Armed & Dangerous: Handling Disgruntled Workers Packing Smartphones

Ever have a job where you felt picked-on, intimidated, harassed, and micro-managed by a tyrant boss?

Most of us can recall working for a real jerk at some point in our job history, most likely when we were just entering the workplace and at the bottom of the totem pole. And maybe the way you were being unfairly treated made you want to “get even” with your boss.

So, you called in sick on a day when you knew you were desperately needed, or you found a quiet corner to take periodic “unscheduled” breaks when your boss believed you were hard at work, or … well, if you’re like me, your memory is running rampant.

Today’s disgruntled employees have discovered another avenue for getting even with a hard-ass boss, and all it takes is their smartphone and a Facebook page. But unlike anything you or I ever conceived back in the day, this lethal combination of modern technologies is a weapon capable of mass destruction.

Build your Ark before it rains

Perhaps you’ve noticed a sudden rash of news reports centered around ticked-off employees who’ve vengefully portrayed their boss and/or the company they work for in a negative light by posting inimical photos (or videos) to a popular social media site where they’ve gone viral. In many instances, the photos are bogus and have been staged by the employee, but by the time the truth comes out, the damage has occurred and the brand’s public image has taken a significant hit.

For some specific examples of these kinds of PR disasters, here’s a recent article from Nation’s Restaurant News.

Even though most of the recent stories involve the handling of food products, no business is really immune from the wrath of a scorned worker who wants to bring down his employer. That’s why it behooves all business owners, leaders, and managers to have a strategy in place for preventing such a disaster, and another for dealing with one should it be necessary.

Here are three (3) precautionary measures to help you prevent a catastrophe caused by a disgruntled employee:

1. Educate your entire workforce

Establish no-nonsense policies that everyone on your payroll can understand with regard to work-related photos, videos, and social media postings.

Communicate your policies in simple language and integrate them into your training materials and in company-wide correspondence. Your people must know how much your company values its people, its brand, and its reputation in the marketplace and to what extent your company will go to protect those in both criminal and civil courts.

If you have examples of how you’ve dealt with previous offenders, or the harsh consequences that workers from other companies have suffered for thoughtlessly posting damaging photos and social media rants, share them.

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2. Let the disgruntled be heard

If you don’t think you have anyone in your organization who feels disgruntled and perhaps even vengeful, you’re not being realistic.

The real question is, “how can we disarm those who would try to get even?” The answer is, let them be heard.

If the only person an employee can complain to about a mean boss is either the mean boss or someone else who reports to the mean boss, that employee will start feeling trapped and may start thinking, “It’s gonna be her or me, and if it’s me, I’m not gonna go down alone!” Provide frequent opportunities for your employees to evaluate their managers and make certain they know where they can go to voice a complaint to someone at a higher level than their boss who will listen with an open mind and help them navigate through their challenges.

3. Engage. Engage. Engage.

Workplace cultures that rate high in employee job satisfaction and low in employee turnover are those where feelings of resentment and bitterness are scarce.

Leaders that coach managers on how to develop relationships with their people, how to take an active interest in them, how to serve as mentors for them, and who also provide the tools and the resources necessary to recognize and reward positive contribution understand that this not only makes for a happier, more productive workforce, it also eliminates small problems before they become big ones.

This was originally published on Eric Chester’s Reviving Work Ethic blog. His new book is Reviving Work Ethic: A Leader’s Guide to Ending Entitlement and Restoring Pride in the Emerging Workforce. For copies, visit revivingworkethic.com.

Eric Chester is a leading voice in the global dialogue on employee engagement, and building a world-class workplace culture. He's an in-the-trenches researcher on the topic of the millennial mindset, and the dynamics of attracting, managing, motivating and retaining top talent. Chester is a Hall-of-Fame keynote speaker and the author of 4 leadership books including his newly released Amazon #1 Bestseller On Fire at Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in their People without Burning Them Out.  Learn more at EricChester.com and follow him at @eric_chester

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