Document 185157

Valley BusinessGUIDE
World | August 2011
How to adopt a social media policy
uestion: “I run a small advertising agency with about 10
employees. Given the nature of
our work, our employees spend much of
their time online, especially on the social
media websites including Facebook,
Twitter and LinkedIn. We have found
these websites a tremendous source of
revenue, as all of our
clients are looking to
develop advertising
strategies for these sites.
“So it came as a shock
when I looked at an
employee’s Facebook
page — she had posted
pictures of her new baby
and I wanted to congrather — and saw
By Cliff Ennico ulate
Business to several of her postings
saying what an imposBusiness
sible boss I was. In one
posting, I was described
as a ‘witch’ and how
unreasonable my demands on her time
were in light of her new baby. She also
went on to describe, in considerable
detail, some of the projects that she was
working on in our office, including some
information that I felt was confidential to
our client.
“In looking further into this, I learned
that at least some of these postings were
made from one of our office computers,
during the workday when this employee
should have been working on client
projects. Needless to say, I am furious
about this and want to bring it up with
my employee. But I want to make sure
that I am on solid legal grounds before I
do anything. Any thoughts?”
Answer: Congratulations! You have
stumbled into probably THE hottest
issue in labor and employment law right
now. As you correctly point out, the
proliferation of social media websites,
such as Facebook, are a double-edged
sword: They are a great way to obtain
information about someone easily and at
low cost, but they create huge opportunities for abuse both by employers and
It is tempting, EXTREMELY tempting, to discipline this employee for her
online remarks, which clearly are not
consistent with the “duty of loyalty” any
employee owes to her employer. But
before you take any action, you need to
talk to an employment law specialist,
as the (extremely few) courts that have
addressed this problem have taken the
employee’s side. A number of state and
federal laws prohibit employers from
monitoring their employees’ online
behavior and/or making use of information obtained from that monitoring to
discipline employees. For example:
• The federal National Labor Relations
Act affords both non-union and unionized employees the right to engage in
protected “concerted activity,” which
includes the right to criticize their
employers and to discuss their discontents with co-workers and outsiders.
• Federal and state “whistle-blower”
laws may protect employees who
complain about working conditions
affecting public health and safety or
violating federal antifraud laws.
• Federal privacy protections may
extend to Facebook postings made from
your employee’s personal computer or
e-mail account (as opposed from the
employer’s computer or e-mail account,
which is a ‘gray area’ in the law right
• Many states prohibit employers from
regulating employee political activities
and affiliations or influencing employees’
political activities.
• At least four states (California,
Colorado, North Dakota and New York)
prohibit employers from taking adverse
employment action against an employee
or applicant based on legal off-duty
activities. For example, an individual
over 21 years of age who posts pictures
of himself intoxicated at a party, and
sometimes illegal off-duty activities —
the same individual smoking marijuana.
In this case, there’s also the chance
that any action against this employee will
be viewed as discrimination against her
because of her “new mom” status.
The right way to proceed here is for
your agency to adopt a “social media
policy.” Circulate it to all your employees
and then schedule an “all hands” meeting
to review the policy. Provide specific
examples of prohibited behavior, at
which you will state clearly that employees should review all of their social
media pages and “scrub” any improper
information — especially any information about a particular client project,
which could expose your agency to legal
Your social media policy should:
• Warn employees that they will
be disciplined, and possibly fired, if
they post proprietary and confidential
company or client information, or make
discriminatory or defamatory statements
or sexual innuendos about the agency,
co-workers, management, customers or
vendors. Sorry, but the “witch” comment
probably won’t be enough.
• Advise employees that any blogs or
social media postings must include a
disclaimer that “any opinions expressed
are the employee’s own and do not represent the company’s positions, strategies
or opinions.”
• Remind employees to conduct
themselves professionally both on and
off duty.
As federal and state laws are “all over
the place” on this issue right now, I
would recommend you hire an employment law specialist to draft your policy
(and perhaps also sit in on the employee
meeting). Most attorneys will charge
between $1,000 and $2,000 for this
service, and it’s well worth the expense.
Cliff Ennico ([email protected]) is a
syndicated columnist, author and former
host of the PBS television series “Money
Trust is the foundation of networking
etworking — the art of
connecting people with
other people to meet
a need. Sounds simple enough.
But is it?
There is a decided difference
between networking and selling.
Small business owners, managers and sales
people are
selling all the
time to make
a living. Let
me give you
an example of
how networking can grow a
By Doug metRecently
a person
Morgan who is a credit
counselor. She
Networking helps people
clean up their
credit so they
are credit-worthy for purchasing homes, cars and other things
they need to buy on credit. I
logged it in my memory bank
that she might be able to help
someone I would run into.
The very next week, I did
run into someone who had bad
credit because of something that
happened in their life before
they were of legal age. Sounded
to me that this person could
use some credit counseling, so
I gave the person in need the
name and phone number of the
credit counselor. I also asked
her if it was OK to give the
counselor her number as well.
What happened here? One
person had a need and the other
could fill the need. I became
the link to connect these two
people. This is an example of
networking at its best. I knew
someone who could meet a need
and a person with that need and
put them together.
Businesses are always in need
of services from other businesses. If you can be the person of
trust who can connect them, you
have helped them both — and
possibly yourself, if in the future
they have a need you can fill. In
other words, what goes around
comes around.
The foundation of networking is trust. If I know two people
and they both trust me but don’t
know each other, I can put them
together because of the trust
they have in me. The key here
for future networking opportunities is the person who receives
the referral has a very important
obligation. If they take care of
my referral, then three people
win. The opposite is true if they
don’t take care of my referral.
To be a great networker, you
must listen for a need, even if
the person doesn’t come right
out and ask you for a referral.
You just listen for cues and then
ask if they would like the name
of someone you know and trust
who could help them, such as in
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the example of the person above
needing help with their credit.
By making this a natural part
of your day, you become the
“go-to” person that people will
call whenever they have a need.
Doug Morgan is Executive
Director of BNI Central and SE
Washington, LLC, along with his
wife, Joyce. BNI is a worldwide
business networking orgainzation. He is also a former newspaper publisher. He can be reached
at [email protected] or by
calling 509-293-9694. His website
is: http://www.bnicentralsewa.
Serving North Central Washington since 1946.
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