When Facebook can be a ground for termination
Users who use social networks to criticize the company they work for, their bosses, or colleagues jeopardize their employment. Employees of Easy Jet, Marks & Spencer, and Virgin Atlantic have been fired for comments offensive to the company or clients.
Oscar Wilde said, “I can resist everything except temptation.” And on social networks, temptation for many can indeed be irresistible. When you see the question, “What are you thinking?” on your Facebook wall, you may feel an overwhelming desire to unload your complaints about the company where you work, to criticize your colleagues, or even to speak ill of the company’s customers. At times like this, however, spontaneity can be a double-edged sword, which can put you in a compromising situation capable of jeopardizing your position.
When using the online social platforms, it is important to understand that the opinions you post can affect the reputations of others. Everyone is entitled to a personal life, but when an employee’s comments affect the reputation of the company he or she works for, the line that separates professional from personal life becomes very thin.
One of the most significant cases was EasyJet. The economic airline decided to fire one of its flight attendants after he wrote in the occupation field of his social profile, “F*** EasyJet”. The company’s argument to justify his dismissal was that the characterization of the company was offensive and slanderous. Besides, EasyJet added, their code of conduct specifically warns employees to be cautious when talking about the company on Facebook. Another relevant episode was the case of employees at British Supermarket Marks & Spencer. They created a group on the social network where they talked about their experiences with customers, calling them “crazy” or even “idiots.” In another case, British airline Virgin Atlantic fired 13 workers after discovering they had left messages on social networks criticizing their passengers.
Then how should we behave?
The first thing to consider is the degree of privacy of the networks in which you participate. If your Facebook profile is accessible to all users, anything you publish can be seen by your employer. And even when you can restrict access to friends only, who doesn’t have a co-worker among their contacts? The truth is that social media are wide-open spaces with high visibility. Most of us would not criticize our workplace in front of a TV camera. So, why do it on Facebook or Twitter?
Companies seek to have the best reputation possible in the online universe, and if an employee posts negative comments about his or her employer that is not good PR. Everyone has a personal life, but when an employee’s personal opinion affects the company’s reputation, the line between public and private is easily crossed.
If you want to avoid problems, be sure that the networks where you share information are private, because what you say can be used against you.