The world’s worst social media policy?
At the end of December, an Australian bank, Commonwealth, launched a social media strategy amongst its 44,000 employees. The strategy has already been leaked and is generating a massive storm of negative conversations. The document is filled with instructions to their employees of what not to do. The most problematic part, however, is where the bank asks its employees to file a complaint against their personal Facebook and Twitter contacts if they write something inappropriate about Commonwealth. And they take it even further: if you don’t betray your friends, you might even end up fired. They even ask you to help the company in investigating your personal network. Now you have to admit: that’s something you don’t see every day!
The brilliant idea of starting a witch hunt
Just imagine the consequences of such a policy. The slightest innocent sentence written by an employee’s friend on Facebook gives reason for fear. Should I report this to the management? I won’t be fired, will I? They won’t sue my friend, or would they? These kinds of thoughts will definitely go through someone’s head on a daily basis if you send such a policy description to your employees. The only result you will get is to begin a witch hunt. However, there is one thing I do like about the story, and that is that there are people within the company who promptly leaked the approach to the outside world. The philosophy of fear and the illusion of keeping control have failed yet again. No need to say that this news is spreading rapidly.
The company’s feeble reaction to the PR storm was rather disappointing. At first they still tried to defend their policy. After having given that statement, they were sharply reproached by the sector organisation, which found this unacceptable. And their most recent declaration was: ‘amend the policy where it is considered reasonable to do so to ensure that all of the staff continues to be treated fairly’. Not a particularly convincing response.
Let’s strive for positive policies in which common sense triumphs
Last week I heard one of my favourite marketing professors say the following: ‘if you need a policy for your employees which stipulates what they can and cannot do on social media, then your HR policy has failed.” At first I thought this was quite a severe judgement, but it contains so much truth! Indeed, I do think the HR policy in most companies has underestimated the power of culture. If your company has a great culture, there is that much less need for such a policy.
However, I can understand that a major financial group requires a good social media policy, since the culture of such organisations is not yet totally in line with the customs on social media.
Such a policy could really help to accelerate a number of things. But there is only a single type that can really work, and that is a positive approach, preferably based on your employees’ common sense. One amazing detail of the Commonwealth policy: one section even says that employees should use their common sense! In this case, maybe the company should have done so as well…