Your IT Team Members: Turns Out They Can Say Anything They Want Online

Online worker complaints have to be handled carefully by IT Managers
Online worker complaints have to be handled carefully by IT Managers
Image Credit: Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (ClintJCL)

As the person with the IT Manager job, do you have the IT manager skills to tell if you are doing a good job? Sure, there should be all of the standard business indicators – your IT team budget is operating within its budget, you are meeting the needs of the rest of the company, the network is secure, etc. However, another way is to listen to what your IT team is saying – are they happy? Perhaps more importantly here in the 21st Century, if they are not happy and if they are talking about it online, is there anything that you can do about this as IT Manager?

What The National Labor Relations Board Says

As a IT Manager your gut reaction when you learn that one of your team members has been trash talking your team is to fire them. That’s understandable, your job is hard enough without having to deal with issues like this. None of us have ever really had any IT manager training on how to deal with situations like this. However, it turns out that in this case, your gut would be wrong.

What a IT Manager can do about employees who complain about working conditions on Facebook and Twitter is a new area that we are all still feeling our way though. It turns out that in the U.S. this is an area that is controlled by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Their word is law and they’ve come up with a number of very interesting rulings in the area of workers complaining about their jobs online.

What the NRLB has said is that employers (that’s you) are not allowed to fire workers who are discussing workplace conditions with fellow employees via social media channels. The thinking is that the National Labor Relations Act covers workers when they are discussing work conditions no matter if they are in person or online.

Exceptions To The Rule

Now this is where things get a bit interesting. It turns out that workers are not permitted to do just anything that they want online. The NRLB says that they can talk with other workers about their work place conditions or they can even talk on the behalf of other workers. However, if they are just complaining to the world at large then their actions are not protected by the NRLB.

An interesting point that every person in the IT Manager position needs to be aware of is that their company policies may run counter to the NRLB’s position. Specifically, if the company has a social media policy that prohibits employees from discussing work conditions with each other. This kind of policy may violate NRLB polices.

Workers are permitted to use some (how much is not clearly defined) profane language when discussing their supervisors and others. However, the NRLB has been very clear in stating that any sort of physical threats or harassment are actions that are not protected under any circumstances.

What All Of This Means For You

As the IT Manager, it’s your job to create a team working environment that everyone wants to be a part of. Even saying that, there will always be some workers on your team who are not happy with the way that things currently are. When this happens, they may take to social media to complain.

What are your options when this happens? It turns out that you don’t have too many options. The NLRB has very broadly stated that workers can say what they want about their working environment in the context of a discussion with someone else. What they can’t do is make physical threats or harass other workers.

We are living in a new era and all of the rules are not yet well defined. What this means for you as IT Manager is that you are going to have to proceed carefully. Do your best to use IT team building to make your IT team a place where everyone is going to want to work and then you won’t have to worry about negative things being said online…

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: When you discover that an employee has been complaining about your IT department online, should you sit down and have a talk with them about it?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As an IT manager you have a tough job to try to accomplish and that’s why you need so many different IT manager skills. You’ve got a team of highly skilled professionals on your team who really could be working for just about any company. It’s going to be your job to provide them with both direction on what they should be spending their time doing as well as a purpose – why should they be doing it? Looks like it’s time for some IT manager training on storytelling.