HR BLOG: Whatsapp Mishap

Defamation, bullying, and offensive language designed to discredit an organisation and its people…

It’s all happening on the internet.

Social media tribunal cases are ten a penny. Time and time again, employees fail to foresee the consequences of what they’re posting online. Once it’s up there and available to the public, it no longer belongs to the person who posted it. Deleting a post is no excuse. The damage is often already done, and somebody somewhere will have a record of the original.

How social media policies can help

This is where a good social media policy will come into its own. With clearly laid out rules, your staff will know where to draw the line. What’s more, you’ll be in a much better position to enforce the rules if you need to.

For most social media the rules are easy to apply, as posts exist in the public domain. But what about private messages, like the ones on WhatsApp or Snapchat? Can employees be held to account for the messages they send via private channels of communication?

It’s an interesting question, and one that we’re going to see more often. Employees, especially smartphone savvy millennials, are increasingly communicating with their colleagues via private messaging platforms. It’s a new dynamic in the workplace with some surprising consequences.

What are the risks of private messaging platforms?

They’ve opened up new comms channels between employees. Using WhatsApp as an example, the group chat function keeps employees looped in after hours and over the weekend. What’s the risk? People are much more likely to put a message out to colleagues via WhatsApp after a drink than to log on to their work emails!

Snapchat (a unique picture messaging app) introduces a whole new level of risk. It’s the platform for sending selfies. One careless bus driver has already been sacked for his antics on Snapchat, filming himself and passengers from behind the wheel.

Again, once it’s been posted you can’t get it back! If someone is sending out Snapchats of themselves at a party until the early hours only to call in sick the following day, there is an issue there that needs to be tackled.

People are accountable for what they post even over private messaging platforms. Just because they didn’t intend their employer to see it, doesn’t mean that it’s OK.

How to get a social media policy

If an employee comes to you with an issue that’s arisen over a private messaging platform, make sure you’ve got the policies in place to tackle it with confidence. The fact that you, the employer, have learnt about the private message is no better example that nothing online is ever truly private.

Alison Schreiber runs The HR Dept Durham and Darlington franchise, and works with a number of businesses across PBP. For more info, visit HR Dept Durham and Darlington or call Alison on 01325 526036 or 07535 853226.