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The Case of the TikToks

In this Real Deal scenario, readers share how they would respond to an employee creating questionable social media content at their business while in uniform.

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TIKTOK IS THE new Facebook,” Cindy thought as she set up an account. The younger members of her team had recommended she start a TikTok account for the store, and they promised to help make videos that would get the business more exposure. Once Cindy finished setting everything up, she decided to take a few minutes and see what all the fuss was about.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

NANCY GUINN is founder and president of Dog
Krazy Inc., an award-winning pet supply store in Virginia with six locations. Also a clinical pet nutritionist, she consults with veterinarians and pet parents alike. Nancy shares her life with business partner and husband Chris, and their pets Sushi, Pork Wonton, Stirfry Fatguy, Tala, Jimmy Dean and Max.

Scrolling through the videos, Cindy quickly saw why this platform was so popular. She started making a list of videos to make and popular hashtags to use. I wonder if anyone has used my store as a hashtag, she thought, while typing in #darbysdoggiehouse.

To Cindy’s surprise, there were several videos with her business tagged.

She smiled at dogs shopping in the store, products sold to her customers, and silly videos of pups running to her front door. As Cindy continued scrolling, an unusual video popped up.

At the time, she didn’t know what a “duet” was, but the video showed one of her employees dancing in an inappropriate manner, then in the second half, a person was laughing and telling him not to quit his day job. She watched the video over and over, wondering why her business was tagged, then saw it: Her employee was wearing a Darby’s Doggie House shirt. Cindy watched the video again and realized it was taken in her store.

She could see the checkout counter behind him.

Cindy paused for a moment to understand what she was watching. After clicking a few more buttons, Cindy found her employee’s account and started looking at the other videos. More than a dozen had been taken inside her business
while he was wearing its uniform.

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She scrolled the comments and saw her store tagged a few more times, with captions saying, “Wow, I’m surprised Darby’s Doggie House allows this!” There were also comments that read, “That store looks awesome. I’ll have to stop by!”

Cindy put her phone down and sat back. She thought, “What am I going to do? I don’t want my employees thinking I was snooping, but making videos on the clock and while in uniform is against company policy.”
Some of the comments were great, but others were not. Her employee manual sets parameters around social media, but it lists Instagram and Facebook only. Cindy shook her head wondering what her next step would be.

The Big Questions

  • Should Cindy not mention it to her employee? There were great comments and only a few negative ones.
  • Talk to her employee and ask him to take down the videos?
  • Start learning Tiktok dances and do them with her employees so they make the videos at work as a team?
Carol W.
st. LOUIS, MO

Let the employee know you really enjoyed some of his TikTok content with the store hashtag. Then tell him that posting videos to his personal account during working hours is prohibited and that some of the content could be offensive to customers, so please refrain from wearing the store uniform, in general, when filming for personal content. Have a nice, calm, cool discussion.

Catrina N.
HOUSTON, TX

Be direct with the employee on how his choices could impact the brand and ultimately his paycheck if they were to hurt the business. I would then give a healthy alternative, offering to let him help manage the store account and come up with content. This approach does three things: It addresses the problem in a constructive way without condoning the negative behavior, shows interest in the employee while encouraging creativity, and protects the store’s reputation and integrity.

Janelle P.
PLAINFIELD, IL

Absolutely speak with the employee and ask him to take down the videos. Next, amend the social media agreement to include all social media — not eliminating any options by using “social media” as all inclusive. Also, I assume the employee was being paid for the time the videos were recorded on company property, and that is “stealing time.” Explain that neither of these choices is acceptable. If there’s arguing back, discipline based on stealing time (as again, I assume he was paid for this “work”). If videos are removed, move on. Also I would hope that there is a “professional representation code of conduct” in Cindy’s employee manual. If so, this could be used for discipline, as well, since he was in uniform and on the property. Being that TikTok is newer than the employee manual, it doesn’t eliminate it from a social media policy, but there is a loophole for the employee to claim “he didn’t know.” However, stealing time/professional misconduct, seems rather clear.

