You hired Mary as a concierge at your hotel chain and she is a model employee. Today, she is checking in Todd, who is upset that he will not be receiving an upgrade during this stay. She calls over her manager, and together they calm him down. Todd leaves for his room, still a little upset, but seemingly fine. Problem solved?
After her shift, Mary logs on to Twitter, and sees an account with her name, picture, and place of employment. But it's not her. And it's not pretty – the account is definitely not safe for work (maybe not for life). Mary reaches out to her manager, but someone online has already reached out to the hotel's social media team. After a short investigation, it becomes apparent that the imposter account was created by Todd. Mary is shaken up and your team has to respond.
Your employees work with the public all the time – in the service industry, they may be working with a guest at check-in, in a hospital, they may be working with a patient, in a school, they may be working with parents, etc.
Over 40% of adults have experienced online harassment; each of these public interactions opens your employee up for a very specific type of online harassment – unfair impersonation online. It's more common than you think. Over 83 million fake accounts exist on Facebook alone – that number grows when you consider Twitter, Google+, and other networks.
So what can you do to help Mary?
- Report the posts and account to the social media network where they are posted (here's the how-to for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+). This is not a parody account – Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ all have strict guidelines about what constitutes a parody account and this type of harassment is decidedly not parody.
- Contact your HR team and let them know what's going on. Involving the right parties from the get-go will help your team as the situation progresses.
- Continue to monitor that person's online presence – set up a Google Alert for their name. This will work on all social media networks. If you have an employee with a common name, try adding their place of employment to the Google Alert.
- Stay in touch with the affected employee – let them know you've got their back. As stressful as it is to be an employer in this situation, it's even harder to be the person affected. This is a moment where you can be a force for support and good in your employee's life at a hard time. Prove your worth as a destination employer.
- Don't feed the trolls. You may want to reply publicly to this harasser, but that just draws more attention to an already rough situation. It's better to not feud publicly. Don't interact, don't give them the attention the harasser craves. It helps no one.
- Encourage brand-positive social media use. Your employees are your best brand ambassadors. If Mary had been active on social media before this incident, it would be easy to follow the breadcrumbs and determine that the imposter account wasn't legitimate. You hire your employees because you like and trust them – let them talk about work publicly and positively.
You strive for a supportive work environment people look forward to coming into – this is a new way to consider workplace harassment and help your employees combat it.