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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fired for Tweeting - Personal Life versus Company Rep

I came across and interesting post about a CFO who was fired for writing a couple of Tweets. Here is one take on MediaBistro.

It appears as though the company is claiming that he revealed company information improperly, although the tweets themselves do not seem particularly incriminating. He does mention the company having ‘good numbers’, though that is pretty broad.

Over the years I have heard of many cases regarding lower level employees complaining about their jobs or their bosses or something similar, though this is the first time I have heard of such a high level person getting the axe for this sort of thing. Each time it occurs, however, it brings back up the issue of personal space and freedom of speech.

Of course, having people complain about a company on any form of social media looks bad for the company. Unlike just complaining to friends or family, social media complaints are permanent and can become viral. Companies also often have their hands tied when it comes to defending themselves – they can’t really get into a he said she said debate on twitter with the administrative assistant. It is perfectly understandable why companies would want to fire people who do this sort of thing, but can they?

They certainly have so far, but the courts are going to have to decide soon once and for all if this constitutes a violation of freedom of speech. If social media is a personal platform, companies can’t really govern what we say on there. Where does being a representative of the company stop and personal life begin? Does it matter who you are in the company? Does it matter the kind of career you are in (ie do we want teachers sending out expletive laden posts about principals on Twitter with their students following – of course not, but can schools do anything about it)?

Social media is truly changing the way we interact with the world. Few things are really considered private any more. Many young people growing up with this technology think nothing of sharing their every thought with the world.

What are your thoughts? How much say can a company have over what employees say on social media?

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