Last week, while I was getting a haircut, I overheard a conversation between my stylist and the manager of the salon. It seems a co-worker had complained about her job on Facebook without considering she had friended the manager (what was she thinking?!). The manager completed a corrective action, placing the employee on a one-year probation. The activities prohibited included discussing the workplace on social media. It also included a one-year freeze on raises. I asked the manager if there was social networking training or a policy. There was neither. The manager defended the action saying the employee should have known better. I have always considered the following before enacting corrective action.

  • Are expectations provided and procedures in place?
  • Has the team member been trained? Were they able to use the procedure?
  • Were there consequences outside of the team member’s control affecting the performance?

If the answer to the above is yes – then the employee has decided not to follow policy, and discipline should be required. If the answer is no, I believe it’s unfair to discipline the employee. Depending on the common sense of others to manage your business is a plan to fail. Not having a written, communicated, and trained social networking policy is like being without HR policies or marketing strategies. It is a fly by the seat of your pants method of operation. Although this employee made a very poor decision, was it fair to take action without social networking policies, training or discussion? What do you think?

Last summer, during a Q&A session at the Blog Indiana Conference (#BIN2010), I listened to a discussion about social networking company policies. An employee was mystified that her organization was “paranoid” about social networking when a voice from the back said, “Are the employees allowed to answer the phone?” Another voice added, “Don’t they have a policy in place; don’t they trust their employees?” Yes, I’m sure employees answer the phone, but I doubt the phone call is recorded and accessible. Other than using company time, social networking is not like answering the phone. It is different, and yes, the company should be – if not paranoid – at least careful. I’m not suggesting a ban on social networking at work – far from it, but have a policy, train employees, and monitor the networks.

Consider this: some employees always complain, and all employees complain sometimes. But are they complaining about your organization at the water cooler, during a phone call, or forever to everyone on a social network? It has been, and always will be, that people talk, gossip, and complain about co-workers, superiors, and company policies. A few keep it to themselves, some are toxic, others thrive on drama, and some learn. Since these conversations are no longer limited to the water cooler, social networking policies and guidelines are important.

Getting Started – Do You Have A Policy?
Have you put it off because it was not important, you don’t know where to start, or you have perfection paralysis? If you do not have a social networking policy, the references below make the task of creating yours less daunting. I believe taking the lead from these policies is better than no policy; however, I’m not an attorney, so check with your legal department.

IT Business Edge Social Networking Policy

The IBM Social Networking policy

Do You Have A Policy, But No One Is Aware Of It?
Is it somewhere on page 52 of the employee handbook that you sometimes remember to give new employees? If so, you need to share the information.

  • Start with monthly social network policy meetings – if only to review the policy. It took me under five minutes to read all eight points of the sample policy aloud, and discuss the first point.
  • Process and file copies of the policy from all employees in HR folders.
  • Make help available to all employees.

Are Your Employees Trained on the Policy, But You don’t Monitor?

  • Use social media monitoring tools like Social Mention ( or IceRocket (, and set up Google Alerts ( for your organization’s name.
  • Ask employees for any blogs, Twitter, Facebook, linkedIn, or Flickr accounts where they may mention the organization.

I will conclude with a Google search of “Social Networking Lawsuits.” ( ) There are 65,270 results. Stop putting your policy off.


Randy Clark is the Director of Communications at TKO Graphix, where he blogs for TKO Graphix Brandwire Prior to TKO, he spent 13 years with Unique Home Solutions as Marketing Director and VP of Operations. Randy is passinate about social media and leadership development. He is an avid flower gardener, beer geek, and he fronts the Rock & Roll band Under the Radar on the weekends