Sometimes No Response is the Best Response in War of Words
By Ed Enoch
Early in my legal career, I tried a case with one of the senior attorneys in our firm. The opposing attorney asked several questions of a witness that I knew were objectionable. During a break, I asked my co-counsel why he did not rise and object to the questions. Right? We have all seen those moments on lawyer television shows when the attorney indignantly jumps up shouting, “I object, your Honor, because blah blah blah!”
His answer stuck with me all these years. He said, “Ed, when the witness gave the objectionable testimony, the jury heard it once. They probably did not even pay much attention to it. But if I stand up and object, the jury is going to focus on what the witness said and will think it must be important if I am making such a fuss about it.”
Social media has given disgruntled employees a megaphone to broadcast their discontent. While it is hard to listen to someone criticize your business, it is exponentially harder to watch someone trash your company on Facebook or Twitter.
I get frequent calls from clients frustrated about posts on social media by employees and former employees. My advice generally is, ignore it. These rants lose their steam in a couple of days – unless you engage with them. Then they just keep on going. You will never get the last word, so don’t even start.
That answer is not very satisfying.
Unfortunately, the legal options for addressing these situations are limited. If the complainer makes patently false statements about your business, you can send a cease-and-desist letter for defamation. If they persist, you can sue and might eventually get some recovery in the courts.
For current employees the situation is even stickier because they have some protection under labor laws to complain about their working conditions.
Sometimes the best legal advice is just to keep your head down and let the problem resolve on its own. That is not in our nature, particularly for attorneys, but at times doing nothing is the best option.