For employers wary of fallout, workers’ posts and tweets are a growing concern
- Last Updated: 1:14 AM, July 16, 2012
- Posted: 10:43 PM, July 15, 2012
There once was a time when employers’ biggest concern about social media was keeping employees off the grid during work hours.
How MySpace that seems in retrospect.
With participation in social media seemingly ubiquitous, employers’ focus has shifted to what exactly their workers are writing on Facebook and Twitter — and what kind of potential harm it might do to the company’s rep or to its bottom line.
Which means workers need to mind what they post, lest they find themselves the target of some unwanted attention from the boss.
“There is a fear that employees will use [social media] to say negative things about their employer or about the brand,” says Curtis Midkiff, director of social engagement for the Society for Human Resource Management. “It’s a growing concern.”
Part of the concern is that they’ll share confidential information, or “potentially damaging insights into the employer brand,” says Midkiff.
And nobody wants in-house gripes being aired — among other things, “it could impact the ability to recruit new talent if your employees say negative things about their working experience.”
One study says employer worries aren’t simple paranoia. A 2011 poll commissioned by Symantec of more than 1,200 companies found that the typical firm had had an average of nine “social media incidents” in the past year, with 94 percent of those firms suffering negative consequences such as a drop in stock price, litigation expenses and a “damaged brand reputation.”
And this comes at a time when many employers are encouraging workers to Tweet about their latest workplace triumph or otherwise use social media in ways to generate positive attention. According to a 2011 survey by the office space supplier Regus, 55 percent of US firms are encouraging their employees to join social networks.
The problems arise when they generate the kind of attention no employer wants. Like when a physician’s assistant at a Port Chester, NY, medical center caused a local stir by posting photos of himself performing medical procedures on patients — in one case holding a syringe to a patient’s neck, in a photo captioned “When you can’t start a line in a junkie’s arm . . . go for the neck!” The center publicly apologized — and promised to school its staffers on social-networking protocol.
Sending ill-considered tweets is an increasingly popular way to run afoul of one’s employer. Just ask New York Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire, who in June was fined $50,000 by the NBA after he issued a Twitter blast to a fan that contained a gay slur.