Dilemma of the Month: Speaking Freely on Social Media

by Evil HR Lady on February 8, 2018

I have a client who recently threatened to quit working with us after seeing politically-charged posts she deemed offensive on one of my account manager’s social media accounts. I’ve asked the employee not to let this happen again, but he countered that we have no policy in place (which is true), and furthermore, these are his personal accounts and he is entitled to free speech. How can I deal with this situation and prevent another incident from happening in the future?

To read the answer, click here: Dilemma of the Month: Speaking Freely on Social Media

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

grannybunny February 8, 2018 at 7:51 pm

I think the actual content of the social media posting matters too. It’s not always a matter of addressing the issue with the employee. Sometimes, one has to push back against an unreasonable client. Some people tend to politicize everything these days, even things not even remotely partisan. If the posting at issue turns out — from the perspective of the “reasonable” person — to be not offensive (or not politically charged), the situation should be addressed with the client, not the employee.

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Goober February 9, 2018 at 12:23 am

The devil is always in the details, and every situation needs to be dealt with on its own merits. But sometimes, you have to choose who to keep happy, the client(s) or the employee(s). And that’s a damned frustrating choice, at best.

(But I suspect that the letter writer would have written a very different letter if they hadn’t agreed that the posts were politically charged, and that people who disagreed might well be offended, even if the letter writer wasn’t.)

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Jill February 8, 2018 at 8:16 pm

I agree with grannybunny. And employer’s shouldn’t have a knee jerk reaction either. Photoshop is used to manipulate pictures all the time. And some pictures have no context that allows you to prove intent – like the picture of a man at a KKK rally. Is he there in support? In opposition? An innocent bystander with no affiliation either way? A picture doesn’t necessarily tell you intent. You also need to ask if it’s an isolated incident or if there’s a pattern. One post saying, “Those X people are so rude and demanding” isn’t the same as post after post after post disparaging that group.

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Maria Rose February 9, 2018 at 2:02 am

Since it is the paying client doing the complaint, whatever was posted on Social Media about the client should be addressed. I am guessing that one. the posting was done on whatever platform in a public setting which why the client even saw the posting and two. the one who posted is the age group that has really grasped the concept of aftereffects of comments in a public setting.
Based on that, your suggestions are good but I would recommend one further step to be addressed to the employee who did the posting. A written notice in their file, which clearly states that company will not tolerate another offensive posting of that nature. Also, that person should change how wide their audience is on social media if they want to continue to work at the company.

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Goober February 9, 2018 at 4:32 am

There’s nothing in the account to suggest in any way that the offensive social media posts were *about* *the* *client*. And unless the client is a politician by profession, that it was “politically charged” strongly suggests it wasn’t at all about the client.

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jb February 9, 2018 at 2:08 am

Your client sounds like a stalker. But I can be too. Give me their name and I will find something shady about them. Then we can have your employee post it on their social media account. It should be fun to see their reaction. I’ll buy the popcorn.

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Elizabeth West February 9, 2018 at 2:21 am

This is one reason I don’t mix my social media with my job at ALL. I don’t friend people from work unless one or both of us have moved on, I don’t connect to my company, and I don’t list my employer in my profile. I don’t talk about politics or other controversial subjects at work, either.

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the gold digger February 9, 2018 at 5:03 pm

You are very wise, Elizabeth!

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Slippy February 11, 2018 at 6:53 pm

I think not mixing social media and work is the best policy like you said. Unfortunately I have encountered Facebook (among others) “fixing” my privacy settings so that things that were previously only limited viewing were wide open. It is possible that the employee did not even intend to make the post visible to then entire world.

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Nacho February 10, 2018 at 2:40 am

“…these are his personal accounts and he is entitled to free speech.”

No, he is not. Free speech is a government rule, not a civil one. Your employer has the right to fire you for pretty much any reason, and making their company look bad on social media, even by relation, is a pretty good one.

Also, a lot of “politically charged” stances have real implications on whether or not you can trust your employee to behave ethically in your office. For instance, if my employee was caught attending a pro-Nazi rally, I’d be worried about how he was treating minority clients/co-workers/business partners.

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