Last week, a bizarre story broke regarding Bryan Colangelo, the general manager of the Phildelphia 76ers (a professional basketball team in the National Basketball Association, for all of you non-sports types). According to published reports, Colangelo allegedly created and operated five anonymous Twitter accounts, and used them to criticize his own team’s players and coaches, discuss secret trade information and disclose confidential medical information about a player. What?!?
The 76ers hired an independent law firm to look into these allegations, and Colangelo stepped down from his position with the team this past Thursday. However, if something similar happened in your organization, is there anything you could do about it? Does a high-level employee have a right to use anonymous social media however he wishes? Of course not!
This is exactly the type of situation where having a strong employee handbook and employment policies may pay huge dividends. If your company has the right policies in place, these actions, even if on Twitter (or Facebook) and even if they occur during non-work hours, would likely violate a number of policies, including:
- Social Media.
- Code of Conduct.
- Harassment and/or Bullying.
- Communications with Press/Media.
- Computer Usage.
And that is just a partial list. Remember, off-duty conduct may not be off limits to employers. A company may be able to address such conduct if it has a direct impact on the workplace. Management anonymously criticizing personnel by name on Twitter and releasing confidential medical information to the public certainly fits that criteria. It will be interesting to see what the 76ers decide to do with Colangelo. If a situation analogous to this occurs in your workplace, termination would send an appropriate message to your workforce that this type of conduct will not be tolerated, even by a superstar high-level employee. In today’s #metoo environment, that is a critical message to send to your employees.