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Navigate the minefield: disgruntled employees and social media
By Steve DiGioia
Have you ever thought how much damage one employee can do to your business? If not, read on....
I have always prided myself with having a department staffed with positive and engaged employees even though the F&B business is one with many challenges. My banquet staff is used to working long nights with quick turn-arounds to an early breakfast, that is the business. But it doesn't mean that anyone likes it.
One of the new challenges faced today, that was not an issue years ago, is having to deal with disgruntled staff venting on Facebook and through other social media channels and the possible effect this could have on your business.
We all know the power and influence that "social media" sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, etc. have. And we all have heard and read that every business must also have a presence on these sites for marketing, promotional and word of mouth posturing as well. Having your business in the eyes, and on the lips, of the public is worth its weight in gold. So it's a good thing when your employees talk about your business on Facebook, et al. correct?
But what happens when your employees post unflattering, incorrect or downright damaging messages to their friends or "followers"? How does this affect your business, your reputation, your impact in the business world?
Here are a few examples:
1. Employee number 1 doesn't feel that she should have to work on a holiday since "all her friends are off from work". She posts a message on Facebook that her job is "forcing her" to work on a holiday and that they don't treat their employees well. She also states that her company doesn't pay her enough to work a holiday and she is sick and tired of working when "we all should be off".
Well, gone are the days when a holiday is the quietest day of the month and the streets and business are deserted. Just ask the airline and retail industries if holidays are days that "we all should be off". What about the police, fire and emergency medical personnel, or the utility companies; should they be off as well? Probably not.
But the friends and followers of this employee are now left with a half-truth or jaded picture of how that business treats their employees. They may think the employees there are forced to work, receive lower than reasonable compensation and other employees are treated poorly and share her views as well.
What follows next is that her friends will usually side with her viewpoint and will start a back and forth dialogue discussing the poor treatment she receives and what the working conditions are like at her "terrible job".
2. Employee number 2 was just fired from his job for excessive absences, constant tardiness, or even theft and believes that the multiple chances already given him to keep his job is not enough. He feels that he was wronged by his termination and lashes out on Twitter when he gets home.
"They just fired me for nothing, so I came in a few times late, what's the big deal?" he posts. "I have worked hard there for almost 1 year and this is how they treat me?" "This company is a terrible place to work" is the next post.
Of course employee number 2 will never fully explain the facts of his termination or that he has received numerous coaching sessions and other opportunities to address his job performance that ultimately led to his dismissal. But the negative comments stay out there forever.
3. Employee number 3 had requested off from work but was not granted it due to business demands. The employee calls-out sick and doesn't show up for work. The next day a fellow employee noticed a photo that was posted on Facebook of her out shopping with friends and going out to an afternoon movie. When one of her friends asked her why she wasn't at work Employee 3 typed "Oh, my manager has no clue, he's not on Facebook, he'll never know". "Besides, I do this all the time".
In this instance, the business is not so much affected but the manager is. He is maligned and his competence as an effective manager is damaged.
These are real-world examples of how employees can post seemingly, to them, innocuous statements on social media that can and will affect your business. Friends and family will usually take the side of their friend and believe what they are posting to be true, to be a fact, regardless if it is or not.
We are all aware of the power of social media and especially Facebook. Do you want your employees posting negative information about your business there for all the world to see?
Here are a few questions you must pose to your staff
"Why do some employees feel it necessary, and appropriate, to post information regarding plans, procedures or possible scheduling needs about their department on social media sites? Is it essential that your vast amount of Facebook fans or Twitter followers associated with your "pages" be informed that a company requires, as business dictates, staff to work when there is business? Especially for a business that is open 7 days a week? Should this even be an issue? I don't believe so."
"Each person within their department, as well as the management, has their own requests, desires, wants and obligations towards family and friends everyday of the week and not just on a holiday. Each of them has their own health and personal financial issues to attend to as well. But is this the business of anyone outside this company? The answer is a resounding no. But it becomes their business when you spread comments, posts and information on the internet. Then it becomes the business of all their contacts as well."
Pretty cut and dry, no?
You might as well take an advertisement in all the local papers and TV news channels stating that Company XYZ is a terrible place to work and treats their employees poorly. This has the same impact as thousands of friends and followers on social media sites getting the wrong impression of your business. Is this any different than getting negative reviews on sites like Trip Advisor or Yelp?
A few negative reviews on sites like these can cost untold thousands of dollars in lost revenue, and a bad business reputation. All it takes is a few people, sitting in their pajamas and fuzzy slippers anonymously punching in harmful comments from their kitchen table, to ruin your business. It's the same for your employees on Facebook.
Plus there is always the factor of wasted time, the time that your employees spend, while at work, checking on their social media sites. Not only is this time wasted that the company is paying for but also time away from the customer. Doesn't the customer deserve the attention of all employees when they enter the business? Should they have to wait at the counter for service while an employee is in the back room "posting to Twitter"?
Of course this situation can be mitigated with a positive work environment, well trained engaged staff that understands the customer service mindset and an open employee-to-supervisor relationship. This should prevent some negative postings but not when, based on business needs/demands, staff must work on holidays or can't get days of as requested. At that point it is understandable that even the best of employee may still have the need to gripe about their situation.
So your plan should be to set clearly defined rules regarding posting information on social media websites and make sure all your employees are aware of the policy. Without it, your next customer walking through your doors may be the undertaker...because you have killed your business! Or at least put it on life-support...
About the Author
A 25+ year industry veteran, and known as “the ops guy” during his tenure at Hilton Hotels, Steve DiGioia has redefined the operational and service standards for multiple food and beverage departments for some of the best names in the industry.
His book "Earn More Tips On Your Very Next Shift… Even If You’re a Bad Waiter” is an easy to follow training method that can be used across all industries, resulting in better customer retention and repeat business for your company. Steve also writes a blog focusing on Customer Service Stories and training tactics.
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