We have probably seen the best and the worst of social media in action in the last few days leading up to and following the UK European Referendum, with, on one hand, polarised and extreme views being expressed, and on the other, some deeply felt, compassionate and thoughtful reflections. If you have a Twitter or a Facebook account, no doubt you have been exposed to or have been engaged in some conversations you were not expecting, some of which may have surprised you, upset you, angered you or indeed reassured you and/or reinforced your own opinions.

Since we woke up on Friday morning to the news that a majority of those who voted had expressed a desire to exit the UK from the European Community, the internet has been alive with opinion, reflection, recrimination, and every expression in between. If you are in any way involved in HR or Learning & Development, you will no doubt have been giving some thought to the impacts of the referendum outcome on your colleagues and on your business. You may also be getting very nervous about how your people may or may not be expressing themselves and whether their social media behaviour might reflect or impact on that business either in their ‘private’ social media presence or internally in your corporate networks.

You may be considering revisiting your social media policy (if indeed, your organisation has one) and you may be nervous about just what people might be tempted to say and do and its impact on your colleagues and your customers.

We’d suggest that this is not the time to panic! Take some moments to reflect before you close down those channels or impose stringent restrictions on their use. We’ve been talking about ‘Compassionate Leadership’ at this month’s ‘Circle of Peers’ meetings and here’s a real opportunity to put some of that into practice, to show trust and leadership and to take a proactive role in shaping your company’s internal dialogue, respectful communication and staff engagement.

We’d further suggest that if more CEOs and business leaders had grasped the opportunities afforded by channels such as Twitter and facebook and entered into open conversations with their people, rather than relying on top­down ‘doom and gloom’ prediction letters via their internal comms departments, there might have been less ‘them and us’ polarisation in the Euro debate. And who knows how that might have turned out!

Take a look at how the Chief Executive of the CIPD, Peter Cheese (@cheese_peter) showed up in the immediate aftermath of the Euro Referendum result, steadying the UK HR ship with an open Tweetchat conversation hosted by People Management Magazine (@PeopleMgt), here: https://storify.com/peoplemgt/brexit-webchat-with-cipd-ceo-peter-cheese

We believe that it is essential for People Professionals to lead the way in calming the emotion that appears to be prevalent. Now is the time for us to really lead by example. So if you are thinking it’s time to revisit your HR and IT policies with regard to social media, perhaps you could do it in terms of exploring how they could be tweaked ­or indeed, written to enable and facilitate conversation amongst leaders and workforce that will truly represent your values and encourage good behaviours that will benefit all your stakeholders.

Remember, Cullen Scholefield is here to offer support, guidance and training on good practice in social media and on other HR policies and practice. Don’t hesitate to contact us if we can help in any way.