With the rise of the internet and mobile technology, people are broadcasting their opinions and beliefs on social media sites. Twitter was established as an outlet for self expression… of the fewer-than- 140-characters-variety. We have access to technology that enables individuals to share who they are and what they feel to the masses, such as Snapchat, Tumblr and Instagram.
Yet with freedom comes responsibility… And a burden for legislators, employers and individuals. Regulating the “self-expression” on social media can be seen as an encroachment on the First Amendment right to free speech. What is considered a “negative” or “positive” post? Who is supposed to decide what is right or wrong? Isn’t it all just relative?
In my blog below, I provide examples of people who were wrongly punished by their employers for posting what I would consider innocent. If your organization provides a clear social media policy that clearly explains that you can’t post anything work related on social media, then I can understand how the transgressions below may be crossing a line. But a lot of companies fail to provide any type of policy, let alone the necessary social media training or awareness program to support the policy. After reading some articles about social media, there are definitely some grey areas in social media policies.
Employees Tame Posts Result In Damaging Consequences
In an article posted by Healthcare IT News, an ER nurse posted a photo on Instagram of a trauma room. No staff or patients were included in the picture. The image only showed that the room had been used in the recent past. The veteran nurse was fired right after the incident. The reason: She was told she was being insensitive… but I don’t see how she was being insensitive. The nurse hadn’t even initially taken the photo, she merely reposted it from another doctor – but that doctor wasn’t fired. Her photo was innocent and the doctor was never reprimanded.
Is it right for a hospital to fire its employees if they say anything hospital-related on their social media posts? What if the employee posted something positive? These are the types of questions that need to be thought through so effective policy can be created.
Canada Press released an article that covers the need for employee social media policies in health care. A Trillium Health Partners employee was fired after he posted pictures on Facebook of a scene where a patient had jumped to his death in a hospital parking lot. The employee did not post pictures of the dead body, but instead posted comments that were insensitive and revealed the details of the incident. An act that took seconds to upload resulted in the employee’s termination and probably humiliation. The employee is unaware he is doing anything wrong because the hospital failed to provide its employees with a written document stating social media restrictions. This is one more case highlighting the need for health care organizations, as well as other industries, to develop clear social media policies that give employees firm guidelines to follow so they understand what they can or cannot post while at work.
Natacha Thomson, owner of a B2B Social Media Marketing Consultancy firm, released an article that provides great examples of social media related cases presented in court. The take away is that employees need to know their company’s social media policy in order to minimize risks. Employees should be asked to read and attest to the policy, which means they are signing a written agreement stating they have read, understood and are agreeing to abide by the contents of the policy. Now if the employee were to post something that was considered offensive to the organization and clearly against what was stated in the policy, it is the employee’s fault and the punishment is justified.
Why Social Media Training is Just As Important
It is so important for health care organizations, as well as other industries, to develop clear social media policies so that the employees have a clear understanding of what is right or wrong. Just as having an effective social media policy is important, so is social media training. In order for the policy and procedures to be ingrained in an individuals mind, you must back it up with social media training. A policy only provides value if people actually read it and understand it; it’s crucial to provide employees engaging, interactive training on the contents of the policy to really drive home the meaning, give them the chance to ask any questions and ensure they’ll retain and apply the information when necessary. Training your employees to know what your company considers a brand damaging post is important so mistakes can be avoided and there isn’t any confusion. The bottom line is your employees already know how to use social media – now it’s time to train them on how to use it appropriately.