- 88 percent of hiring managers in the U.S. say they’d terminate employees for certain social media posts and activity.
- Regularly updated social media policies can help employees recognize what is and isn’t acceptable to post on social media.
- Corrective action instead of outright firing employees for social media behavior may be a better way to address the situation.
- This article is for businesses and hiring managers interested in the negative impacts that social media posts from employees can have on a company.
While social media may be a good way to keep friends, family and acquaintances updated about your life, it also poses some risks depending on the content you’re posting. Over the years, social media has become a common tool that many hiring managers use for recruitment and selection. Employers also use it to gauge how their employees behave outside of the organization. For some employees, posting the wrong types of content or using social media on the clock could get them fired.
When social media becomes a fireable offense
A survey commissioned by Express Employment Professionals revealed that up to 88 percent of hiring managers in the U.S. would fire employees for social media posts containing certain types of content.
The results among hiring managers surveyed were as follows:
- 59 percent would fire employees for published content that damaged the company’s reputation.
- 58 percent would fire employees for leaking confidential information.
- 50 percent would fire employees for posts containing illegal drug use, while 38 percent would fire for mentioning underage drinking.
- 45 percent would fire employees for going against the company’s social media use policy.
Out of all of the hiring managers included in the survey, only 12 percent said they couldn’t fire an employee for damaging social media posts. The vast majority of people (86 percent) seeking employment also stated that companies do and should have the right to dismiss employees based on their social media conduct. In fact, many hiring managers conduct social media screenings before they make a decision about a candidate.
Beyond the scope of these statistics, 1 in 4 employers considers using social media during work hours a fireable offense. Additionally, 26 percent of companies enforce a social media policy contract that all newly hired employees are required to sign.
Americans spend five to six hours per day online and texting outside of work-related tasks. This can severely impact productivity if employees don’t stay on task at work.
How to create a company social media policy
A reputable business that doesn’t have an active social media presence is almost unheard of. That means it’s important for businesses to uphold their online reputations. Not only will a clear and concise company social media policy protect a business, but it will also protect the employees and customers associated with it.
A social media policy informs employees what is and isn’t acceptable on their social media accounts. With the right social media policy in place, a business gains a greater degree of control over its reputation. Have newly hired employees agree to your social media policy when being onboarded, as well as the explicit consequences included in the policy. A company social media policy gives employees clear documentation about expectations if any violations occur.
Factor in whether your employees need to use social media for business purposes. Depending on their role, social media activity may be necessary. Be sure to outline what is considered acceptable use and what is a violation of company policy.
Clearly define appropriate social media use for all employees being onboarded. Ensure all employees are aware of what photos, videos and comments are allowed, and have them sign off saying they understand this.
Here’s what to include in your company’s social media policy:
- Define which social media platforms the policy applies to.
- Carefully explain why the social media policy is required.
- Include a list of the employee’s responsibilities related to the policy.
- Show employees what company information is completely confidential and what isn’t.
- Outline what constitutes acceptable use of company resources (e.g., using social media on company-owned computers).
- Clearly state what consequences are involved for violating the social media policy.
After you’ve decided what to include in the company’s social media policy, take the following steps as you create it.
- Establish expectations: Meet with key stakeholders in various departments of the company to decide what’s acceptable and what isn’t for employees posting on social media.
- Establish roles: Assign roles to specific employees to govern the social media policy. That way, other employees will have go-to contacts if they have questions or concerns about the policy.
- Ensure security: Create security protocols for all applications used within the company, including profile management and chat applications.
- Draft a crisis plan: If an employee does negatively vent on social media about the company, have a plan in place to address it.
- Confirm compliance: Ensure your company is compliant with federal laws regarding confidentiality and privacy.
Consult an attorney when crafting your social media policy to ensure the terms are legally enforceable under the law. Employee speech is often protected in certain circumstances, including when they’re speaking (or posting) truthfully about working conditions at the company, such as pay rates, time off and unionization. Legal counsel can help you make sure your social media policy takes employee speech protections into account.
Corrective action vs. termination
The decision to use corrective action or to fully terminate an employee for going against a company’s social media policy depends on several variables.
- Company size: If an employee works for a small company that doesn’t have a strong online presence or reputation yet, corrective action may be more appropriate. If the company is a massive international one with ties all over the globe, the consequences of going against social media policy should be more severe.
- Type of offense: For example, if an employee posted a photo slandering the entire organization’s policies or work practices on Facebook, termination would make more sense than if they simply replied to a comment with expletives.
- Frequency of occurrence: If an employee violates the social media policy for the first time, a verbal or written warning is recommended. If they have multiple violations, consider termination. When social media policy violations occur, document every conversation to establish a paper trail.
When terminating employees, consult with an attorney to avoid wrongful termination lawsuits down the road.
Drafting a social media policy today
Drafting a social media policy for your business isn’t a complicated task. Many templates that can point you in the right direction. A basic template includes an introduction, company values, social media policy, policy enforcement and contact details for the manager in charge of drafting the policy. Insight from legal counsel can ensure you develop a legally enforceable social media policy. Documenting violations and attempts at corrective action before terminating an employee can help protect your business from wrongful termination lawsuits.