The culture of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Digg and other social network sites support an off-the-cuff, unfiltered, communication style that sometimes has a negative impact on jobs. For many social network site users the idea that posts are different from face to face communication has lead to the misconception that status updates and news feed comments do not count in the real world.
Online social networks, especially Facebook, are extremely popular and not just among high school and college students. People from all demographics are logging on to catch up, shout out, and send their thoughts and feelings out into the World Wide Web. Some of those logging on include employers who monitor their employees’ online behavior, whether by plan or accident, which has resulted in some workers heading straight to the unemployment lines.
Facebook and Twitter Backlash in the News
Some may say that personal feelings are the property of the individual and have nothing to do with their employment, but that is not how many employers are viewing it. In March 2009, Lincoln Financial Field stadium game-day worker Dan Leone was fired for posting his upset over the loss of a ballplayer from the Eagles roster. In a similar case, Virgin Airlines fired a group of employees who used Facebook as a place to vent against their employer and customers and in July 2009, a teacher in the UK was put on paid suspension because one of the co-workers she was having a Facebook conversation with was offended and reported her to the school administration. Apparently, tattling is not discouraged in this school district.
Adding to the fray, a soon-to-be-employee of Cisco, Conner Riley, sent out a somewhat rude Tweet about the job offer she had just received, complaining that she had to decide if a fat paycheck was worth a lousy commute to a job she would hate. The offer was promptly withdrawn as was her anonymity. The fact that a grinding commute and a possibly boring position would make a future employee pause is not unusual, however failing to realize that the technology company you have received an offer from might just be on Twitter, or Facebook or MySpace for that matter, is dense if nothing else.
Employer Intolerance to Public Criticism
It is not a surprise that employees complain about their boss, their coworkers, and the way that their companies manage things. These types of complaints have been the topic of conversation around the water cooler long before the internet was available.
The difference is that in the past, these conversations were primarily between employees, their friends, and perhaps their families. They were not being broadcast, unfiltered, worldwide and instantly. Many companies are responding to employees’ public criticisms with intolerance resulting in firings such as with Virgin Airlines and the Philadelphia Eagles ball club.
If Your Mom Shouldn’t Hear It, Neither Should Your Boss
In view of the trend towards companies penalizing their employees for negative public comments, keeping a lid on rude, profane, or explicit commentary is just smart. Business ethics and fraud prevention expert, Chuck Gallaher puts it plainly in his blog:
“DON’T POST STUFF ON FACEBOOK that might be questionable. A simple rule of thumb…if you think that your employer or your mama would not like your posting – DON’T PUT IT ON THE SITE (or anywhere else on the internet).”
This is a straightforward and seemingly simple idea but in today’s blog-post-tweet happy culture, it is routinely ignored, often to the detriment of the poster.
The Virtues of Self-Censorship
People practice self-censorship voluntarily every day. Most people do not blurt out that the dress their boss has on makes her look washed out and fat or announce in a company meeting that the guy in the next cube is a smelly jerk, so controlling words should not be a new skill. The need to restrain spiteful or potentially damaging thoughts is not a blast to personal freedom but instead is an act of self-preservation.
The bottom line is, regardless of whether or not you believe that online postings are private business and should not be a consideration for an employer, the reality is that what you post is virtually undying and can affect you and your pocketbook.
Sources: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29796962/; http://www.chuckgallagher.com/Blog.aspx; http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/25/AR2009062503931.html; http://www.itproportal.com/portal/news/article/2009/8/17/girl-slags-boss-facebook-and-gets-fired/