“The views are my own and don't reflect those of my employer." is not a bulletproof statement. The views of the employee might not be those of the organization, but the employee is part of the organization, and what is said in social media reflects directly back on the organization.
Bulletproof vests are a bit of an oxymoron because they are bullet-resistant and meant to prevent penetration by specific types, sizes, and speeds of bullets. They don't stop all bullets, as the name might imply. In that way, they are much like the typical social media disclaimer many organizations encourage employees to use: “The views are my own and don't reflect those of my employer." You see, the views of the employee might not be those of the organization, but the employee is part of the organization, and what is said in social media reflects directly back on the organization.
Consider the latest “oopsie” moment by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who this week prompted a significant backlash in China. Morey's momentary lapse in judgment resulted in his tweet "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong." It might have seemed innocuous enough, and an appropriate statement to make in the U.S. The problem is that it was anything but proper with regards to China, and showed vast ignorance of the politically sensitive environment that the N.B.A. had successfully navigated up to this point. Moorey deleted the tweet and claimed that the insulting statement was his views alone and did not represent those of the N.B.A. The N.B.A. issued a statement indicating the incident was "regrettable." But none of that mattered as the damage was done. Like a strong bullet traveling at breakneck speed, the regrettable tweet was no match for the disclaimer bulletproof vest; it just didn’t hold up.
This latest social media blunder is just that: the latest social media blunder. It highlights the inability of any organization to hide behind the statement that an employee’s views do not represent those of the employer. So what should you do instead?
If there is one wish I have, it is that every organization will use this latest Twitter mishap to understand that social media disasters are just one statement away. This is the time to reflect on your social media policy and practices and close the gaps. While there is no bulletproof vest (nor bulletproof social media policy), you can protect yourself by understanding the kind of bullets coming your way and slowing them down.
Photo by Nik Shuliahin
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