“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.
I would think it would also have a lot to do with the substance of the post. If it’s possibly giving out anything specific that happens in the workplace I’d think that’s much more problematic than just saying “this place is a hell hole.”
I can fully relate to these types of posts. Many times people post things like “I’m considering chewing through my wrists to escape this never-ending meeting” or “Will this idiot never stop talking just to hear himself talk in our staff meeting?”. These types of posts are not meant to be “absolute” serious and taken at face value; but they may indeed be indicative of a deeper problem in the workplace. I post smart-aleck things about my workplace (no names or job titles mentioned) occasionally just to be funny. If we can’t find humor in our workplace….
Important issue, Doris. There’s some good guidance from NLRB on some of these cases:
This is why there should be a separation between work and personal life when it comes to social media. Although I think some of my employees and coworkers were offended that I did not “friend” them on Facebook (my page is private), I explained to them that Facebook is my private life that I choose not to share with work acquaintances. The only form of social media I share with people I work with is Linkedin because it is meant to be a work related social networking site.
People do need an avenue to vent frustrations and it shouldn’t be held against them as we all have “one of those days” where nothing is going right and you just can’t take it any more. As long as the posts aren’t direct, serious threats, or disclosing restricted information, it shouldn’t be an issue.
I agree with the HR Rep because whether an employee wants to or not, he/she represents the company they are employed with on and off the clock. A good example of this is when a driver loses his/her job for getting a DUI. Getting the DUI may have happened on personal time but companies have a brand to maintain and image means a great deal. Employed people must be aware of their employer connection to their behaviors and act accordingly to avoid awkward moments.
I don’t post about work on FB. Actually, I rather enjoy the people I work with, so I guess it’s not an issue for me. Snitching on the other hand…..is bad or worse. Once a snitch is found out, he/she is ostracized immediately. Only references to work will be discussed, nothing personal, no invites to the home of co workers, or after hours dinners, etc. I am too low on the food chain for representing the company. My life after work, is mine.