Nov 18

Beware the perils of sharing Christmas party antics on social media……!!

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The festive season is about to begin. As Christmas draws nearer it’s time to let your hair down and enjoy a few drinks at your company’s annual Christmas party. However, it can be difficult to know where the red line is, with any ‘wild’ behaviour likely to be recorded and shared on social media without your permission.

With social media and recording devices in most people’s pockets these days, people’s behaviour at a party can now be posted for a global audience in the blink of an eye. An organisation’s reputation can be tarnished and people’s careers damaged by spur-of-the-moment recording and posting of office party activities to the online community.

Aside from the reputational risk, an employer will also be concerned that information and pictures posted online in the public forum will result in discrimination or bullying claims.

Some of the questions that managers need to ask themselves as the festive season approaches are:

• Do we have policies for the use of social media in the workplace and work situations?
• Are these policies clearly articulated to the workforce?

Say cheese!!

The proliferation of smart phones means that there are an awful lot more party pictures and videos recording exactly what is happening at the Christmas bash – they have a way of taking on a life of their own when posted online.

• Do your policies make it clear that employees should not engage in activities, either in or out of work, which might bring the company into disrepute including:
o making derogatory comments
o posting inappropriate or drunken pictures on social media sites?

• Do your policies make it clear that posting negative or inappropriate pictures could constitute discrimination and/or bullying?
• Are staff aware that these policies apply to what goes on at the party and afterwards, even if out of the office?

She said what…?!

The prevalence of smart phones also pose a similar but different problem – gossip. A few glasses of wine could be all that it takes for an employee to spill company secrets or badmouth clients or colleagues during a Christmas event on Twitter or Facebook. Additionally, employees may use social media to gossip about things afterwards.

• Policies must be clear about what is expected of employees to enable employers to discipline and/or dismiss without facing potential claims.
• Employees must be clear about what constitutes confidential information, and the fact that disclosure of such information is prohibited at any time including through social media sites.
• Staff should also be aware that posting confidential information or negative comments about clients or third parties is also prohibited.
• Policies prohibiting discrimination, harassment or bullying should expressly refer to social media.

Have you seen their Facebook status?!!

Production levels often drop in the weeks leading up to Christmas but what should you do if an employee claims that they are ill but Facebook tells you that they are too hung over to come into work, or are off doing some last minute Christmas shopping?

Do not jump to conclusions! As with any potential disciplinary matter, a thorough investigation is essential before any disciplinary sanction is imposed. A failure to do so could result in grievances and/or claims.

Employers should also be aware that monitoring employees’ activity on social media without their knowledge could infringe their right to privacy. Employers will need to consider whether this is the case and, if so, be able to justify the interference on the basis that there was a legitimate reason to carry out the monitoring and that it was proportionate.

Too much red tape spoils the party……

There is no reason why your employees should not be able to enjoy the Christmas period without you having to wrap it up in lots of red tape and policies. If you make sure that employees understand their social media obligations, you can still see off the year with a festive bang.

However, managers should be encouraged to lead by example, adopting an appropriate management style both at the party and afterwards. If managers see inappropriate material posted on social media websites and do nothing about it then employees may think that is alright for them to post gossip or unpleasant images.

The combination of age-old celebrations and the new information age can be a dangerous mix. The key point is there is still time to address these issues before the party season gets into full swing!

Professional advice and support is on hand if you need it…..nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or call Nicola on 07917 878384