"One solution is to have a policy that says, 'We don't want you to discuss anything about the business on the Internet,'" Derse says. "If they said, 'We don't want you to discuss politics,' that would be a difficult and legally problematic stand. But employers do have a certain amount of control over employees if someone is negatively commenting on the institution where they work."
Paulk says she is not aware of Johns Hopkins Health employees using social network sites to kvetch about work, and said the health system has no plans to regulate it, even if it could. "If they did, we couldn't discipline them for that unless it were a patient privacy violation. But if it came to our attention that they are talking about a colleague or someone by name, from an HR perspective, we would handle it just like in the workplace. If it were two workers who were causing tension in the workplace, we would try to address their concerns," she says.
For Paulk, it all comes back to common sense and trust. "This is a tough new world that we are living in," she says. "I just hope people don't get in the business of hiring social media police. But if you don't trust your people, you've got a whole other problem."