Managing Toxic Behavior with Social Media Policies in Retail

Photo by Blake Wisz on Unsplash

As digital platforms expand to include (and blur) both public and private discourse, retail companies are brushing up against a new iteration of an age-old, unavoidable problem: managing toxic behavior that shows up online. Companies can’t stop their employees from having social media accounts. However, continuing to do nothing when a singular post from an employee could jeopardize consumer trust (to say nothing of the bottom line) is simply no longer an option. As consumer relations increasingly get worked out in digital spaces, it is crucial that retail companies understand the pervasive effects of their actions in public digital spaces. 

However, just as it is a standard practice to expect retail employees to set an example for their customers and peers while at work, it is perfectly reasonable to extend those expectations into off-duty and digital spaces as well. One of the simplest ways to set clear expectations with all personnel is by having 1) a clear, definable social media policy and 2) mechanisms in place to uphold those policies. Here’s what we mean:

Preventing toxic behavior begins with good policy

For retail organizations, company policy for employee behavior usually boils down to a list of “do’s and don’ts”, and it’s easy to lose focus of a larger tool chest of policies that activate and reinforce positive employee behavior. Employee policy is an ethical document that demonstrates a company’s values. Policy has the power to address and influence an entire workplace ethos, and the atmosphere of a retail environment, in turn, has the power to make or break the consumer experience. A social media policy in a company is successful when it is grounded by a code of conduct and resonates with a company’s core values--for example, to provide the most satisfying customer experience possible. 

Employees function best when they understand why a policy exists and how they benefit from it. Understanding that a social media policy not only protects an individual employee but also preserves a positive workplace culture is essential to successfully integrate a social media clause into company policy. This organic approach can be an invaluable assist in preventing toxic behavior that poisons company morale and alienates the consumer.

Consistency + Policy + Documentation = Actionable

A good retail floor manager knows that a policy is most successful when it is steadily enforced. When it comes to creating a social media policy, consistency is everything; Not only does it strengthen the efficacy of the process, it helps maintain a culture of decency and professionalism that is integral to customer service. What makes a policy actionable? First, we like to say that consistency plus policy and documentation equals an actionable process. An actionable policy for retail defines the nature of social media posts, clearly states what is not permissible, and outlines consequences and disciplinary processes for infractions. Is it ever appropriate to post photos taken while on the job? What about politically or racially charged language, as seen in recent firings over social media?

Documentation may be the trickiest part of this process. In order for a social media policy to function efficiently, a company must ensure that dozens, hundreds, or thousands of employees are following a code of conduct in digital spaces. As a steady stream of social media firing stories create PR crises for local stores across the country, how can a company afford to stay ahead of the game? Enter social media screening, an efficient way to leverage web and social data to maintain company policy throughout the employee lifecycle. By utilizing a social media screening service, a can easily screen candidates as a prerequisite for employment as well as oversee current personnel’s public social data for intolerance, violence, or other acts that violate company policy.

Create an infrastructure to ensure enforcement

Enforcing a social media policy via a screening service requires infrastructure in order to be a viable, compliant process. A company must first have a permissible purpose as well as require disclosures and authorization as required by the FCRA. Similarly, a company must also provide a plan for adverse action, consumer disputes, and reinvestigations, as well as reasonable policies and procedures concerning accuracy.

As a CRA, Social Intelligence works with companies at scale across industries to provide support and/or direct handling of this process; With the right tools, a social media policy can be a powerful mechanism for managing toxic workplace behavior and rebuilding workplace culture.


For more information about social media screening