HR struggling with Facebook snitches

BY Aliah D Wright

“This place is a hell hole. If I had a car today I would up and quit.”

This is a real Facebook status update referenced in a discussion on the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) member bulletin board. The question raised: What should be the next step for the manager? Discussion? Termination? Nothing?

It’s a scenario played out in workplaces all over the world, experts say — people tattling on their Facebook friends.

When Philadelphia attorney Eric Meyer of Dillworth Paxson and Associates LLP, asked HR professionals during a SHRM conference in March if they were receiving complaints from employees about their colleagues’ Facebook activities, nearly half of the attendees raised hands.

Some employees are apparently now showing employers — via printout or on their smartphones or computers — the derogatory or demeaning status updates of colleagues who happen to be Facebook friends.

“I was shocked at the number of HR professionals who informed me at [the conference] that they had dealt with this issue,” Meyer wrote later during a discussion on Twitter. In subsequent interviews, Meyer and other experts said this is one of many reasons why employers should keep abreast of social media rulings by the National Labor Relations Board. It is why having a social media policy is important, they added.

Many employers “do not realize that [even] in a nonunion workforce, the National Labor Relations Act rules apply,” said Steven Suflas, labor and employment partner at Ballard Spahr in New Jersey. Those rules “protect concerted activities by employees,” meaning that employees venting on a social networking site can talk about work—with caveats. However, employers must consider the nature of such postings.

But back to the key question: What to do?

Don’t panic

“It’s time to apply some critical thinking skills,” said HR consultant Laurie Ruettimann. “First things first; this status update might not be what you perceive it to be. There is a term on Facebook called vaguebooking. The update might be referring to someone or something else, and even when it’s direct and clear, it might not be clear. The update might be part of a bigger story you know nothing about,” she said.

“I would ask the manager a few questions about the alleged offender’s behavior in the office,” she continued. “Is this person a good worker?” Are tasks being completed “on time? Are there any issues with attendance, morale or interoffice politics? Get the back story on performance,” she said.

“In most instances, unless the situation appeared serious and put someone in harm’s way, I would let the situation pass,” said Joey V. Price, CEO of JumpStartHR, a consultancy. “People have always been disgruntled about the workplace. We vent to our friends, we vent to our co-workers, we even vent to our manager’s manager. The fact that people are venting is not new, but social media is a new medium, which leaves the opportunity for someone to vent in a more public/permanent space — which can make this tricky to deal with.”

“Without a policy in place, it’s really hard to advise what the next step is,” Sean Charles, an HR social media consultant and trainer in Vancouver, British Columbia, told SHRM Online. Price added: “Companies should be proactive and offer corporate training of social media use, since this can answer questions before they become issues.”

Too much information

“People should understand that they are accountable for their social media persona,” said Janine Truitt, senior HR representative at Brookhaven National Laboratory. “In the same way that they can choose what content to put out there, they can choose who they associate themselves with,”

“Being totally transparent on your Facebook page is a big risk. … It can come back to haunt you,” Charles said.

Consider this:

“An employee at this company decided that she was going to take a picture of a co-worker’s cubicle” and she posted it “to her Facebook page with a status like ‘slob’ or something along those lines,” Truitt said of an incident relayed to her. “She was friends with a few of the clients of this company and they saw the picture and commented. It became a joke online [until] one of those clients print-screened the page and sent it to her boss.” The woman who posted the photo was fired, and “two other employees were cited for similar derogatory writing on [the Facebook post].”

The fact that one employee was fired and the others were not is yet another reason why companies need social media policies that are “consistent,” Truitt said.

Some things should be “saved only for our closest friends and shouldn’t be posted on Facebook,” Charles added.

“At the end of the day, you need to take the philosophy that everything you say on the Internet is public, regardless of your privacy settings,” because “no matter where you’re posting it, it can be made public,” he said.

Have HR-related questions and concerns? Get access to essential forms, policies and guides, plus a live call center, at, powered by HCN and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Aliah D. Wright is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

© 2012 SHRM. All rights reserved.


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To what extent will your office be impacted by March Madness, which tips off this week?

