In this era of social media it can only take a few uncomplimentary tweets or a casual unfortunate remark on Facebook to go viral to trash your organisation’s good name and reputation.
Companies are particularly vulnerable when a disgruntled employee or even worse an ex-employee takes to the air waves to express their less than flattering views about you, their colleagues, your suppliers or customers.
What protection can you put in place to minimise the risk?
Firstly, and most importantly make it an express term in your employment contract to prohibit your employees from making any form of comment about the business, colleagues, customers and suppliers without your express written permission. Employees whose task it is to issue social media releases about product launches etc will have a modified clause in their contract. If you don’t have this in your existing contracts DO IT NOW and get everyone to sign an amended contract.
Next, back up the clause in the contract with a comprehensive social media, internet and computer use policy in your handbook.
Unfortunately, if this protection is not in place and you become aware of adverse comments, life becomes more difficult. For an employee you can use the disciplinary approach as the comments bring the company into disrepute. Should you dismiss and regrettably end up at tribunal your case will be weak if there is no policy in place. You need to show the cost effect of the reputational damage if the employee can show that the comment was only viewed by a few people, they will have a strong defence so beware.
If the employee has already left, try to make contact with them to ask them to desist. You should also check their contract to consider whether they are in violation of any confidentiality or non-disclosure clauses. If so remind them of their responsibilities.
If you have still drawn a blank, your only recourse is to go to the courts which regrettably is time consuming and expensive. You may want to try mediation to solve the problem as should you end up in court the costs may outweigh the benefits, so it’s important to exhaust all other options first.