Krishna, Arunima & Kim, Soojin (2015). Confessions of an angry employee: The dark side of de-identified “confessions” on Facebook. Public Relations Review, 41(3), 404-410.
A confessions page is an unofficial organization-specific page on Facebook created for its members to “confess” information (often about the organization) to other members. These pages differ from regular Facebook groups or pages in one key way; users on these pages can post their “confessions” without revealing their identity. Users commonly write their messages on a portal such as Google Docs, and these messages are then posted on the page by a de-identified administrator. While these confessions pages started out as an innocent outlet for high school and college students to rant about their respective institutions, the trend of “confessing” soon caught the fancy of individuals in the workforce to talk about their employers. Given that these pages are visible to anyone with a Facebook account, such as external stakeholders like potential employees.
The goal of this study was to understand how former and current employees use these “confessions” pages to talk about their employers and to learn about their emotions and motivations behind their communicative behaviors. To do so, the “confessions” page of a large multi-national organization was analyzed to identify themes, valence and motivations behind employees’ posts about their employer in a de-identified context.
This study used a qualitative content analysis to understand the nature and motivations of employee communication behaviors via confessions pages. Posts from users (N = 558) were analyzed for subject and content and classified into themes. The page currently has 2404 posts, and 16046 people like the page.
- Overall, two broad motivations for “confessing” emerged from the data – positive and negative motivations. A small number of posts were unrelated to the organization and were not analyzed further.
- The few positive “confessions” on the page displayed two primary motivations – expressions of pride and nostalgia from former employees, and gratitude for social support received from co-workers. Notably, few positive confessions seemed to come from current employees.
- Negative “confessions” were primarily related to specific policies (such as per diem), specific personnel, and about the management in general, including evidence of mismanagement and even bribery from senior managers of the organization.
- Some users posted their “confessions” in the form of petitions and pleas to the senior management to address issues such as work ethic and organizational culture, providing solutions and input for the organization and using the “confessions” page as a de-identified feedback mechanism.
- Finally, evidence was found of non-employees using the “confessions” page to post about their negative experiences with that organization.
Implications for Practice
The Edelman Trust Barometer has consistently rated employees as some of the key sources of information about an organization for external publics. Therefore, “confessions” pages such as the one examined in this research present a significant threat to an organization’s reputation. That these posts are de-identified and open to anyone with a Facebook account means that the organization has no way of tracking who is making these posts or attempting to control their content. Yet, the motivations for “confessing” analyzed in this study present strategic opportunities for the organization to address the problems outlined in the posts and to minimize potential threats in advance for strategic management. The results of this study also further arguments for public relations practitioners to keep abreast of social media trends, and engage in proactive media monitoring activities to identify potential outlets for employee expression, such as these “confessions,” pages, in a timely manner. By being able to detect and reflect the key issues outlined by employees on such “confessions” pages into its decision-making process at an early stage, an organization may be able to protect itself from potential business problems or crises such as employee attrition, low employee productivity, and reputational damage.
This article is available for free at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/274095796_Confessions_of_an_angry_employee_The_dark_side_of_de-identified_confessions_on_Facebook