We were asked a question on a panel last week, that prompted us to share a topic with you.

The question to the panel was “Should you have rules around what employees can and cannot post on their personal social media?”.

The majority of the panel advised that creating a policy around what employees CANNOT post (i.e. cursing, political, provocative imagery, bad-mouthing the employer, etc.) was the best course of action.  However, we had a different take on this topic.

At theTifosi we promote trust and communication because we believe these two concepts will define and elevate your culture at work.  We have found that trusting your employees with their social media is more effective than telling them what they “cannot” post.  Here are some ways to instill trust in your employees and avoid negative content that may harm your brand:

1.  Facilitate trust during onboarding. 

Show employees immediately that you trust their judgment when it comes to social media.  Having a “policy” around social media “do’s and don’ts” is far less effective than a “we trust your policy”.  Discussing an open “we trust you policy” will automatically make an employee trust you (the employer) in return.  Employees don’t want to disappoint the people they trust, making them less likely to post “offensive” content.

2.  Empower your employees and create a culture of positive behavior. 

Empowering your employees to showcase the company and their job on social media is a quick way to get them acclimated to proper etiquette.  Create a positive social media culture in your office by posting meaningful content yourself and sharing when other’s post engaging content.  This will allow new hires to see that positivity reaps reward and recognition.

3.  Accept that you can’t control everything and don’t overreact. 

Social media is personal and the reality is that you can’t be the social patrol.  For example, political posts…yes the dreaded political post that takes up your Facebook feed–something you can’t control.  In this day in age, you have to let people vent sometimes, and if you don’t want to see it, unfollow them.  It is the employee’s choice to post something controversial, and while it may damage their reputation in the eyes of other employees, this is not your problem to take on.  If you experience an issue where content is offensive to another employee, this needs to be reported to HR for investigation, meaning you should not play detective and investigate or encourage others to investigate the problem.

The effects of social media are new to the workplace and sometimes hard to understand how it impacts employees.  Consider the following scenario, which is much more relevant to the pre-social media era:

You are going on a business trip and want to book a flight through Delta because you get points and it has direct flights every hour to your destination, making it easy to shuttle your kids around before you leave.  You have researched that Delta has the lowest flights comparable to other airlines, but your company policy provides that Helen in accounting must book the flight for you.  She gets to choose the time, your seat, and the return flight as well.  Thus leaving you with a frustrating exchange of emails back and forth to Helen about times and seats.

1.  How does this policy make you feel?

2.  Does this policy make you feel like your company trusts you?

3.  If given the chance to book your own flight would you take advantage and book First Class?

This scenario is very common in most large companies but creates a feeling of resentment in many ways because people don’t feel trusted by their own employer.  Although this example is different, the principle can be applied to social media policy as well.

At the end of the day, you shouldn’t create a policy for the “exception”.  You should create trust and communication for the majority of people that will never actually post anything bad.