PR executive who posted a racist Tweet in 2014 before boarding a flight and was all but fired by the time she landed. Or the nurse who posted a TikTok of herself talking about how she didn't follow COVID-19 safety protocols outside of work and quickly found herself unemployed after the video went viral.
In times when there are so many national and global events that people feel strongly about and social media is an easy way to widely share beliefs and opinions, it's important that your employees know they must still abide by your company's policies when online outside of work.
connect free speech to consequences
People often like to point to the right of freedom of speech as the reason they can say whatever they want in all contexts, both in person and online. And certain speech in the workplace is protected, including discussing things like wages and conditions of employment.
But rights can be limited and exercising them is not always without consequences. Free speech is no exception. An oft-used example—paraphrased from a famous Supreme Court case—is that you can't shout "fire!" in a crowded theater. You know, back when there were crowded theaters.
A modern—and pandemic-appropriate—example would be an employee who bullies a coworker online outside of work hours. Legally, can they post that content without facing consequences? Depending on the state, likely yes. But can that employee face consequences at work from their private employer for posting it, up to and including termination? Absolutely.
There are steps you can take to guide your employees when it comes to appropriate online behavior. Make sure your company has a social media policy in place. Employees should be required to read and acknowledge it, and it should be easily accessible for them to refer to it later.
A good policy should distinguish between what's acceptable for different types of social media and online behavior: official on behalf of the company, professional while acting in a professional capacity and networking, and personal.
Employees must understand that their online behavior—whether it's official, professional, or personal—should never involve:
- Harassing, discriminating, or bullying behavior
- Sharing confidential organizational information without authorization
- Sharing personal information about coworkers, clients, or business partners without permission
Train Employees and Reinforce the Policy
Coach your employees on appropriate communications and social media behavior consistent with your policies. Whether you use a training module or a refresher video, humanizing your social media policy can make it more resonant and applicable to your employees' day-to-day actions and behaviors.
There's no denying the significant role that social media plays in most people's lives. It's more important now than ever to set employees up for success when it comes to using social media appropriately and responsibly.
INSTANT VIDEO DOWNLOAD: Keeping Online Behavior Compliant
If you want to get started today, True Office Learning has released a free video that you can download and share through your own communication channels.
The video, Keeping Online Behavior Compliant & Appropriate, outlines three critical things for employees to keep in mind as they take their voices to social media.
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