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What If YOUR Employee Sent Hateful Tweets Like These?

Posted by | March 24, 2015 | Leadership, Workplace

Via LinkedIn :┬áSince you probably had your head down taking care of business you might have missed this — and that’s too bad, because while the underlying issue is something you will hopefully never be forced to deal with, it is a situation you should think hard about so you’ll know how to respond in case it does happen.

First a little background: Curt Schilling is a former pitcher (he played in six All-Star games, won three World Series, and was even a Series MVP) who tried entrepreneurship (the video game company he founded failed), and is currently a baseball analyst and announcer for ESPN. In short, high profile guy.

Recently his daughter was accepted to Salve Regina University. Like many a proud father before him Schilling shared his excitement with his Twitter followers:

(Nothing wrong with that; if you can’t be proud of your kids, what can you be proud of?)

You can also probably guess what happened next. In response, some people tweeted things like, “Can’t wait to date her!” Others tweeted things like, “Looking forward to partying with her!”

No surprises there. But then it got ugly.

A flood of sexual tweets followed, quickly moving past innuendo and into graphic, hateful, and “hard to imagine people think this kind of stuff, much less share it with the world” territory, involving suggestions of violence, rape… (I won’t repeat them here, but if you’re really curious you can check out a sampling on Curt’s blog. Or you can just take my word for how disturbing they are, and that’s coming from a guy who played sports and worked on farms and factory floors… so yeah, I’ve heard a lot.)

If that happened to you and your daughter, what do you do? Most of us would get mad, want to get even… but eventually just shake our heads in frustration and wish the world were a better place.

Schilling, though, did something about it. He figured out who at least two of the tweeters were and then publicly outed them.

Turns out one was a student whose school subsequently suspended him pending a conduct hearing, saying, “The Twitter comments posted by this student are unacceptable and clearly violate the standards of conduct that are expected of all Brookdale students.”

The other soon lost his job as a part-time ticket seller for the New York Yankees; as a Yankee spokesman said, “We have zero tolerance for anything like this. We’ve terminated him.”

Both seem like appropriate responses by those organizations, at least to me.

But there are larger questions, ones you might someday have to answer. What would you do if one of them had been your employee?

And would it matter if his tweet was from his personal account? And if he posted it when he was at home and not at work?

Those are good questions since there are different standards for conduct at work and outside of work. (While you have the right to prohibit alcohol in your office, you don’t have the right to stop employees from having a few drinks over the weekend.) It’s problematic to tell employees what they can and can not do, or say, on their own time.

On the other hand, that theoretical employee’s behavior could absolutely reflect badly on your company and your brand. Can you afford for your reputation to be damaged by an employee whose social media behavior is that hateful?

That’s a tough question to answer as well.

So think about it now; at least you’ll know what to do if the worst does happen to you. Hopefully it never does — but as with most things, it’s much better to be prepared.

Now for the best part: What would you do if one of your employees tweeted something hateful, harassing, or truly offensive?

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