When the social media companies initially came to market, they had few controls either externally or internally. The result was that an impressive number of people lost their jobs sharing inappropriate ideas and the companies discovered that governments weren’t very fond of this activity and began to think about regulating them. Besides, advertisers didn’t want their brands connected to socially unacceptable posts. As a result, these firms had to move to provide moderation at scale so they wouldn’t lose those advertisers and to reduce the probability that a government, foreign or domestic, would either shut them down or hit them with a massive fine (this one was for a security breach).
Now, unfortunately, we’ve likely become more comfortable with social media as a result. Still, the protective actions by the social media companies are resulting in the success of challenging social media efforts like Parler, where there is far less moderation. (The concept of civilized hate speech is, in and of itself, problematic).
This change brings up a clear risk because the kinds of unmoderated conversations on topics now banned on the major social media networks have now moved to these new public services. Employees and executives should be reminded that what wasn’t acceptable behavior before didn’t just suddenly become acceptable on these new apps. Even posting on these apps, given their nature, may result in a hostile workplace challenge by a coworker or employee and adversely impact the brand where they work if they are outed as an employee (doxing and outing controversial people has now become a common practice).
Let’s talk about this new risk this week.
Getting Ready for the Next HR Nightmare
What brought this to mind was this story on a top executive that pretty much decided that rules didn’t apply to him and openly groped and propositioned a coworker—forcing her out of the company—and apparently, regularly passing out drunk at the office. And, get this, the firm was a headhunting firm meaning they were in the HR business. I’ve been there; in the 1990s at a firm I was working at, we had our HR executive approach our female sales reps and proposition them, and then he attacked his ex-wife in the office—firing her for having a boyfriend (and he was the one who hired her). People who absolutely should know better regularly do stupid things.
Over the years I’ve seen executives bring their mistresses into their windowed offices to have sex figuring no one would know (we knew), having sex in company planes, having affairs while on business trips, and there continue to be way too many reports of executives casually mentioning that one of a new hire’s responsibilities is to service them sexually.
And many of these folks were C-Level and above so they are sure as hell should have known better. So, the emergence of social media platforms that go back to the time when we didn’t have moderation means a new set of risks because these platforms promote themselves as being a safe place to share your thoughts. And these sick puppies should likely keep those thoughts to themselves.
Now, most firms have trackers that currently sit on the major platforms to catch social media misbehavior, but none of those trackers, right now (to my knowledge), work on services like Parler. This lack of monitoring means that when one of these dim bulbs decides to share his or her thoughts on one of these new platforms, you will only get alerted if they are identified, connected to your brand, and show up in the media.
Given the level of anger surrounding some of these topics and the reasonable belief that these new forums are safe, I’m expecting a ton of HR problems cropping up over the next few months. It might be wise to both remember yourself that these new forums are anything but safe and remind your employees, particularly your executives, that what they say on these forums, who they are connected to, and the conversations that are going on in them may be severely career limiting.
There is no safe place for bad behavior, nor should there be, and while there may be a lack of trackers on these new platforms now, that will undoubtedly change. Particularly once several of the folks posting on them are called out and have their careers terminated after damaging their firms’ brands. And remember, things rarely disappear once on the web, so you might want to chat with your kids about this as well unless you want them to live with you for a ton longer.
I’ll close with this, back when I worked for Disney they had a term “on-stage” and “off-stage” when you were on stage your behavior reflected on the company, and you were supposed to behave accordingly. In this world where everyone has a camera and social media is at your fingertips, people need to realize they are always on stage.