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When Your Staff Turns Against You with Social Media

Posted by on January 22, 2009


We know by now that not everything in the social media space is positive.  Not everyone out there is going to sing praises about your company and your magnificent customer service, in fact some people will probably hate you and will voice their hatred toward you.  When this happens it’s important to remember that there is a way to deal with negative feedback.

BUT, what happens when the negative feedback and comes from members of your staff?  Tesco employees set up a little facebook group for themselves called “Tesco employees could rule the world,” and then proceeded their attempt at world domination.  The group is filled with lovely quotes such as:

“Give me your shopping list, you senile old cow, and I’ll do your shopping for you. Just leave me alone.”

“I had a guy on Saturday … who complained about the prices of the reduced mini cucumbers from £1.29 to 64p. Hmmm, how expensive. Cheap ****!”

“I wish these f******s would just stay at home and shop online!”

The question in this situation then becomes what do you do?  A lof of companies don’t have time to deal with this crap and just fire employees instantly for any type of negative remarks, and why shouldn’t they?  If you were running a company that had employees speaking out against you wouldn’t you just replace them?

Employees should have a voice and perhaps should be allowed to air their frustrations and grievances but when it’s a public thrashing that begins to tarnish the company image then I say get them the hell out of the company.  You don’t want people working for you that you know don’t enjoy working there, that’s just common sense in my book.

Of course the ultimate decision for what to do with rebellious staff members ultimately rests within the hands of the company, but what are some things that companies can do to prevent such things from happening?

  • institute a clear policy against public lambasting from employees on public forums
  • have the company create a private forum for company complaints and grievances
  • try to convert angry employees into happy employees (much the same way you would do with customers)
  • when it happens the first time make an example out of the group to threaten any other occurrences (scare tactic)

what would you do?

thanks for reading!

  • The company, if it doesn't already, should implement a comprehensive internal communications program, including a SM/blog policy that is communicated to employees. An unhappy employee is much different than a rebellious employee. A rebellious employee is likely not going to follow the company's policy and should be dealt with according to the SM policy.

    But if employees are unhappy due to a particular situation, then the company should address that. If the firm is clever and strategic about it, so much the better. That is an opportunity for the company to show responsiveness while giving a voice to their employees. THAT can create brand ambassadors.

    • hi linda,

      great points. i actually wonder how many companies out there are implementing a SM/blog policy, my guess is not many.

  • The first thing to prevent this is to be be a good company, treat your employees with respect and like they are humans. Don't give them a reason to bad mouth you, but when it comes to situations like the Tesco example it's a bit harder. You could (as a company) create an internal place for people to go an bitch about it with no consequences. This would be available to internal employees only, but could back fire if someone decided to post the whole thing online anyways. So really all you can do is fire them if they are caught and use that as the threat to keep them from doing it again.

    • hey josh, i agree but the employees weren't lashing out against their employer but against the customers that shop there (which u mention). tough spot to be in!

  • If I were in charge of the hiring process at Tesco, i'd be extremely concerned.

    Every job has it's down sides, but it is how you deal with them that can determine your success. Tesco should perhaps consider providing better training to their employees and provide more support to their staff who have grievences, no matter how minute they are perceived as

    Tesco shouldn't make an example of the staff that have aired their issues but should talk with them in private and ask them if they need any support and as you pertinently say, turn them into happy employees – having a drained workforce just reflects badly on you as a brand and can deter customers from your stores.

  • MatthewRay

    The good thing about posting such negative comments on Facebook and LinkedIn is that it's a liability to the employee that does write negatively about the company. I would think most companies have an ethics policy of some sort that states one cannot talk negatively or act in a nagative manner while representing the company (as an employee).

    LinkedIn and Facebook tie you down to your name. If you talk negatively about one company, the next company that hires you may not hire you because of what you had stated. It's the web, just about everything is searchable.

    Twitter, on the other hand, may be able to hide the face of the employee, for a bit. But if the username is using their account regularly and has any links or people that know them, then they'd be in trouble.

    I bet a lot of companies are very hesitant to get into social media because of the negative, possiblly anonymous, content that could spawn from opening up.

    But… it's a risk a company should be taking these days. They need to do it right, and as you stated, learn how to react to social negativity and reprimand when needed.


  • hi linda,

    great points. i actually wonder how many companies out there are implementing a SM/blog policy, my guess is not many.

  • hey josh, i agree but the employees weren't lashing out against their employer but against the customers that shop there (which u mention). tough spot to be in!

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