Two freedom of information requests reported in the last couple of weeks reveal that in the last few years staff at both the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Department of Transport (DoT) have been fired for social media misuse. Whilst the details of the exact circumstances have not been revealed, the UK Government does seem to be sending out mixed messages.
On one hand in its guidance to civil servants issue in May last year it cited it wanted to encourage direct conversation over social, but in response to these recent reports the DWP said that only personnel that had an absolute need were able to use it. Whilst there is definitely an argument for not enabling everyone within an organisation to have access to social media, there has to be a balance of conversation to engage with a community.
According to The Guardian, the DWP has taken disciplinary action over actions on Facebook and Twitter on 116 members of staff since 2009. Most received a warning of some type, but 11 were fired. The DoT, which has a much smaller staff level, had 25 incidents of social media misuse, which resulted in five staff being sacked.
While all employees must behave appropriately and follow guidelines, the immediate nature of social media can mean that sometimes the brain’s discretion filter isn’t always on. Organisations and businesses need to protect both themselves and their employees by ensuring that inappropriate content doesn’t end up online.
A comment made in the heat of the moment, can take on a whole new life of its own. UK PM, David Cameron only joined in the Twitter conversation late last year to a torrent of abuse in response to his first tweet. Wisely did not respond, perhaps as a result of already having to apologise in 2009 when he used bad language just talking about Twitter on live radio, the ultimate real-time communication.
Many major live broadcasts have a few seconds delay to ensure that nothing untoward goes out and enterprises have been using filters in corporate emails for over a decade. Isn’t about time we stopped sacking people for their own stupidity on social and try and provide them with tools to ensure they don’t cause offence in the first place?