Social media in the workplace – a right minefield!

So there are your employees tweeting and posting updates on Facebook, sharing photos on Instagram and cake recipes on Pinterest – whatever are you the boss to do?  Bloomberg Law has addressed this thorny dilemma HERE.  Three quarters of workers are using social media in the workplace while less than a quarter have received any guidance on how to use it. You might think – so what?  But as any lawyer will delight in telling you, there are hidden risks.

So, what could possibly go wrong? Well, theoretically, employers can be held liable for employee actions while in the workplace. Let’s imagine that somebody decides to slag off a competitor or say something rather horrible about somebody in the office and these comments turn out to be defamatory – then the employer, according to some lawyers, could get it in the neck. Slagging off the firm in a fit of pique can put an employee’s job at risk but employers should be more tolerant of workers discussing pay and conditions.

I’m always a little conflicted about my co-workers friending me on Facebook or even Twitter – Linkedin is fine, but other social media channels can bring your work colleagues into your private space.  And as we all know, when co-workers enter your private space and become more than just colleagues, all sorts of problems can present themselves. In the world before social media, there were plenty of office romances that soured – is this something that could become even more common in the age of Facebook?

The article I mentioned above gives an awful example of how social media can go badly wrong in the workplace where a gay man working at the Library of Congress received abuse from his supervisor’s daughter on his Facebook page. The resulting tension ended in a lawsuit. Or there is the legal case, also in the US, of a man whose 17,000 Twitter followers bore an uncanny resemblance to the company’s customer list.

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