A couple recently has been charged £100 for writing a bad review of a hotel on a website, on which they described the hotel as a “rotten stinking hovel run by muppets”(See their interview here). Is it ethical for a business to put a clause in their contract banning bad reviews? Surely this goes against everything to do with FREEDOM OF SPEECH? (And this also poses the question of how bad this hotel must be to have had to create this clause in the first place!)
No one likes being criticised, certainly. It hasn’t taken me three years of undergraduate psychology to realise that criticism deals a direct hit to our self-esteem and that we are going to shield ourselves against this in any way we can. Businesses are no different, although their self-esteem is their success and their emotional response to a threat manifests in policies and procedures.
It is clear that businesses have a motivation to limit the freedom of speech of employees, if it could be detrimental to their organisation. However, such juxtaposition cannot really exist, for a limited freedom is not really a freedom at all. When we look at situations where employees of major companies have spoken freely on social media, it has often not gone well. When the admin of the Nestle Facebook page commented harshly to the environmental protesters, it fueled their rage and gave them more reasons to continue to try to tear the company down. Reading these 5 deadly sins of social media also shows that companies may actively work to mislead on social media, often using it to make themselves look better and more successful, untruthfully (they still want to improve their self-esteem!).
In our personal use of social media, we should consider last week’s blog on developing your professional online profile. It would appear that publicly badmouthing a company you have previously worked for will probably not have positive consequences on your future job opportunities. I think it is important to remember that although you CAN put a thought up on social media, SHOULD you. We also looked at our digital footprints, and found that once something has been put onto the internet, it will always leave a trace. It is therefore extremely important that companies provide very specific guidelines to make it very clear what they deem as inappropriate information on social media, so that you are able to make a CHOICE in what you put up, it’s either that or leave the company and then do it (Basran, 2012).
Basran, S. 2012. Social media challenges: do employees tweet your values? Ethical Corporation. Available at: http://www.ethicalcorp.com/stakeholder-engagement/social-media-challenges-do-employees-tweet-your-values [Accessed: 21 Nov 2014].
Broida, R. 2010, Mar 19. Nestle’s facebook page: how a company can really screw up social media. CBS News. Retrieved from: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/nestles-facebook-page-how-a-company-can-really-screw-up-social-media/ [Accessed: 21 Nov 2014]
Perry, K. 2014, Nov 18. Hotel guests fined for leaving bad online review on TripAdviser. Telegraph. Retrived from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travelnews/11239413/Hotel-guests-fined-for-leaving-bad-online-review.html [Accessed: 21Nov 2014]
Vinjamuri, D. 2011, Mar 11. Ethics and the 5 deadly sins of social media. Forbes. Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidvinjamuri/2011/11/03/ethics-and-the-5-deadly-sins-of-social-media/ [Accessed 21 Nov 2014]