If you were attending a conference and overheard a couple of guys seated behind you make what seemed to be sexist remarks during their conversation, what would you do?
- Turn around and ask them to stop.
- Text your best friend and describe the bad behavior.
- Call them out on Twitter, complete with photo, and mark the tweet with the conference hashtag.
Well, the woman in this real-life situation chose Plan C. (Click here to read the whole complicated story.)
Here’s what happened next:
- Conference managers got involved, and escorted the two men in the row behind her out of the auditorium.
- One of the guys’ bosses got involved, and fired him.
- The Twitter and Facebook universe got involved, and heaped criticism and abuse on the women who fired the first Tweet.
- Her company got involved, and fired her because she had now offended the very community she was charged with building relationships with.
You simply can’t have a social media policy to prevent this. To prove my point, try to draft the language of a policy that would have prevented this incident. What’s required is not a policy, but a social media culture at every company that is centered on a simple question: Is it fair?
In this case, the women who launched the storm with a Tweet took an unfair shot. (I choose to believe that, whether I like what was said or not, the conversation happening behind her didn’t meet the criteria of a public conversation.)
Write all the policies you want, but make sure your organization’s social media culture can judiciously apply one test — fairness. Sounds simple, but it’s the only path that works. Replay the incident: If the woman had turned around and challenged the men to explain what she perceived as crude language, she would have learned, in all fairness, that she was perhaps misreading the situation. Or, even if she was right and the comments were rude and crude, there’s another fairness test to apply: Are these public or private comments? Comments made from the podium are fair game. Those between two participants are not.
But there’s another lesson here, too, and it’s for all of us who speak out loud in a world where social media sharing is as close as the send button on a smart phone. All the world’s a stage. Perform appropriately.
Learn more about Cindy Miller Communications at www.cindymillercommunications.com.