Almost 40% of UK employees use social networks to criticise their workplace, while one in five take a pop at their boss, according to a new survey. 

The research was carried out by MyJobGroup, which surveyed 1,000 UK employees. The results suggest that HR departments need to clearer about their policies on employees’ use of social media. 

Significantly, 70% said they were unaware if their company had any policies or guidelines around the use of social media, while just 16% said their company had laid down guidelines in this area. 

58% also said they would be more careful about what they wrote if they knew their boss was viewing their social media profiles, while 55% believed that colleagues should face disciplinary action for criticising their workplace or colleagues on sites like Facebook and Twitter. 

Also, it’s a good idea not to criticise the boss when you have previously added them as a friend on Facebook. (Thanks to @digi_planner for the image)

According to Fergal Dowling, an employment law specialist at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, these employees need to be more careful: 

Abuse of social media can be grounds for discipline, up to and including termination of contract, depending on the level of abuse, and the policies in place at the company. Employees need to be increasingly aware and careful about what they write online as proved by the conviction of a man who tweeted what he thought was a joke about an airport bomb.

This is also an area where companies need to wise up, as unclear policies can lead to some major PR fails, and negative sentiment from consumers. The example of the DSGi employees’ unofficial Facebook group, where staff used the site to slag off customers, shows what can happen when no clear policy is in place. 

While employees clearly need to take more care over what they say on social media sites, firms need to have clear policies in place to pre-empt any PR issues, and so everyone knows where they stand.