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Jess C.
STANDALE, WALKER, MI

As an employee in uniform he has the responsibility of acting in a professional manner and representing the store positively. If the employee would like to continue filming videos in uniform and/or in the store, they must be approved by the manager first. If he does not get approval beforehand, it could result in termination. You have to control your brand image.

Brett F.
OWEGO, NY

First, Cindy needs to modify her manual to include all social media platforms. Then a conversation with the employee with a request to delete the videos she is not happy about. If he refuses to delete, he’s fired. If the employee deletes the inappropriate content, seems contrite and continues to do the right thing, she should encourage him to use his influence on the platform to make appropriate, yet fun and even silly videos to draw folks to her store. After that, work on creating informative videos about products as well. If she can direct the employee’s energy toward a positive message about her store, it’s a win for everyone.

Jennifer M.
NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OH

Looking at posts that tag her store isn’t snooping, it’s keeping track of her online presence. I would ask the employee to take down the inappropriate videos, and then explain that the social media policy has expanded to include TikTok.

Ben H.
PITTSBURGH PA

I would ask the employee to keep social media in the store about the store. I would let them know that I am not against it, as long as it is in line with the store’s values. If they are good at social media, they could use their skills to help out and do some of the store’s social media.

Tasha H.
DICKINSON, ND

I would visit with the employee about the inappropriateness and making personal TikToks at work, but also flip to the positive side and talk to them about participating with store-related TikToks. If the employee is acting appropriately and positive in videos, and maybe incorporating customer pets (with approval), I don’t see a huge deal with TikToks at work as long as it’s not a lot, customers are handled and not upset, work like stocking and cleaning is managed and getting completed. If not, that’s a different conversation.

Paula G.
MUSKEGO, WI

I have seen videos similar to this on TikTok, and most of the people blur out the name of the store/business. I think this could be a positive thing for Darby’s. Right now, TikTok appeals to all age groups. I would ask the employee if he would like the “job” of doing TikTok videos for the store, then give stipulations, such as that if he puts a video on his personal page, it cannot have the store logo on it. Give guidelines as to what is appropriate for store videos. Keep an eye on what he is doing. Social media is a great way to get new customers, and TikTok and Instagram are the younger people’s social media. I have found that social media, whether Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, newsletters, emails, Google business, are wonderful tools to help grow your business without spending a bunch, but they take up so much time.

Trace M.
HOUSTON, TX

I would totally tell the employee to take them down and remind him that no videos in the store like that can be posted without prior approval. I’d write the employee up so that it’s documented.

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Diedra G.
MCHENRY, IL

I think she should update her employee handbook to include all social media. She should also collaborate with her team to create content that is current yet appropriate.

Ramie G.
EVANSTON, IL

Cindy can make her own decision to try TikTok for marketing her store, but what the employee is doing is wrong. He is supposed to be working. I would fire him immediately and demand that the videos of the business be taken down as he has no authorization to use her location. We had someone doing this (posting on social media) while working. She was complaining about customers and generally whining about having to work. She was also a part-time teacher at a parochial school. We fired her for cause, and I sent a note to the school — she was doing the same thing there, only her complaints were about the students and staff. They also fired her. Our attorney wrote a letter indicating that she needed to delete the posts or we would sue, and she did delete them. I never understand what people are thinking when they choose to document their own bad behavior on social media, except that they must want to get caught.

Shelly N.
ESSEX, MA

Unfortunately on social media, you will always get mixed reviews no matter the content. There will always be haters. That being said, I do think that Cindy should bring it up with her employees. I would not consider her finding the videos of her employee as snooping. They were the ones encouraging her to get a TikTok account, and those videos are public. Cindy should have a group meeting and go over social media expectations and rules, and discuss what she finds appropriate and not. Then she should start making videos of her store and include her employees if they wish to take part.

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Nancy Guinn is the founder and president of Dog Krazy Inc., an award-winning natural pet supply store in Virginia with six locations. She helps other small businesses succeed through her contributions to industry magazines, webinars and podcasts. The Guinn household includes Nancy’s husband and business partner, Chris, and their furry and feathered inspirations Sushi, Pork Wonton, Stirfry Fatguy, Tala, Jimmy Dean and Max.

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