Sunday, 7 June 2015

Social media and the workplace

So you've been publicly shamed

In his new book 'So you've been publicly shamed' Jon Ronson meets a number of individuals who have had their lives ruined by a misjudged comment or joke on twitter or facebook. Among the victims of 'trial by twitter' is Lindsey Stone a woman who posted an ill judged photograph of herself on holiday and due to violent outpourings from social media followers loses her job and is unable to leave her house for a year. We meet Justine Sacco who made an offensive 'joke' on twitter and as a result received death threats and lost her job after a kangaroo court of twitter followers called for her to be fired.  While it could be argued that  Justine and Lindsey contributed to their own downfall by publishing comments/photographs  that were likely to offend large numbers of people, it is difficult not to feel sorry for Hank who lost his job after a private joke he made to a friend was posted on twitter without his knowledge.

Ronson has produced a fascinating book which raises a lot of questions about the role of  social media in the work-place. For one thing, it is interesting to note that Hank, Justine and Lindsey are all American.  While it could be argued that Justine's behaviour constituted gross misconduct and potentially brought her workplace into disrepute, it is difficult to see how Hank's mildly off colour private joke or Lindsey's photograph constituted gross misconduct.  In the UK and Ireland, employees are protected by the unfair dismissals act.  In order for a dismissal to be deemed fair the courts like to see that the employee has undergone a fair procedure and that the dismissal is proportionate to the misconduct.

What can Irish employers do if an employee transgresses on social media?
What can employers do if an employee behaves in an inappropriate way on social media such as bullying or harassing colleagues or speaking in an inappropriate way about the company?

  • Ensure that they have a social media policy in place.  The policy should be robust and updated regularly as new technologies and sites come to the fore. 
  • Employer's should note that they may be vicariously responsible for the behaviour of their employee even if it is after office hours and the employee is away from the office.
  • The policy should cover use of social media during workplace, acceptable behaviour on social media sites and the disciplinary procedures if an employee misbehaves online. 
  • If the organisation uses social media for business include the business objectives of social media and the intellectual property rights of the organisation.  
  •  For advice on how to create a social media policy go to
  • The policy should be communicated to all staff and employees should be trained on the social media policy.
  • The policy should be  communicated to new recruits during induction training.
What can employees do to protect themselves on social media?

In Jobvite's social media recruitment survey 2014 over 90% of recruiters admitted to vetting the candidates social media profile before hiring the candidate.  Interestingly 55% of employers changed their mind about hiring a candidate based on their social media profile.  Of those 55%, 61% decided not to hire the candidate and 39% decided to hire the candidate. Therefore it is very important for job seekers to be mindful of the impression they are creating online.
  • Check your privacy settings and avoid posting about illegal drugs, alcohol or guns as recruiters tend to see these posts in a negative light.
  • Avoid using bad language and check your spelling and grammar.
  • Think before you tweet.  Be respectful of colleagues, clients, your current workplace and your past employer.
  • Using social media can be a great way to get the attention of a potential employer.  Over 90% of recruiters use social media as a recruitment tool.  Potential candidates need to pay attention to their social media profile.
  • Remember that social media is not private.  Posts can be shared without your knowledge.
Click here to look at the 2014 social media recruitment survey

 Title: 'So you've been publicly shamed'

Author: Jon Ronson
Pages: 304
Pub Date: 09/03/2015
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
ISBN: 9781447229797
Price: 22.55


  1. Thks good post, I heard that guy been interviewd and forgot his name

  2. Thks good post, I heard that guy been interviewd and forgot his name

    1. Thanks for reading Paz. I really like Jon Ronson's writing. You should check him out if you get the chance. He wrote 'the men who stare at goats' which got turned into a movie.