The Dangers of Social Media in the Workplace

In the year 2015, there is no escaping social media.  Social media, which is defined by Merriam Webster as: “forms of electronic communication- (i.e. web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages and other content, such as videos.  According to a poll conducted by Pew Research Center in September 2014, 71% of adults online use Facebook, and 23% use Twitter.  These numbers are expected to grow each year.

Social media is now a staple in the business world, with many companies and organizations operating social media pages.  Social media can have a great usage, for example: marketing, increased exposure, ability for co-workers to connect, and the ability to connect with clients.  For companies and employees to have the ability to share their “thoughts” within seconds can be beneficial, but there are also risks involved.

Even though social media can be a good thing for the business world, it can often lead to many headaches in the HR departments.  In 2009, two Domino’s Pizza employees filmed a horrific prank and posted it on social media, and within a few days, it had more than a million views on YouTube.  Corporate was immediately sent into damage control to repair their image.  Domino’s spokesman Tim McIntyre said, “We got blindsided by two idiots with a video camera and an awful idea.”  Domino’s operates thousands of stores worldwide, but thanks to social media, two of their employees were able to damage their reputation.  The two employees were charged with felonies and were swiftly terminated by Domino’s.

 In recent news, companies have been forced to take action thanks to social media.  In August, ESPN has been very strict regarding their employees, was forced to suspend baseball analyst Curt Schilling, who shared a tweet which compared Nazi’s to Islamic extremists.  In April, they chose to suspend Britt McHenry, who was seen in a viral video berating a parking lot attendant.  In April 2014, reporter Darren Rovell also was suspended for an insensitive tweet (although he deleted it, nothing is ever completely erased from the internet.)

 This past May, a Toronto FC fan sexually harassed a female reporter while she was on live television.  Credit should be given to the reporter who did not back down from the man, and pressed him to find out why he said what he did.  This video went viral, many praising the reporter, and many denouncing the man who harassed her.  Within 24 hours, he was fired from his position from an electrical company.  With so many people having smart phones and millions using social media and the internet, the chances something like this shows up online are incredibly higher and pose a risk for companies around the world.

 There are ways to address social media at work

-          Implement clear, well-defined policies concerning the appropriate use of social networking, and the sanctions for non-compliance.

-          Make each employee sign a contract, that they consent to allow monitoring and understand the policies.

-          Document the misuse of social media.

-          Designate fellow employees to monitor content.