Facebook Firing: Blurring the Line between Personal and Public

21 Feb

We’ve heard professors give us the same advice about social media repeatedly: be careful because employers are watching.  Let’s say we clean up our Facebook profiles and get hired: what happens then?  Many employees are getting fired because they are not conscious that their web presence still affects their job success.

What Can Employees Say Online?

Employees can definitely discuss work online, but shouldn’t be too quick to post something if they are angry.  The National Labor Relations Board enforces a law that allows “protected concerted activity”—group activity, not simply griping.  Employees are protected only if their statements:

  • Discuss pay or workplace conditions with other workers
  • Do not include name-calling that imposes verbal or physical threats

Should Employers Have Strict Social Media Policies?

Often, companies constitute their own social media policy to determine what appropriate behavior is.  For example, a nursing home employee was fired after rumors of Facebook photos of her with nude patients; the only pictures discovered had clothed patients, which was still against the nursing home’s social media policy.  In certain environments, a social media policy might be necessary to protect the end users.  However, to what extent should the companies be able to outline rules for online presence?  A social media policy would explicitly state what expectations are and thus avoid excuses from employees later, but employers may eventually be infringing on individual’s freedom of speech.  Social media policies would probably be most effective if their priorities were to protect their customers’ confidentiality and uphold the brand image of the company.

Is Facebook Private?

We all know LinkedIn as a professional networking site, but what do we consider Facebook?  Public?  Private?  Many of us view Facebook as a platform to express what is happening in our personal lives.  Employers are also aware of this, but they are not accepting of that fact when looking at negative comments about their own company.  After all, you are an ambassador of their company.

Perhaps keeping our social and work lives separate online is most beneficial to all parties.  Not mixing the two can be difficult in an age when networking is strongly influenced by social media and building our network means adding Facebook friends.  Many of us socialize with our colleagues outside of work though, so here’s a better general lesson: don’t forget that statements online are easily misconstrued.

I’ll leave you with an even easier message: to avoid dealing with a nasty company ordeal, avoid Name-calling Ambiguous Statements that Threaten Your Company.

by Christina Sukhu

Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204012004577072521110400592.html

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