"Our company let an employee go, and they blasted us on social media."
Unfortunately, this is something that is becoming more and more of a common problem. I have had conversations with employers who were afraid to fire an employee because they were worried about the backlash on social media. This especially rings true in businesses like salons and restaurants. While I 100% believe that employees should have power and shouldn’t be afraid to speak out if something is being mismanaged that could affect their safety or is legally questionable, an angry employee should never have the opportunity to ruin your business.
Here are some steps to help handle an angry former employee on social media.
You need to be responsive
Contact the employee directly. You would be surprised at how often something as simple as a genuine request in person or over the phone can rectify a situation. Most of these rants are made in the moment and out of anger. Once they’ve cooled down and seen that their post is hurting real people and burning bridges, many times they will take the post down.
With that being said, don’t go in guns blazing, it could only escalate the situation. Ask them nicely to remove the post, but do not engage if they try to start an argument.
Whenever possible, pick up the phone first in an attempt to diffuse the situation. It’s easy to misread tone in a text or email. “I understand you’re upset, but if you have a problem, please discuss it with someone internally.”
Keep it short if you respond on social
If you decide to respond directly to the post or on social media, or if it was directed at you, keep it brief.
“We’re not going to have this discussion on social media. If you have a legitimate concern about how this situation was handled, please contact our HR department. We take these allegations very seriously.”
Reach out to a friend
You can also appeal to your former employee’s sense of logic by tapping into a still-positive relationship he or she has with a close colleague or mentor within your company.
Hearing from a friend within your company may bring back some positive memories and help your former employee make the right decision to step away from the keyboard.
If all else fails, take necessary legal action
Something that often surprises employees: First Amendment rights DO NOT apply if you work in the private sector. In other words, if you don’t work for the government, you do not have the right to say anything with impunity after you’ve been let go from a job.
However, there are some things you should not do.
Never, never go on the defense publically on your social media as the company. You can easily hide posts or ban the user, but do not draw more attention to the situation than necessary. They are looking for you to “prove them right” by being a jerk. Don’t play into their narrative.
The bottom line is a situation like this can be a bummer. But if handled correctly, they don’t have to ruin your day, or a week, or quarter.
If you need help bouncing back after some bad press, give us a call. We specialize in brand management and public impressions.