Product-driven: Awards recognize innovation

BY Ken Clark

Successful retailers describe the Five Ps — people, promotion, price, product and place, price — as keys to growth. And the National Hardware Show delivered on most of them — particularly product.

Awards programs at the National Hardware Show helped make innovation and improvements easy to spot — from big brands to new players.

The Home Channel News Golden Hammer Awards ceremony held Wednesday morning at the show recognized the following companies, which were selected by a peer-voting process with ballots distributed to retailers before the event: 

• Cleaning Supplies – Simple Green

• Electrical Supplies – Leviton
• Fasteners – Midwest Fastener

• Floor Care – Bona Kemi

• Hand Tools – Stanley

• Gloves and Apparel – Wells Lamont
• Home Security – First Alert

• Paint Supplies & Tools – Hyde
• Plumbing Supplies and Equipment – Fluidmaster

• Power Tools – DeWalt
• Decorative Hardware & Locksets – Schlage
• Decorative Lighting & Fixtures – Design House
• Fashion Fixtures – Kohler
• Home Organization – Closetmaid

• Major Appliances – GE

• Paint Wall Treatments & Stains – Benjamin Moore
• Small Appliances – GE
• Bath Vanities – Kohler
• Building Materials – Boise Cascade
• Insulation & Housewrap – DuPont
• Caulking & Sealants – DAP

• Doors – Masonite

• Lumber & Plywood – Weyerhaeuser

• Windows – Andersen
• Barbeque – Weber-Stephen
• Garden Accessories – Design House

 • Lawn & Garden Organics/Chemicals – Scotts

• Lawn and Garden Tools & Irrigation – Ames True Temper
• Outdoor Power Equipment – STIHL
• Pool Supplies – ARCH 

The North American Retail Hardware Association recognized 26 products during the Retailers’ Choice Awards Ceremony Wednesday in Las Vegas. These products, which were selected for recognition by a panel of retailer, are representative of the innovation available on the market today. The winners were: 

• Jeweler in the Dishwasher
• Grip-On HandsFree Flashlight           
• Can Converter
• Tie Boss Pulley
• TabletTape
• Grip-On HandsFree Flashlight,
• BugLit Nite Ize
• Cleaning Glove, Quickly Clean
• General Tools’ Cordless Precision Engraver
• Smart Tool Organizer
• The Deck Demon
• U Socket Power Outlet
• Sentry 300 Gate Opener System
• Tie Downs, S-Line
• Apex Tool’s Ratcheting Adjustable Wrench
• Life+Gear Glow
• T-Roc Gloves        
• Hot Air Balloon Spinner
• Decorative Children’s Trim
• LED Tape Lights
• Solar Power Charger
• Envirohold, Envirohold
• Roto Rooter Plunger
• Hot Spot Glove
• Multifunnel
• Paint Protector


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To what extent will your office be impacted by March Madness, which tips off this week?

Lancaster helps paint the town

BY Ken Clark

The Lancaster Paint Las Vegas Buying Show opened its doors, marking a collaboration with the National Hardware Show to allow buyers to browse and buy the paint and sundries category in one place.

The two-day Lancaster event at the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, next door to the Las Vegas Convention Center, opened Wednesday with some 100 exhibits.

"Being in one location will help drive more paint customers to both shows," said Mike Dube, category manager at Lancaster. "Our vendors have been very supportive of us being here, and we’ve also been able to bring some big-brand paint vendors to the table that might not normally come to the National Hardware Show. That’s good news for attendees of both shows, as there will be a lot more vendors for everyone to see."

One of Lancaster’s newest retail customers said he saw the value in the co-location of the shows. "We really appreciate the Lancaster Buying Show as it allows us to see a wide range of products all under one roof," said retailer Juan Masip Diaz of Dijtham Curacao in Curacao, Antilles. "We’ve already been to the National Hardware Show and were impressed with how we were able to see so much more than hardware products there, such as the home and garden products."

John Plocic, director of sales at Techtronic Industries North America, was one of the new exhibitors to Lancaster’s show. "We’re excited to be here and we’ve had a lot of traffic already,” he said. “A lot of the retailers have already been looking at paint vendors in the National Hardware Show, and now they’re excited to come here and see even more options here.”


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To what extent will your office be impacted by March Madness, which tips off this week?