The personal life of employees is their business, but when this personal life is exposed to the world through social media, it no longer stays personal. Social media is the most common platform, which blurs the line between personal and professional.
Some social-media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram are popularly used by individuals as well as companies. When an employee expresses an unreasonable opinion on a sensitive matter, on any one of these platforms, it cannot go unnoticed by the company. Does this impact the person’s employment? Should the company ignore this person or take immediate action?
HRKatha recently reported how the insensitive remarks by certain employees on Facebook, over the Pulwama incident had cost them their jobs. An employee in a pharmaceutical company was sacked for calling the incident a surgical strike. Another employee working in a private-sector bank received criticism for posting a ruthless picture in connection with the same incident.
“Integrity issues are non-negotiable just like sexual harassment. You cannot go by the fact that he is a sole bread winner and be soft with the person in question, as this way you will never be able to clamp down on such behaviour”
Companies can no longer keep social media outside the purview of their rule book. The need of the hour is to lay down clear guidelines regarding acceptable social-media behaviour.
Losing a job is no small punishment for a person who may be the sole bread earner for the family. Should he be given a second chance or should the company take responsibility and provide him therapy? Is suspension or termination an easy escape for a company to save itself from controversy and bad publicity?
Many companies, including Big Basket, do not have any guidelines in place for the simple reason that more often than not rules are created only when a problem is encountered.
Lately, social media has been misused by a few people to post content that is anti-national and vulgar. It is perfectly okay for a company to take a stand and penalise the concerned persons for such behaviour. You cannot give a second chance to those who have exhibited extreme psychopathic behaviour.
“Integrity issues are non-negotiable just like sexual harassment. You cannot go by the fact that he is a sole bread winner and be soft with the person in question, as this way you will never be able to clamp down on such behaviour. These behaviours have a bigger impact on society than just one family’s well-being. Such decisions must be taken for the larger interest of the company, society and the nation,” opines Hari T N, head-HR, Big Basket.
Clearly, there is a need to incorporate ethical social-media behaviour in the learning and development of employees. Learning modules must be developed to address the conduct protocol in the context of social media. Companies have to recognise— no matter how much protection is in place on their personal website— that online postings by their employees are at the risk of reaching a wider audience and snowballing into an uncontrollable muddle.
“Honestly, we do not have guidelines for social-media behaviour because we have not had a need. Employees should use social media very responsibly because what you do there will become your digital footprint, which will affect your present as well as future jobs”
“If an employee performs an untoward action, which is illegal, then depending on the gravity of the issue a company will act. It is just that social media travels faster and becomes a hype. There is a law against sedition in India— you cannot preach anything that is anti-national. Whether a citizen does it in social media, print media or any other public space she/ he is breaking the law. Do I want my employees breaking the law, is the question,” opines a senior HR head.
Breaking traffic rules or tax laws is illegal too but since no hype is created in this matter, punishments may not be that severe or instantaneous. Social media is a highly public platform with an immense reach. What you do on social media is visible to all and that has grave repercussions.
“Honestly, we do not have guidelines for social-media behaviour because we have not had a need. Employees should use social media very responsibly because what you do there will become your digital footprint, which will affect your present as well as future jobs,” says Rohit Kumar, CHRO, Kellogg’s India and SEA.
Some HR heads were also of the opinion that the persons in question should be counselled and given a chance to explain themselves.
Companies may take time to develop guidelines pertaining to the use of social media, but a learning module should be created at the earliest to educate employees on the responsible use of social media.