Are you rolling with the team? How videos and social media can destabilise your team

In our previous blog "Video on demand – the danger to employers for employees caught beha...” we highlighted the risks to employers in the age of smart phones when an employee’s questionable conduct is recorded or shared around the workplace or on social media.

Recently sports and news outlets were abuzz after video emerged of a NBA player (Player A) captured on video allegedly confessing to cheating on his celebrity girlfriend. The twist in the tale was that the video was secretly filmed by one of his team mates (Player B) and without the player’s knowledge.

The fallout from the alleged “prank” was immense for the players and the whole LA Lakers team. Reports emerged that other team members had isolated Player B, ignoring him in the locker room and at team meals.

Some media commentators (including former players) opined that Player B having broken the trust of his team mates would find it difficult to maintain a career in a team based environment. At the time the video became public, LA Lakers went on to suffer a significant loss the following game.

In the following days a press conference was called and Player B publicly apologised for his conduct in taping his team mate without his consent.

The fallout from this incident was multi-levelled:

  • Damage to Player A’s personal relationship (which should have not been the subject of discussions between team/work mates).
  • Player A has not played for the LA Lakers since the incident.
  • Negative attention was directed towards their employer.
  • Player B was booed by his own supporters.
  • The team is now divided with a strong undercurrent of distrust.

If it had occurred in Australia the response from the other team members (not talking and ostracising Player B) could be considered as “bullying” as defined by Safe Work Australia and the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). That conduct should not have been allowed to continue once team management was made aware of it.

Ordinarily employers would not become involved in the private lives of their employees but unfortunately with social media, it is all too easy for the employee’s private conduct to be recorded and shared instantly around a workplace. As can be seen by this incident an employee’s otherwise private conduct may impact their professional life, the work environment and the employer’s reputation.

Employer must ensure that a social media policy and / or a Code of Conduct is in place setting out the expectations in terms of employee behaviour and the responsible use of social media.

Employees should also be reminded that their conduct on social media can impact their employment if it is found to have breached the terms of their employment contract, a workplace policy and/or a Code of Conduct.

Ideally employers should provide regular (at least yearly and as part of induction) training to all employees on what is acceptable behaviour on social media and between team/work mates.

Shane Koelmeyer is a leading workplace relations lawyer and Director at Workplace Law. Workplace Law is a specialist law firm providing employers with legal advice, training and representation in all aspects of workplace relations, employment-related matters and WH&S.

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