To post or not to post? Social media in the workplace
Jane Wilson, the Director of Social Media for Sunshine 100, an organisation specialising in responsible foods, pulled her Hyundai Elantra into a parking space near the entrance to her company’s headquarters in Brisbane. She was keen to get to her office. The company was in negotiations to expand to China. The previous round of talks in Beijing had gone well for the company: managers had seemed enthusiastic about launching the company’s new line of wholesome baby foods. The professional nutritionists and dieticians led by Dr Jeremy Jones had asked Jane to start working on a social media campaign to promote the company’s values, ‘Together, may we create a healthier life by starting with the food we eat’.
Today Jane would also get the go ahead to start Sunshine 100’s Twitter campaign ‘KidsEats’ a recently launched initiative with a focus on working directly with schools as well as children’s organisations to educate primary aged school children about healthy foods and healthy eating.
Jane entered the building and took the lift to the tenth floor. As the doors opened she could see Paul Morgan, the CEO and Alice Jones, the Director of Communications, waiting for her just outside her office. Paul met Jane at the door. ‘Jane, we’ve got a real problem,’ he said. ‘It has to do with the launch of KidsEats’.
Jane looked over at Alice, who closed her eyes. Paul continued. ‘Last night this posting to Facebook by one of our employees was picked up by five media outlets. We’re even made the Number 1 breaking news spot this morning with Daily Events’. The room was silent. Jane could feel her stomach beginning to knot and felt very taken aback.
Social media in the workplace
New to her role, Jane had read widely that social media can be beneficial to facilitate the work of employees. She also knew that many organisations were now encouraging their employees to access social media as a way to reinforce networks among employees in the organisation, bringing the possibility to build friendships, to share information necessary to execute task activities and to get support or advice. In her MBA strategy unit she had read that social media and social technologies could increase work productivity of employees by 30 per cent – 35 per cent because they increase the speed of communication, the scale of communication and ultimately engagement.
The HR Director Brian Jones had dropped by her office last night to discuss how social media could be used to recruit new hires, especially when it came to the millennials. Sunshine 100’s key competitor, About Nutrition, had developed an attractive Facebook page publishing content of interest to potential hires, such as career tips, as well as an offer to directly contact the HR Director and send job applications.
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Brian was keen for Jane to develop ways in which the company could also monitor a candidate’s social media profile during the hiring process. Jane had felt quite uneasy during this discussion as she was not sure if this was even possible. Personally, she did not really support Brian’s argument that companies need to ‘keep tabs’ online to ensure that staff refrain from inappropriate or illegal behaviour. Of course, there was always going to be some low level silliness, however, she wondered whether employees prospective or current would share more serious infractions? In her opinion it seemed very unlikely that such behaviour would appear on the radar of the company anyway.
Even Judith Pringle, Director of Finance, had come to see her a few weeks ago and complained that she felt ‘all staff seemed to do these days was spend time updating their Facebook status’. Jane had assured her it was probably not as bad as she thought and she would send out an email informing staff as to what was acceptable professional and personal use of social media during work hours. ‘My goodness’ she thought ‘even I am guilty’ as she often checked Facebook during work hours for the latest status updates from her friends.
Paul put several news clippings in front of Jane. She read over them quickly, dismayed at the accusatory tone and handed them back to Paul. ‘I hate that this has happened’, she said, ‘but the bottom line is that we didn’t know one of our staff would be so underhanded’. Jane thought back over the KidsEats launch.
The KidsEats incident
The launch of KidsEats was held on Monday, 21 March to promote Sunshine 100s commitment to promoting healthy food options amongst primary school age children. The key message to the campaign was: All of our recipes are handmade using only fresh (never frozen) produce. Our food is 100 per cent pure and free from preservatives, additives, colour, or anything else that isn’t simply food. It isn’t over-processed, canned, jarred or pouched.
The launch featured a sausage sizzle, bags of crisps, ice cream, donuts and chocolate chip cookies. Apparently a staff member had taken pictures of the refreshments at the event and posted them on his Facebook page.
Under a picture of the sausage sizzle the staff member had written: ‘Junk food, junk food everywhere!’
‘Apparently, Alice continued, ‘he said he didn’t understand how Facebook worked and thought he was posting in a private group but someone in the group made it public. Anyway, whatever he thought he was doing, both our reputation and brand are now well and truly under attack’.
‘I’m speaking to our lawyers’, Paul cut in, ‘to look at sacking this idiot’.
‘No. That’s not a reasonable solution,’ Jane said. ‘It could just make matters worse. I am sure there is a recent case where Fair Work Australia found there
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was no valid reason for termination of an employee after they posted derogatory comments about their boss out of hours on their personal Facebook page’.
‘We’re going in circles,’ Alice said. ‘We’re going to need to make some kind of statement to the press about this mess and make it very clear to staff what they can and cannot do when it comes to social media’.
Now Paul was almost raising his voice: ‘Clearly we have problems with our staff and social media’.
Sunshine 100’s social media guidelines
While Sunshine 100 had no polices explicitly referencing social media usage, Jane had distributed an employee handbook to all employees that included the following guidelines:
Positive attitude towards your job:
Employees should display a positive attitude towards their job. A bad attitude
creates a difficult working environment.
Everyone is expected to be courteous, polite and friendly in their social media postings. No one should be disrespectful or use profanity or any language which damages the image or reputation of Sunshine 100.
Think before you post:
Posts made on behalf of Sunshine 100 should be consistent with the business’s
marketing and public relations practices and objectives.
Employees sharing links online, for example, should be sure the source of the content being shared is reputable. They should also guard against plagiarism by properly crediting the sources of the material they use.
Avoid revealing personal information:
Employees should limit the amount of personal information they reveal online.
Then Jane spoke. ‘I really should have researched social media polices more thoroughly. It just never occurred to me that we would run in to a problem like this’.
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