This summary is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center

Employees use anonymous social media channels to share company-related content, such as their ideas and opinions about their employers and their working environment. This behavior has become a double-edged sword for organizations because employees can share both positive and negative messages about them. In particular, anonymous social media are safe and private environments where employees can share sensitive or problematic information without fear of retaliation by their employers. The authors identified two motivational factors that predicted employees’ intention to share negative information on anonymous social media, namely, venting negative feelings and warning others. To elaborate, employees use online platforms to vent their anger, frustration, and dissatisfaction about organizational issues and warn others (e.g., external stakeholders) about organizational problems. The study also examined how public relations and internal communication can help reduce employees’ intention to share negative information about their company on anonymous social media. They argued that employees’ perceived relationship quality with their organizations can reduce motives of venting negative feelings and warning others, which in turn, mitigates intention to share negative messages about organizations. The authors also asserted that symmetrical communication, featured by organizational listening, trust, openness, feedback, and reciprocity, likely increases organization-employee relationship quality.

The study included 419 full-time employees working in large-sized corporations in the U.S. from various industry sectors. Participants were only included in the study if they have heard of an anonymous website where they can post reviews about their company and their companies have an anonymous social media page such as Glassdoor. There were 51% females and 49% males. The average age was 46. Approximately 81% of participants had at least a bachelor’s degree.

Key Findings
1.) Venting negative feelings and warning others were key individual motives in predicting negative communication behavioral intention.
2.) Organizations’ symmetrical communication practice enhanced organization-employee relationship quality, which in turn, mitigated the motives of venting negative feelings and warning others.

Implications for practice
Organizations should engage in two-way, open, and transparent communication with employees, attend to their interests, concerns, and needs, and encourage employees to speak up. They should also build quality relationships with employees to prevent their negative communication behaviors on social media. Finally, organizations need to address employees’ concerns responsively to reduce their likelihood of venting on social media.

Lee, Y., & Kim, K. H. (2020, published online). De-motivating employees’ negative communication behaviors on anonymous social media: The role of public relations. Public Relations Review, 46(4).

Location of Article
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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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