Social Media, Employee Mistakes, and Bad HR


I just attended a session on HR and Social Media at HR Southwest held by Jessica Miller-Merrell.

JM2 is awesome — but some HR lady chimed in with a crazy anecdote that had me scratching my head.

It goes something like this.

  • HR Lady’s company offers a severance package (not WARN) to laid off employees. You get it for several weeks.
  • If you get a job before your severance period ends, you lose eligibility for the rest of the severance payments.
  • You can’t lie. You must tell HR if you get a new job.

Okay, first of all, that is the dumbest severance plan. Who wrote it? I want to punch that compensation consultant in the face.

Next up? The “horror story aspect” that includes social media. Of course.

  • The HR lady tells everyone that three former employees updated their LinkedIN profiles with new employer information but continued to collect severance benefits.
  • How did the HR lady find out about the new jobs? These employees were connected to her and she received LinkedIN status updates. Nice.
  • So this lady discovered the violations and reported the “findings” to her HR team leaders.
  • Now legal is going after these former employees for repayment of the entire severance package.

Or something like that.


You still with me?

Okay, so this crazy story is out there and I’m shrugging my shoulders because I can’t get past the ridiculous severance plan…

…and another HR lady turns to me and says, “Some people are so dumb.”

Meaning, employees are so dumb.

That’s what all HR people say about you. We roll our eyes and laugh. And I sorta agree — these employees were dumb to scam the system. Except what if these employees were lying about the new jobs to make their career paths seem better? What if they weren’t employed, but rather, just trying to reassure their friends & former who are really worried about them?

Stranger things have happened. People like to save face. And as I’ve mentioned a million times, the internet isn’t real.


So when the other HR lady called the employees dumb, I whispered back, “Really? The HR policy sounds dumb.”


I am not a big fan of former employees who scam the system and try to violate the terms & conditions of a severance package, but I’m not a big fan of dumb HR policies, either. What the hell kind of severance plan discourages people from going back to work by paying them to stay unemployed?

Let’s take a step back and talk about why positions are eliminated in the first place. It has nothing to do with social media. When a company fails at meeting goals and expectations, it lays off employees. Those layoffs represent a fundamental failure in multiple areas: demand planning, workforce planning, financial management, etc.

This is the company’s fault. And everything should be done to make the impact of the job loss easier for the employee to manage. The burden of administering & navigating the severance program shouldn’t fall on the affected employees who simply made the choice to believe in an employer brand and join a company. It should fall on the HR department and leaders within an organization.

So I say,

  • design smart comp plans – including severance plans.
  • communicate those plans more effectively.
  • do your job as HR leaders and push back against stupid & confusing HR policies and practices.

It’s not that hard to do great HR. Don’t pay your employees to stay out of work with a severance package. Pay them what you owe them when you fail and be done with them.

Get to it.


Oh wait, I have one more message. It’s for employees. Don’t try to screw your former employer in any way that involves money. Go write a review on Glassdoor. Even if your severance package sucks and the policies are dumb, don’t violate the terms & conditions of any compensation package. Ever. You will lose.

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