Corporate psychopaths are always in the news, and with the advent of social media and online forums, some employees have been getting their revenge.
A bad boss can be named and shamed in seconds, and while our defamation and libel laws are catching up with the new terrain, lots of people are getting away with tweeting or posting their thoughts on websites such as JobAdvisor and Glassdoor.
“Coward’s castle” was how people historically referred to parliamentary privilege. Politicians were able under this convention to freely lob verbal hand grenades at each other, knowing they couldn’t be sued. The internet is today’s “coward’s castle” and for some people, dumping on others (particularly well-known or high-placed individuals) is a full-time occupation.
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Today, people post their views anonymously or under aliases, and the “trolling” of their targets has now moved to corporate levels. Others critique their places of work, often for well-founded reasons. Companies seem unsure of how to handle this; some choosing to loftily ignore criticism and downright venom, while others see every slight to their reputation as potentially lethal.
Is it necessary to spill the beans about a workplace/employer? Occasionally, yes – if the company is engaging in deceptive or criminal practices.
We owe a great deal to the brave people who speak up, even though many disincentives to whistleblowing continue to exist – few people who report company malfeasance on websites or elsewhere benefit from being truthful. They suffer.
Think carefully about who needs to be aware of a misdemeanour or deep-rooted bad practice, and also the consequences for you if you choose to tweet or post anonymously.
If you’re sending tipoffs about sub-par pay or enslavement conditions to a news outlet, do so but be very careful. Journalists don’t always care about you in their rush to get headlines and the jump on other media outlets.
If you’re really just having a whinge or dummy-spit about the socially-challenged person/s you work for once again, think before you rant. Everything you put online is logged somewhere and can be retrieved for investigative or court purposes.
I am not saying you don’t have a “right” to speak up, but with rights there are responsibilities to both you and your future workplaces. Think about it – if a prospective employer knows you’re a serial ranter in other forums, would they hire you? Would you hire you if you analysed all the ramifications?
There is probably only one or two places where this practice is encouraged: talk radio and tabloid newspapers (and even they have to be more careful these days). Always remember, you are your own brand. Don’t trash it.
Is an online rant about a workplace really worth it? If you were dumping on television or radio or even in print, you’d be a damned sight more careful. So, what’s different about you being online and broadcasting to millions? Just because it’s harder to know who you are, doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
People faced with the exciting world of being their own radio/television/media outlets can go a little wild. How ridiculous and amateurish are you going to look? Temper your thoughts and your writing.
Workplaces should develop and monitor social media policies and practices – companies need to circumscribe employees’ access to social media, but in reality there is little they can do to prevent people’s desire to say something.
So companies, you’re not off the hook. If you’re prepared to stand by something you’re doing, then do so, but if you know there is justification to people’s complaints, then see this as a timely warning.
Find ways to encourage the talk INSIDE the business. Welcome complaints and discussion about what is not working. Acknowledge fault and make reparation. Be glad you’ve employed people with a sense of right and wrong, and not mindless drones.
We live in a democracy, and competitive edges should not cancel out ethical behaviour. Companies exist to make a profit but this is accompanied by being responsible, scrupulous and willing to model good practices.
Separate the two, and ping – you’ll experience more online rants.
Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace.