Why Bosses Also Should Beware Social Media

The guardian.co.uk’s web site has an article today (Help! My boss is on Twitter) regarding a common social media concern: Avoiding posting something stupid that gets you fired.

But there’s a flip side to the workplace stupid coin, and it’s addressed in an article (New laws make social media interaction dangerous for bosses) on an Australian web site called Human Resources Leader.

Obviously the article focuses on new laws in Australia, but one only has to read it to realize that the principles and pitfalls described could apply in the United States and anyplace else where there is social media, lawyers and courts.

An “adverse action” clause in the new Fair Work Act meant interaction on websites such as Facebook and Twitter between employers and employees could have wider implications, said Allens Arthur Robinson partner and head of the firm’s workplace relations group Adam Lunn.

What may be meant as an innocent comment via social media by an employer to an employee may lead to bosses facing lawsuits for unlimited damages for harassment, bullying or discrimination.

New York Post editors, are you reading this?

“Allowing employees to openly access your Facebook or MySpace account opens you to defamatory material being placed on there or just the perception your engagement with some employees is more favourable to them than to other employees,” Lunn said.

Personally, I’d say avoiding friending employees on their personal Facebook and MySpace is a no-brainer. Twitter is a trickier matter because it’s becoming so integrated into the day-to-day conversation companies are carrying on to build brand awareness and engage in customer relations. If your boss starts following your workplace-oriented Twitter account and you don’t follow back — or vice-versa — things could get pretty awkward around the water cooler.

Lunn offers advice we’ve all heard before, but it bears repeating: It’s critical that organizations develop policies that spell out what is acceptable and expected regarding the use of social media.