“This place is a hell hole. If I had a car today I would up and quit.”
This was a real Facebook post, though not too uncommon, and shared by a social network “friend” with their mutual employer!
Facebook “snitching”, as it’s been coined, has prompted a lot of discussion among HR professionals who are trying figure what to do when faced with such information.
That’s easy—sort of—according to Steven W. Suflas, labor and employment partner at Ballard Spahr in New Jersey. It doesn’t matter whether or not a workforce is covered by a labor agreement. It matters that the National Labor Relations Act still applies since these rules are intended to “protect concerted activities by employees”. It’s an employee’s right to “vent” about work, even on social networking sites; and Facebook utterings fall under the heading of “concerted activities”—to a point.
We have to use our heads here. Take into account the context of social network postings; also consider the employee’s behavor at work: this is key! Before deciding whether action [if any] should be taken, managers and HR professionals need to decide whether seemingly disgruntled postings suggest that someone is in harm’s way, for example. Does the [perhaps frustrated] employee continue to perform satisfactorily at work? Is the person completing assignments on time? Are there attendance issues, low morale or intervening office politics playing havoc in the workplace?
Facebook utterings could just be another way for an employee to get his/her employer’s attention, especially if they’re coming from a person who feels disconnected from their employer. Much like workplace bullying, these posts might be symptomatic of bigger issues that the employer really should be addressing!
While it might not be illegal to engage in most workplace harrassment actions, that doesn’t mean they’re right; nor does it mean this behavior should be tolerated by employers who pride themselves on being a “good place to work”.
Facebook snitching really could be a good thing … if it’s scratching the surface of a bigger problem. So it’s worth an employer’s time to find out.
That having been said, it’s still a good practice for employees to be careful about what they say on the internet because “they are accountable for their social media persona,” according to senior HR Rep Janine Truitt of the Brookhaven National Laboratory.