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about 1 year ago

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It was only a little over ten years ago that the social media landscape exploded, with the launch of MySpace in 2003, YouTube and Bebo in 2005, and Facebook and Twitter in 2006. Before then, there had been some use of blogging, chatrooms and instant messaging services, but nothing on the scale of today, with nearly 1.5bn people logging on to Facebook alone each month (Statista.com, 2015). 

Because of this, the way HRs think about social media has also had to evolve, as it becomes almost a daily challenge to keep up with the information sharing landscape. This step change has seen the focus move away from social media platforms that will can be used with HR activities such as recruitment and employer brand, and instead become focused on what platforms are being used by employees and in what way. 

The importance of this tilt towards employee use of social media has been evidenced just last month, as Australia’s workplace tribunal ruled that a woman was bullied after she was unfriended on Facebook following a work dispute. The Fair Work Commission, a workplace tribunal, said the decision by Lisa Bird, a real estate agent sales administrator, to unfriend her colleague Rachel Roberts showed a "lack of emotional maturity" and was "indicative of unreasonable behaviour".

This is a test case and one that may become the first of many, as the continual changes within social media means that there is a grey area in terms of what constitutes “unreasonable behaviour”. This grey area will only be widened as innovations within social media platforms evolve faster than employment law and HR policy. 

HR & social media: The Innovation Game 

The latest of these innovations which may lead to more test cases in the future comes as Facebook announces the introduction of six emoji to be used alongside the ‘like’ button: ‘love’, ‘haha’, ‘yay’, ‘wow’, ‘sad’ and ‘angry’. If ‘unfriending’ a colleague on your personal platform due to a work-related dispute constitutes workplace bullying, then will an unwelcome or inappropriate ‘sad’ or ‘angry’ emoji on a person’s status or comment do the same? 

It will be interesting to see whether the introduction of negative emojis will fuel negativity within the world’s most popular social media platform – negativity that could, if between colleagues, be interpreted as bullying.  

Ultimately, it is important that HRs use the recent workplace bullying ruling in Australia alongside updates to social media platforms, such as the introduction of negative Facebook emojis, to reflect on current social media policy and best practice appropriately to ensure that there is no grey area at least within their own company policies.