We’ve all seen the latest story going around Facebook. A woman who works for a large Internet company rants about the company online.
Next day, not only is she vilified as a self-entitled whiner, but she finds herself looking for a new job.
Which brings us to the question, if you’re a small business operator and your employee posts negative comments about your business online, what can you do about it?
First, it’s important to take a deep breath and check your emotions at the proverbial website door.
The disparaging remarks about your business may strike a personal chord, but as an employer you have a responsibility to act in a calm and logical fashion. That may seem unfair at the time, but it’s essential you approach the matter without being clouded by emotion.
Make a record of the remarks (remember, the Internet can be edited), and then read the remarks carefully.
Do the remarks reveal any confidential business information, or, heaven forbid, personal information about your clients? If so, then the first thing you may have to do is to demand the employee remove what is written. If you don’t, you may find yourself in hot water from your clients as well.
Do the remarks clearly damage the reputation of the business? If so, they may be just cause for summary dismissal without warning as well as giving rise to a separate cause of action.
Let’s say the employee calls the business or the employer crooks, either directly or indirectly. That’s defamation as well as a breach of the employee’s common law duty of loyalty to their employer.
But let’s say the employee’s comments are, in fact, less rash and more measured. Is any negative comment posted online about one’s employer cause for dismissal? In short, no. Some comments are protected as free speech, and though the comments may not be the smartest use of the Internet, may not give rise to an immediate pink slip.
In that case, you may need to have a nice chat with your employee about your expectations of their performance; if you have a social media policy, now is the time to review it. Document your conversation and follow it up.
Above all, though it may be difficult, you have to address the comments. If you don’t, other employees may get the idea it’s OK to trash the boss publicly; at the very least, your complaining employee may be injecting a negative, even toxic atmosphere to the workplace. When that happens, other employees either follow suit or quit. And that’s disruptive to your business.