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There are definitely nights we all come home from work wanting to have a bit of a rant about the latest office politics. But in the digital age, where a single tweet can spiral into a storm and a Facebook post can ferment into a fiasco, the line between professional restraint and personal ranting has never been thinner.

For the vast majority of people, they recognise that this kind of chat is best reserved for their partner or BFF’s to discuss face to face rather than taking to the masses via Facebook/ Twitter/ Tik Tok as a necessary release valve (not least because if you’ve ever done this and paid attention to those around you, you might have just noticed some eyes glazing over….).

However, when these vents turn digital and public, the consequences can reverberate far beyond our immediate circle, especially if you’re connected with your team on social media ( read our post ‘Is it ever a good idea to be Facebook Friends with your Employees‘ for our take on this particular minefield…).

When you spot a post which is less-than-complimentary about your own workplace/ management style or one of your other colleagues , as a leader, aside from the sharp intake of breath you’ll likely have, your reaction could go any number of ways.

The obvious thing to say to avoid something like this happening of course, is to make it clear to everyone joining the business that it’s not acceptable (in any instance) to slag off the company and specify that action will be taken should they do so.

But what if you’re too late?

These circumstances present a unique set of challenges. And if you find yourself in this situation, it’s really important that you know exactly what to do to address the problems and get things back on the right track.

Speed is everything 

Act quickly (but calmly). First, capture the moment: take screenshots of the problematic post. Then, reach out to request its removal. While you might want to launch straight into damage control, arrange a face-to-face meeting or, if that’s not possible, a phone call. This isn’t the time for digital diplomacy; misunderstandings are less likely when you can hear the tone and see the face behind the words.

Listen before you leap

Don’t jump to any assumptions before you’ve got all the information, listen to what they have to say before taking any action on the situation. Consider the nature of the comments made and their likely impact on your organisation. It would help if you can give examples of the gravitas that their words could have on your business, staff, customers and clients and what information is regarded as confidential in the business, before discussing what (if any)  penalties that may need to be considered in this situation.

It’s easy for any of us to jump to Defcon Level 5 when we spot something that’s close to our heart, however when considering your response and any actions, try not to let emotions overcome common sense and keep everything in perspective. It helps at this stage to involve someone else in your business or HR team member to offer some objectivity.  If the remarks have caused offence to other employees within your organisation, treat them with respect and take the appropriate action to record their views, as any disciplinary measures will need to take this into account and be documented.

Nobody wants to have difficult conversations, as a leader though, it’s your duty. Addressing these issues head-on not only resolves current conflicts but also sets a precedent and tone for company culture and expectations.

A gentle reminder goes a long way 

You want to get a grip on the situation quickly, treat it with severity but equally keep your cool and don’t blow things out of proportion. Just by being proactive and nipping it in the bud can help you get things back on the right track without any hassle or fuss and sometimes examples need to be made but no one wants to lose a good employee if it can be avoided. A simple guideline should be enough to avoid further scenarios cropping up.  For example, a company wide note to say what company issues you regard as private (e.g disputes, working conditions, complaints about management etc) should be addressed to you, their manager or HR and not discussed on social media;

Social networking can be an excuse for avoiding face-to-face conversations by many.

Often a quiet word by a manager can avoid issues that lead to disciplinary and grievance problems. Emails, texts and messaging systems can leave managers reliant on communicating electronically, so lead by example, enjoy more face to face conversations or calls, where the correct tone of voice can be heard and miscommunication can be instantly corrected.

If you have concerns about how equipped you are to manage HR policies and procedures, then we can help. We’ll pinpoint any potential issues that are at play in your workplace, and give you practical advice around what you need to do next.

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