This article showed up in my online browsing today, and it reminded me (as it should remind you) that what we post on social media could come back to haunt us on the job.
In short, this woman took advantage of the relative ease with which we can post our opinions online to let everyone know how she felt about the 2012 election results. While she’s entitled to disagree with other voters, what she said was racist. She also used the A word. I’m sorry, but anyone with any brains these days knows that posting certain terms is the equivalent of shouting the B word in a crowded airport. You just. Don’t. Do. It.
The company she worked for fired her. Do they have the right to do this? Yes, they do. The worst thing about Miss Obama Hater? She doesn’t understand why she lost her job. I’m about to explain why.
While some people may argue that her post constituted free speech, the Constitution only covers your right to not have the government suppress speech—which they still can under certain circumstances. Your employer can tell you to shut the H-E-double hockey sticks up all he/she wants. The only protected option at work is objecting to adverse conditions, or reporting something illegal (whistleblowing).
What are some common workplace rights you only think you have? Donna Ballman, an employment lawyer, lays them out on this blog post at Screw You Guys, I’m Going Home, and she does include this one.
You can also be fired for what you say outside your workplace. Why? Well, think about how your social media accounts represent you. Unless you comment everywhere online using an alias, and avoid anything like Facebook where you’d use your real name, your face and voice will both be out there.
More websites every day are requiring comments be posted under Facebook IDs or using your real name. You can, of course, decline to comment, but if it’s a hot-button issue, can you resist?
“Sure, but what does that have to do with my job?” you ask. Plenty. At work, you represent your employer. If your antics outside of work net you the wrong kind of attention, your job can go bye-bye. See, employers want people who don’t court controversy. And making racist tweets or posts about the president, or anyone for that matter, regardless of your employer’s politics, is bad.
The number one rule of social media is this: do not post anything online you wouldn’t want your boss or your sainted grandmother to see. You aren’t completely anonymous. And as people like this former Burger King employee have discovered, savvy computer whizzes can track you down using your GPS tags and other neat little trackers digital devices and the Internet put on everything you post.
One reason I believe people are running afoul of this? They’ve forgotten that being famous (i.e. going viral) and being notorious (going viral and having everyone think you’re a complete idiot and/or jerkbag) are two different things.
So be careful what you post, tweet, or comment online. It could come back to bite you.