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How Should You Handle an Employee Who Vents about Their Job on Social Media?

When an employee complains online, what’s the best way to handle it?

You may have a stellar corporate culture. Great-paying jobs. Tremendous opportunities for advancement.

But that won’t shield you from a disgruntled employee who wants to exercise their First Amendment Right to free speech online.

When it comes to protecting your company’s online reputation, the best offense is a good defense. And that starts with educating your employees on how they may and may not use their social media accounts when referring to your organization. By clearly defining, communicating and enforcing a social media policy, your employees will know what to expect if they decide to air their grievances about your business online.

Standard Elements of a Social Media Policy

Your organization’s needs are unique, and you should always consult an attorney when crafting workplace policies for your organization (especially as those policies relate to the National Labor Relations Act). Still, a comprehensive social media policy should address the following:

  • Whether employees can, may or should disclose their affiliation with your organization.
    • If employees need to disclose affiliation, provide language for required legal disclaimers, stating that their posts are their own – and do not necessarily reflect the views of your company.
  • Clear rules for accessing personal social media accounts at work.
    • If you permit access/usage, state when and how employees may do so.
  • Topics to be avoided online.
  • Rules about how employees may and not:
    • speak about the organization online;
    • use company logos, brands and/or images;
    • comment on customers’ posts to the organization’s social media accounts.
  • Prohibitions regarding:
    • using company email to sign up for personal social media accounts;
    • sharing information about the company and/or its clients/customers;
    • posting, liking or sharing content which could be considered derogatory, defamatory or inflammatory;
    • bullying and/or harassing others online.
  • Consequences for noncompliance.

Once you have a comprehensive social media policy in place, make sure every member of your workforce understands it:

  • Conduct formal training (led by the team that created the policy) to review it, as well as field questions from employees.
  • Explain what type of online “speech” is protected and not protected.
  • Give every employee a written copy of your policy and time to review it.

Then, require each staff member to sign an acknowledgement that they have received, reviewed and understand the policy.

When Discipline is Required

Despite your best preventative efforts, employees still may engage in questionable behaviors online. If you must address an issue, be careful to treat employees equally, apply rules uniformly and use discretion when possible. While each situation will be unique, a well-crafted social media policy will help protect both your organization and the people who work for it.

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