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Distributor's Link Magazine Summer 2022 / Vol 45 No 4


58 THE DISTRIBUTOR’S LINK Jim Truesdell James Truesdell is President of Brauer Supply Company, a distributor of specialty fasteners, insulation, air filtration, and air conditioning with headquarters in St. Louis. Mr. Truesdell is adjunct professor at Saint Louis University and Webster University. An attorney and frequently published writer, he is the author of “Total Quality Management: Reports From the Front Lines”. WHEN SOCIAL MEDIA IMPACTS THE WORKPLACE Today vast numbers of working people regularly use social media platforms as a main form of social interaction. Yesterday’s physical gathering spots ( the town square and the mall) have been supplanted by an on-line community of people making friends, debating issues, posting pictures and sometimes preaching about their views on various topics. It’s not just Millennials. People of all ages have bought into this as a primary way of communicating. It’s great--- but it can have downsides. Arguments can fester into anger, reputations can be slandered, misinformation can go “viral”, and things one might not have posted if a proper time to reflect had been taken are often quickly put out there and end up painting an impression that the poster may not have really intended. Social Media is one’s own business, right? Perhaps not always. Employers may not always be happy about the way some material is put on platforms, from Facebook to LinkedIn. Perhaps they don’t want their workers (to whom they are paying salary or wages) trashing their products or workplace culture where that dirty linen can be shared by the world. Maybe a cursory check up on that potential “new hire” or a service contractor to be engaged will show unflattering and unprofessional posts from an applicant who thought social media was just that---social—and not professional. It is giving rise to a debate over whether any of this is fair game for an employer to access and give consideration to, or whether everyone should get a free pass for what they do in their CONTRIBUTOR ARTICLE on-line life. The fact is that both workers AND employers have responsibilities on how they use social media platforms. Since it is not unheard of for employees to be fired for what they post on social media, it is important that a company should develop and disseminate a clear policy on what is acceptable on-line behavior. Employees should be advised that they are expected not to disparage the company’s products or its customer service and processes, nor should they be allowed to slander co-workers on the platforms. However, policies should be careful not to run afoul of labor laws that give workers the right to discuss terms of employment (wages, benefits and working conditions) since this is protected speech. Workers cannot be commanded not to discuss what they are paid. But as a member of the company team it is fair to require them not to trash the company’s reputation needlessly and with malice. The other big area that comes into play is the employer’s use of social media for pre-hire checking up on applicants. If done properly it can be a way for a prospective employer to learn about a candidate’s personality, ways of relating to others, and make determinations if the candidate will mesh with the company culture. It can be used to discover the level of communication skill the candidate possesses. It can guide a company away from applicants who pepper their communication with obscenities, hate speech, overt sexual content, or drug culture slang. CONTINUED ON PAGE 150



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