Twitter finally banned Donald Trump from its platform. Other social media platforms followed Twitter’s actions and banned DJT as well, basically taking away the megaphone he’s enjoyed for so long. Trump used social media like no other President before him. In the end, his social media use was his downfall.
As leaders in Talent and HR, we all know how social media can be used for good and evil. How it can get candidates and employees, alike, in trouble. The reality is, usually bad social media use ends with the following – either we don’t offer you a job or we fire you.
The weird part of the Trump ban on social media is that he keeps his job, but he no longer has the megaphone. Which made me think, would we ever do this in our own work environments?
Let’s say you had a solid employee who goes on your company Slack and posts something or responds to something in a way that makes others feel very uncomfortable, or something that could be considered a threat. In reality, we see this kind of thing quite often, right?
Timmy makes a post on the company Slack page and immediately it causes an uproar amongst your employees. You tell Timmy to take it down, or your administer takes it down, and someone in HR calls Timmy in for the talk! Or you just flat fire Timmy if the post was bad enough. Rarely do we “suspend” Timmy off Slack or even ban Timmy from using Slack altogether.
Our work world reality is if Timmy is going to be banned from Slack/Teams at work, he’s going to get fired.
But, what if instead of firing him we just banned him, but he kept his job? What if Timmy just can’t handle company social media community conversations. He’s wired a bit differently, but as a work performer, he’s actually really good. Maybe keeps to himself, but produces like he’s four employees. Can’t we just say, look, dude, we like you, but you can no longer post on Slack!
It causes some issues, right? First, if we decided as an organization that we are going to use Slack/Teams as our primary tool to communicate, it becomes difficult to say, “Hey, everybody, keep using Slack/Teams, unless Timmy is involved, in that case, send an email!”
Now, I do think we could use some sort of limited suspension as a first warning. Timmy, we like you, but what you posted on Teams was unacceptable. For the next five days, you will not have access to Teams. This is going to be hard for you to stay up on what’s going on, but that is now on you. We can’t have any of that behavior moving forward and if it happens again we are going to ask you to leave the company.
At this point, it’s up to Timmy to run around and have a real conversation to find out what’s going on, send emails, etc. He screwed up, he’s on a suspension, and if he wants to save his job, he’s going to have to find other ways to get the information he needs.
This type of suspension isn’t used enough. We basically just fire people or give them a warning and wait for them to post something else that is wrong and then fire them. We never really try to make them live without the tool.
Think about the power of suspension from your biggest communication tool!? Look what it did to Trump. Look how quiet the world got in an instance. Shut off the primary megaphone the world goes back to normal pretty fast. Most people will actually learn from the suspension and do the right thing the next time. A rare few won’t and you’ll fire them.
The world has become a pretty crazy place when it comes to what we think should be normal workplace communications and tools like Slack and Teams, which give us a social media feel, has perpetuated the belief we can say almost anything.
Turns out, you can’t, this is work. It’s our job in HR to not just fire, but course-correct back to what is acceptable and what’s not. To take back our communication channels for work use, not personal belief use.
If you Google “Tim Sackett” you’ll find our Tim, and a truck driver chaplain. Our Tim is NOT the truck driver chaplain, although how awesome would that be if he was!? He is a prolific writer in the HR and TA space who just happens to also run an Engineering and IT contract staffing agency (HRU Technical Resources) out of Michigan. He also writes every day at his own blog, the Tim Sackett Project. Weirdly, he’s known as an expert in workplace hugging, which was kind of cool years ago, but now seems painfully creepy, but we still love him and he’s fairly harmless. Tim is also on the board of the Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals (ATAP), lifetime Michigan State Spartan fan, husband to a Hall of Fame wife, 3 sons, and his best friend Scout. He also wrote a book with SHRM called The Talent Fix, you can find it on Amazon.