I am very sensitive to this type of coercive behaviour, having been subjected to it myself on occasion by people in high positions who think that they are entitled to patronise, bully and exclude me because I speak out from an opposite viewpoint or with a critical voice.
When making my complaint to the HIS Chief Executive I asked for a copy of their Social Media Policy. However I was informed that they "do not hold a formal policy on employee use of social media". Rather the HIS staff are guided by" their "code of conduct policy" and a "Social Media Guidance" document.
Here are the points in the Code of Conduct which stand out for me (bolding is mine):
"Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office."
"Everyone is responsible for their own actions and behaviours and must take steps to ensure they conduct themselves appropriately at all times."
"All staff who undertake work for the organisation act on behalf of Healthcare Improvement Scotland and are responsible for demonstrating the values of the organisation through positive behaviours:
- treating one another with respect
- giving each other their dignity
- accepting and being sensitive to each other's differences
- being professional in relations with each other
- building constructive working relationships"
"By the nature of Healthcare Improvement Scotland work, staff come into contact with many people and organisations from outwith the organisation. It is important that, at all times, staff treat all people with courtesy and respect, and without bias or prejudice."
And here are the points which stood out for me from the HIS Social Media Guidance (bolding is mine):
"Things we must not do (HIS employees):
Make comments which could negatively affect the reputation of the organisation, employees, patients, stakeholders or partners.
Post content that could be viewed as unlawful, libellous, harassing, defamatory, abusive, obscene, sexually-oriented or racially offensive or of a bullying nature. Harassment, threats, intimidation, ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, racial or religious intolerance and any other form of behaviour prohibited in the workplace is also prohibited on social media channels.
Use social media channels for internal business communications between fellow employees.
It is fine for employees to disagree, but never use your external blog or other online social media channels to air your differences publicly."
"How to use social media effectively for work:
A different way of thinking:
• Employees who engage about topics relevant to our work should always be aware that their disclosures are not private or temporary. Social media disclosures live online indefinitely, and employees should remember that they will be visible to a broad audience and possible even read out of context. A good maxim is when in doubt, leave it out.
• Once initiated, conversations on social media cannot be controlled and you may hear/see things you don’t like; it is OK to have a variety of views expressed which conflict with your own.
• Social media is immediate – be aware that the types of conversation that happen in social media channels require a degree of immediacy that challenges organisational culture and the way organisations have traditionally worked. So engaging in social media requires resource – a commonly held view that it is simple and easy to do is misleading."
I believe it is the responsibility of the very senior managers at Healthcare Improvement Scotland to ensure that their employees are abiding by the Code of Conduct and behaving appropriately on Social Media.
Guidance not followed is like a chocolate teapot, in my opinion.
[Further reading: 'Social Media policies (NHS Scotland)' Hole Ousia blog post]