Last week, music retailer HMV laid off 190 employees. One of the affected, a former HR employee, hijacked the company's Twitter account and live-tweeted what he described as the "Mass execution, of loyal employees who love the brand. #hmvXFactorFiring "
In addition to everything else companies have to worry about when terminating employees (lawsuits, sabotage, theft of confidential information, low morale), companies now also have to worry about the maintenance of their public image via social media.
We live in a world in which the walls of privacy are not-so-slowly eroding. Nothing can damage a company's reputation more quickly than a viral campaign. We no longer have to worry about employees merely discussing the nitty-gritty of a termination. Today, we have to worry about our employees broadcasting it to the entire world in 140 character insta-bursts. And, there's not much you can do about it after the fact. Once the information is out, it's out. HMV deleted the tweets, but all it took was one person to "print screen," and the next thing you know bloggers around the world are republishing the information it tried to hide.
While there is not much you do after the fact, there is one thing you can do before the fact. If you are concerned about employees live-tweeting a termination or a mass layoff, disable their access to your social media channels before you tell them. Change their passwords. Remove their logins. Is there a chance they'll figure out something is afoot before you officially communicate the termination? Absolutely. Does the harm to your business from that risk pale in comparison to the viral harm you will suffer if said employees hijack your official social media channels? You bet.