It’s that time of year again. The weather has begun to turn cold, the first snowflakes have fallen and planning is underway for the company Christmas party. Anticipation is high amongst employees looking forward to a few weeks off, but for employers, the Christmas spirit can be more of a nuisance than anything else. With the internet acting as a megaphone, that yearly holiday bash can quickly turn from a harmless way to blow off steam into a reputational nightmare.
Traditionally, the office Christmas party has been a way to relax and get to know work colleagues in a different setting. With alcohol in play, compromising and unprofessional conduct has always been something of an issue, but in the past, exposure has been limited to the people actually present at the event. This is no longer the case. Many employees now post pictures and mobile video to social media and if compromising content from the office party becomes associated with your brand, the fall-out can seriously damage the company’s reputation. At ReputationDefender we recommend employers take pro-active measure before the Christmas party takes place to ensure employees understand what is expected in terms of professional conduct and respect for the privacy of others.
Laying the Groundwork
Company policies should clearly prohibit employees from engaging in the following:
- Conduct that hurts the company’s reputation (either in or out of work)
- Discrimination or bullying targeted at other employees
- Sharing confidential information on social media.
Before the Christmas party, circulate an email outlining these policies and detailing how they can be applied to harmful posts. Drunken images that include the company name clearly bring the brand into disrepute. Images or posts targeted at hurting another employee’s reputation constitute bullying and can generate defamation claims. Sharing confidential information about the brand or another employee on or offline is also strictly prohibited. Employers do not want to give the impression that they regularly track their employees on social media, however it should be made clear that these sites are not private and posting certain information can be considered a violation of company policies.
Outlining company standards beforehand will help employees to understand that even though the event is a relaxed, social affair, a certain level of professionalism is still expected. It will also give employers a basis for disciplining and even dismissing employees who fail to comply. This is important since without consequences no one will take company policies very seriously. Make sure there is a record that the email was sent ahead of time in the event that a disgruntled employee files a complaint.
How Far Should You Go?
It’s important to catch violators without giving the impression that the company is spying on everyone. Monitoring a private social media page without consent is a violation in itself and should be avoided. However, if you receive a public alert related to your brand name it’s important to take immediate action. You can also take reports from lower level managers who may friend or follow some of their employees on Facebook. Any decision must be accompanied by a thorough investigation to avoid legal consequences and should also take the employee’s prior record into account.
In the end, employers don’t want to become a Grinch destroying the holiday spirit, but they do need to instill a sense of respect and accountability toward the brand’s reputation. Laying out expectations ahead of time and asking managers to set a good example can usually accomplish this without resorting to disciplinary action. However, employees need to understand that the company’s reputation is vital to its ability to generate revenue. Damaging a corporate reputation puts everyone’s job in jeopardy.
Read our article on managing corporate reputation in a digital world