Originally posted on The HR Blog:
Early on in my career I somehow managed to cut and paste the contents of an email describing a recent stag do I had been on, as opposed to the job advert I had just written, and then proceeded to post that onto an online job board. I still remember the call I received from a HR Director contact of mine saying, “although your weekend sounds like great fun, I’m not sure it is so relevant to the HRD role you are currently recruiting for”! After that it’s safe to say that I have always been very careful with what I post on the internet!
It was around this time that social media was gaining traction and there is no doubt that it has changed the way that we communicate and in many ways how we live our lives. Social media is everywhere, its unavoidable but if used correctly a very powerful tool!
With such massive changes over a relatively short space of times the use of social media brings certain challenges to organisations and the management of their people. A robust social media policy is essential and as an employee it is important that you are aware of the potential ramifications of what you post online.
This article from The Law Society Gazette is a typical example of how things can escalate!
“A paralegal and local councillor who wrote on Facebook that Boris Johnson ‘completely deserved’ to have coronavirus has lost her job, her former firm has said.
Midlands practice VHS Solicitors released a statement last night that Sheila Oakes, who was based at its office in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, and also mayor of Heanor, is no longer employed by the firm in any capacity.
Oakes, a Labour member, had written on Facebook on Monday evening that the prime minister ‘completely deserves this and he is one of the worst PMs we’ve ever had’, after Johnson had been admitted to intensive care at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.
VHS said Oakes had posted in a personal capacity, but it was clear from her Facebook biography that she was an employee of the firm, and as a result it had become embroiled in the media backlash which followed her comments. Several of the comments on social media about the original post had mentioned VHS and called for it to dismiss her.
The firm said it was clear that Oakes’ actions had the potential to have a detrimental effect on its reputation and those working in it, reducing the morale of staff working to provide advice and representation to suspects in police interview or court.
The firm added: ‘We have previously stressed that her views are not shared by the partners or any other members of staff. To wish illness upon anyone must be abhorrent to all right thinking members of the public. We are acutely aware of the distress that such posts can cause, both to the family and friends of the prime minister, but also to all of those affected by this terrible virus.
‘The partners are hopeful that we are now able to move on from this incident. Swift and decisive action was taken by the firm, even though at times we could be less than transparent with the steps that we were taking due to issues of confidentiality. We hope that people are in retrospect understanding of these issues.’
Oakes has since apologised ‘unreservedly’ and said she was concerned about the doctors and nurses who lacked equipment to protect them from the virus. She described her comments as ‘something said in anger’. She has been suspended from the Labour party pending an investigation.”
The above case shows how an evening rant on Facebook can have a serious impact on your livelihood and reputation. ACAS recommend that an employer should try to apply the same standards of conduct in online matters as it would in offline issues and so as an employee you need to be aware of how this affects you. In short you can’t just post what you want and use the defence that it is a personal account and so does not count!
Article written by Paul Withers