Employees will gripe about work; it's inevitable. But as a business owner, it's up to you to ensure that those grievances don't go public.
Last June, the managers at a BMW franchise in Lake Bluff, Ill., fired one of the dealership's salesmen because he says he posted photos and comments on his personal Facebook account that didn’t speak well of his dealership. As a result, that company is now facing a complaint from the National Labor Relations Board, which claims that the employee was terminated unlawfully. And unless the dealership settles, the case will be heard by an administrative law judge next week.
Employees are no doubt entitled to their own opinions and voice them as they may. But the line often becomes murky when an employee wants to bash the boss or mock a company's decisions over social media.
To prevent similar Facebook faux pas, companies should have a social media use policy. Without that policy, neither you nor your employees know what's OK to say online and what's best kept for the bar.
In the dealership case, the labor board contends the Facebook posting is protected because it “involved a discussion among employees about their terms and conditions of employment.” The Knauz BMW’s attorney, James F. Hendricks, a partner with Ford & Harrison, LLP says the dealership let the salesman go for separate posts that the company deemed inappropriate.
In my view, it doesn’t really matter whether the firing was over photos and comments about hot dogs, a traffic accident, or acid reflux. What matters is this: The employee did not manage the Knauz BMW Facebook Page. All activity associated with his firing took place on his own personal Facebook page. Further, when asked if the former employee violated the dealership’s social media use policy or guidelines, Hendricks said the business has no such policy or guideline and he’s unaware of any plans for creating one in the future.
However this case is resolved, the message is clear: If you work for someone else, keep your business grievances offline. And if you own or manage a business, do yourself a favor and consult with legal counsel about adopting and distributing social media use policies for employees.
Have you had a social media dilemma at your office? Let us know how you handled it in the comments section.
Mikal E. Belicove is a market positioning, social media, and management consultant specializing in website usability and business blogging. His latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook, is now available at bookstores. For more information, visit MikalBelicove.com.