Friday, February 27, 2009

Facebook friends in the workplace, or are they really frenemies?

We've all heard the horror stories about people losing their jobs for comments made in blog posts or Facebook pages. Typically it's because their managers or HR personnel are watching out for people making such comments and tracking employee behavior. Basically these people screwed up by not protecting their comments.

Now it seems you have to really rethink the idea of friending your co-workers altogether.

A 16-year-old girl from Essex was fired after she described her office job as "boring" on her Facebook page.

Kimberley Swann, 16, of Clacton, had been working at Ivell Marketing & Logistics, in Clacton, for three weeks before being fired on Monday.

"I think they've stooped quite low," she said.

The firm's Steve Ivell said of the decision: "Her display of disrespect and dissatisfaction undermined the relationship and made it untenable."

Miss Swann said: "You shouldn't really be hassled outside work. It was only a throw-away comment.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said employers needed "thicker skins" in relation to social networking websites.

He said: "Most employers wouldn't dream of following their staff down the pub to see if they were sounding off about work to their friends."

Kimberley Swann made the mistake of friending the wrong people. Trusting her co-workers and getting burned by them. They turned her in, likely to further their own positions in the company.

What's the takeaway here? Should you not friend your co-workers? Should you censor what you say? Should you be allowed to be terminated for something said in private that was never seen by your employer? Is calling a job "boring" grounds for termination?

In my opinion Mr. Ivell over-reacted. After all, this was only her 3rd week of employment. However, the bigger issue for me is that you can never be too careful with what you say in regards to your employment situation, and need to be even more guarded to whom you make those comments.

Maybe next time take a second to think about whether you really should friend your co-workers, or whether they'll go running to management with every comment you make.


Liz said...

I don't think saying your job is boring is grounds for termination. Then again, maybe there was more to her termination than the statement. If she thought her job was boring, maybe she wasn't a very good employee. Who knows. If that is the only reason, though, that is ridiculous. I can only assume she wasn't a very valuable employee. I am friends with co-workers on Facebook and I haven't censored them, but then again I don't discuss work in such a public forum anyway. Whether or not it's fair to be judge by your Facebook profile is an entirely different discussion, but in the end, it's reality and people will have to adapt to that.

Tom Hundt said...

Re: friending coworkers, what's that saying? Keep your friends close; keep your enemies closer.The Web is a public space; don't say anything there you wouldn't say in, say, a restaurant (where your boss could be at the next table).