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Just Don’t Tell

By Staff | Oct 4, 2011

We have become a society that loves to tell the world what we’re doing and thinking as it is actually happening or as they say, in real-time.

The transition of the basic cell phone into the smart phone and the incredible growth of “social media” i.e. Facebook and Twitter, have led to an almost insane growth of postings on the sites, and with that, incredible usage of the sites not only by posters, but readers as well.

With Twitter and Facebook, a user can post little snippets about what they are doing, say, at work at any given moment of the day if the mood strikes. For example, I could post the following: “7:30 Monday morning – working on a column about social media. Not sure where to go with it, however”

OK, that seems harmless enough. But then there are some folks who take their Facebooking to a whole ‘nother level, and that can create some “unpleasantries.”

In short, there are folks who, when reprimanded at work, or have a tiff with a fellow employee, get on Facebook or Twitter “My boss is a big stupid head!” for example. That might be considered by many to be a frustrated employee blowing off steam freedom of expression and speech.

But what about the boss who reads that post or Tweet? Hmmm, perhaps not so amused. Perhaps royally hacked off might be more like it.

This brings about the problem. Some companies are trying to figure out if they can tell employees what they can post about their work or co-workers on social media sites. The problem with that idea is that you begin to tread on individual rights of Free Speech.

According to the National Labor Relations Board, confusion about what workers can or can’t post on social media sites has led to more than 100 complaints to the NLRB in the past year. The big question employers are trying to figure out what they can and can’t let employees post.

In one case, a Chicago car salesman was fired after going on Facebook to complain that his dealership served overcooked hot dogs, stale buns and other cheap food instead of nicer fare at an event to roll out a high-dollar new car. In that cast, the NLRB determined that law protected the salesman’s comments because he had brought up concerns about the terms and conditions of his job, as he had earlier shared his frustrations with other employees.

In another case, the NLRB ruled against a worker who called management a bunch of tyrants and used a slang word to describe an assistant manager. In that case, the NLRB ruled the comments were the person’s individual feelings and had not been shared with other workers. The employer disciplined the worker for the comments.

The biggest thing I take out of all of this is pretty simple If you don’t want the world to known about what goes on at your workplace, then don’t post about it. On Facebook, an individual’s profile information contains the name of a workplace, so posting doesn’t guarantee any kind of anonymity.

I will admit that I am a Facebook user, and I enjoy using the medium to communicate with several of my peers in the journalism field around the state as well as local friends. It’s a fun way to pick on friends, share some of the good times and support each other in the rough times.

Oh yes, one can be inundated with requests to re-post chain messages, but one also has a choice as to whether they want to respond to such messages, just like you do on your cell phone if you have caller ID.

I can understand a business being upset when company business is flapping out there in the open for everyone to see because an employee gets a burr under his or her saddle. But at the same time, they shouldn’t be able to order an employee not to post, period, on a social network. They can ask that nothing specific be posted about the business, but I don’t think it’s right to forbid anyone from actually posting random thoughts on social media websites.

If you look at it objectively, the best way to handle a situation like this is actually pretty simple. If you don’t want to be embarrassed by what you post at some point in time, then don’t post it.