I’ve always felt that companies are missing the boat when it comes to social media. Slow adoption, lack of understanding and fear of the unknown creates resistance and barriers that finds even the best social media team having a hard time functioning effectively. However in my view, the biggest mistake many companies make is not taking the time and effort to build company champions within their own walls. Simply put, people who have reached positive mass with the company – they like it and are not afraid to say so in public.
In the past, negative employee comments didn’t have many outlets that reached a wide audience. Social media has leveled the playing field. For example, my company’s Facebook page gets less views that those generated from the combined total of its employee’s pages. Social media is also instant, so the slight you feel at work CAN translate into an of the moment virtual slap for your company if you want it to.
Case in point, the settlement reached between an employer and their employee over disparaging comments posted to Facebook. Evidently, the employee had an axe to grind with her Manager and expressed it on her personal page, from her home computer. She was fired and being a union employee was able to file a complaint. The company’s defense of their actions hinged on their social media policy which prohibits workers from:
…”making “disparaging, discriminatory or defamatory comments when discussing the company or the employee’s superiors, co-workers and/or competitors.”
The ruling in the employee’s favor stated that:
“Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees may discuss the terms and conditions of their employment with coworkers and others,” the NLRB said in a statement on Monday announcing the settlement.” [Find the Ottawa Citizen story here>]
While I would tend to agree that taking your grievances social media public is not the best way to deal with workplace conflict, it has been made clear that it is your right to do so. I hope employers are listening.
If you already have social media within your company, ask them what they are encountering. (Make sure you ask your Community Manger rather than a high level manager, they live it every day and will have the best take on what is happening). Is there a negative perception of your company? Was it created or being buoyed by employees? Are there concerns that you can address that would help alleviate this? It may feel like a massive pain to do this run down (and do it often), but it will save you in the long run –
- Recruitment: When I look at companies I want to work for I check out what their employees are saying about them in addition to what they are saying about themselves.
- Costs of PR and media fixes: Traditional media is listening to what is coming out of social media, even CBC is quoting tweets as sources. The cost of fixing negative PR can be massive and long term.
- Internal strife: Your Marketing, Communications and Social Media teams all deal with the fall out of online employee negativity. No one wants to fight a battle they feel is unwinable and they won’t stay long.
- In real life conflict: Know it or not, your employees are using social media. They know what Nancy two cubicles down is saying about her team, or her supervisor or the company. Negativity breeds negativity.
Now you certainly can’t catch everything especially if you are a large company, but much of this equates to simply listening to employees and treating them with the respect and attention that you would like others to confer on you. Your employees have a voice and, with social media, the tools to air their grievances or positive feelings to a massive audience. Don’t underestimate the power of one tweet or post, the American Medical Response of Connecticut sure won’t.