Facebook Follies at Work

Technology can be a pain in the workplace. When I managed staff in a call centre I struggled to keep them off their smart phones and Facebook and have them answer calls instead.

You wouldn’t think this would be difficult, considering that we paid them to answer calls and not to chat. But if I turned my back on some of them, they would type away at Facebook updates and ignore the ever-growing queue of phone calls. (Yes, it you’ve ever had to wait a long time to talk to a company you’ve just called, it may be caused by employees screwing around. Of course the companies will never admit that to you.)

The other Facebook struggle you might experience is employees bad mouthing their company, boss or co-workers online. You can get away with this only if you are not friends with colleagues on Facebook. I had one employee who was too silly to remember this rule. We’ll call her Tracy.

Tracy was a walking attitude from the day she started. She thought she was too good for the job and too good for everyone around her. She began missing work right after training and was often rude to customers or provided them wrong information. A real treat. Why didn’t we get rid of her, you might ask? Sadly, in the call centre world, she was far from the worst employee we had. We needed to have someone answering the phones.

I had spoken to her a couple of times about attendance and attitude with clients, to no avail. One week, we had an employee quit in frustration (also happens a lot in call centres).  He posted a tirade about the company on his Facebook page. Tracy decided to add a comment that said, “Yeah, I hate that place and that witch of a manager.” She actually used a less-nice word than witch, but I’ll try to keep the blog clean.

They both were friends with other employees on Facebook, including one of my junior supervisors, who felt the need to tell me about the post. The HR rules around dealing with cyberspace infractions are a little grey, especially since this is relatively new territory. I decided to bypass HR and have a little fun instead. I realized I could make her squirm without “officially” getting her in trouble.

During her next shift, I called Tracy off the floor and asked her how she was doing. She said fine. I asked her if everything was ok at work, and she said yes. I told her I was asking because of her recent Facebook post, and I quoted it back to her, not censoring out the curse.

Not much about dealing with employee problems is enjoyable. A lot of it is just as uncomfortable for the boss as it is for the employee, but it was good fun watching the wheels turning in her head and her face getting all red as Tracy realized she was caught. What was her reaction?

“You didn’t think I was talking about you, did you?” she asked, all innocent.

“Well, you did mention this company by name,” I replied.

“Oh no, I was talking about my other job!”

“Your other job at a company with the same name as ours?”

She kept trying to convince me it wasn’t me she was talking about when I finally said to her, “If you ever have any problems at work you would like to discuss with me, my door is always open. But if you really hate it here, no one is making you stay. You know where the door is.”

She skulked off back to her desk, still red-faced. Since she was such a pest of an employee, I actually felt glee at the end of this conversation. (I promise that’s been a rarity in my employee management career.)

I did talk to Human Resources afterwards and they wanted to give her official heck, but I told them not to bother. I assumed she’d either smarten up or quit. And quit she did a couple of weeks later.

For any other managers out there struggling with employee social networking issues, I feel your pain. Feel free to comment if you’ve got doozies of your own to share.

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