Dangers of mixing work parties and social media
The festive party season is in full swing and while we all deserve to let off a little steam, end of year fatigue mixed with free alcohol and a camera phone can be a killer mix for employees and employers alike.
Smart phones are omnipresent turning every party goer into a potential photographer/ videographer immortalising party sins on a myriad of social media channels.
Career columnist and blogger Kate Southam recommends employees conduct a mood review before attending work-related parties.
“You need to be honest about your ability to keep your drinking under control given everything going on in your life right now,” she says.
“If you have been super stressed or you’ve been dealing with a particularly tough issue that is now over you might not even be aware how much you want to blow off steam until you’ve had a couple of drinks.”
“Hanging with co workers is not the best place to let the booze do the talking about how you really feel about work.”
“Think about other factors that could influence the impact of alcohol on your system too such as any recent weight loss or fatigue as well as whether you have eaten before consuming alcohol,” says Ms Southam.
Tips for employees include:
- Plan transport home ahead of time.
- Ask what food will be served at the party and if the answer is “just nibbles” eating properly before celebrations kick off is a must.
- Avoid going for pre-party drinks.
- Consume soft drink or water between alcoholic drinks.
- Pose for photos early in the evening.
- Ditto, talk to the boss early in the night. Also, don’t get onto the subject of your next pay rise.
- Take “hook ups” out of sight – or preferably off site.
- Don’t post embarrassing photos or comments from the night on social media sites.
- Ask colleagues for their permission before tagging them in photos or video from the party.
Workplace legal expert Joydeep Hor of firm People and Culture Strategies says employers should also keep in mind that social media means whatever happens at staff events can be shared with anyone.
“Employers must realise that the biggest reputational risks social media presents their businesses are not associated with ‘where’ or ‘how’ employees interact but ‘who’ they share those interactions with,’” says Mr Hor.
“Twitter for example, offers significant reputational risk for employers as anything [posted] can be ‘retweeted’ by another user, allowing things to become widely known and to get out of hand very quickly,” he says.
“Anything posted online, regardless of it being posted at a work event or using work hardware such as blackberries or iPhones, is accessible by anyone else on social media.”
Common sources of brand damage via social media include disparaging or discriminatory comments, inappropriate photos and videos and the disclosure of confidential information or trade secrets. Contemporaneous photos posted via social media could also become relevant evidence in court cases resulting from work events.
“Ultimately, employees are accountable for ‘private’ Facebook or Twitter comments made in their own time, especially when the comments refer directly to the employer, or where the employer may be held liable for offensive comments,” he said.
Mr Hor says a social media policy is a ‘must-have’ for business owners and offers the following tips:
Advice for businesses
• Consider your organisation’s current online presence and the ways in which your employees use social media both in and outside of the workplace.
• Review any social media policies currently in place and consider how far these policies extend. Ensure that any social media policy is robust and reinforces other policies, particularly in relation to sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying and OH&S.
• Ensure that the policy is explained to employees, preferably with an acknowledgement by them that they have read and understood the terms of the policy and are familiar with it.
• Staff should also receive training regarding the policy which should include education and awareness about social media as it is a constantly evolving area.
• Regularly update the policy so that it remains relevant and make sure employees are aware of any changes.
• Take a proactive approach to social media by not only implementing policies and training, but by ensuring that inappropriate use of social media by employees does not go unaddressed.