Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Beware: The Angry Employee Online Rant

bewareIf you spend any time at all online, you’re familiar with the Social Media Rant of the Disgruntled Employee.

You know: when a worker takes to the Internet to gripe about their awful job, boss or salary.

A recent example was the “Open Letter to My CEO” penned by an unhappy Yelp employee. In it, she complained about her meager paycheck and the high cost of living in San Francisco. She wrote that she cried in the bathtub from hunger pains and had to beg strangers for handouts.

The CEO of Yelp happened to read the public missive. He expressed sympathy. Then he fired her.

This is how these things usually go. Take for instance the California Pizza Kitchen worker who posted a YouTube video ridiculing the restaurant’s snappy new black tunics. Before you could say “viral” the poor guy was sacked.

Then there were the two Domino’s workers right here in North Carolina who were fired for uploading a video that showed them preparing food while stuffing cheese up their nose. The video was quickly taken down, but not before the damage was done. More than a million viewers had already watched the clip. Within days Domino’s sales had plummeted.

“We got blindsided by two idiots with a video camera and an awful idea,” said a Domino’s spokesman at the time. “Even people who’ve been with us as loyal customers for 10, 15, 20 years, people are second-guessing their relationship with Domino’s, and that’s not fair.”

How Not to Get Gobsmacked on YouTube

In a sense, none of this is new. There have always been unhappy employees. And some of them have always chosen to air their grievances publicly, rather than deal with them quietly and in-house.

The big difference now is that any employee with an ax to grind has a worldwide audience just a mouse-click away.

Any employee with an ax to grind has a worldwide audience just a mouse-click away.

Here are five tips to avoid becoming the next Internet punchline:

  1. Have a social media policy. According to this survey, one in four employers have disciplined an employee because of improper conduct on social media. But only one in 10 had a written policy in place for dealing with such situations.
  2. Educate your team. Some users might not realize that something posted online – even to a closed network using their home computer – can be grounds for dismissal. “From the employee side, if there is anything you don’t want to see in the L.A. Times, then don’t write it in a tweet or on Facebook,” says this California employment lawyer. “It can become public and stay out there forever.”
  3. Maintain open lines of communication. Create a workplace where people are unafraid to speak up – even if you won’t like what they have to say. Acknowledge their difficulties and concerns. Accept constructive criticism. Deal with problems early so they don’t fester.
  4. Don’t act while riled up. Avoid saying or doing anything in the heat of passion that might become the subject of a viral post or video. Let things cool down before reacting.
  5. Set the right tone. Treat your staff in a reasonable and respectful manner. Try to see things from their perspective. Ask what can be done to improve the situation. If you are an open, empathetic boss, the odds of an employee posting a snarky video behind your back are slim.

Do you have a social media horror story? What lessons have you learned? Send us a comment.

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About the Author

Jay Reeves

jay.reeves@ymail.com | 919-619-2441

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. Over the course of his 35-year career he was a solo practitioner, corporate lawyer, legal editor, Legal Aid staff attorney and insurance risk manager. Today he helps lawyers and firms put more mojo in their practice through marketing, work-life balance and reclaiming passion for what they do. He is available for consultations, retreats and presentations.

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