Facebook Horror Stories: How A Post Can Cost You Your Job
Complaining about bosses, customers and clients is nothing new. But harmless banter over drinks at a bar has evolved into Facebook posts and Tweets, putting those private thoughts up for consumption by the general public.
Teachers, firefighters and waitresses are among those who have made the news for learning the hard way that using Facebook to criticize your employer or your customers can have drastic consequences.
Courtney Hunt, founder of Social Media in Organizations – a company providing information and guidance regarding potential social media implications – said there are numerous instances of a job being lost over what the employee considered harmless Facebook grumbling .
"Individuals are responsible for managing their professional identity in cyberspace," Hunt told TechNewsDaily, "including the ways in which that professional identity is connected to their personal identity and activities."
Hunt keeps a "Digital Hall of Shame" on her company's website to remind clients of social networking’s ramifications and the damage that can be done to a career through a simple Facebook message.
Among those enshrined in the hall is a waitress at a North Carolina pizzeria who complained about a cheap tip she received. The restaurant’s owners saw the post and fired the waitress for violating their policy of speaking disparagingly about customers and casting the restaurant in a negative light on social networks.
Hunt said the message in that case was clear.
"People should understand what their employer’s policies are and follow them," she said. "If something is unclear, they should ask."
Numerous teachers also have lost their jobs over Facebook incidents. A Georgia teacher says she was forced to resign after her principal saw pictures on the teacher's Facebook page showing her holding beer mugs and wine. A Massachusetts teacher was forced to resign after she wrote on her Facebook page that she wasn't looking forward to another year at the school, and that residents of the community were "arrogant and snobby."
Hunt said employees need to be aware that their Facebook page may seem like a private space but isn't. "When personal information is shared in a public space, they can’t reasonably expect a right to privacy," Hunt said.
"Even if they think the information is private, someone else may choose to make it public."
A South Carolina firefighter thought he was being funny when he posted on Facebook a cartoon video he created showing a member of his department interacting with a physician at the local medical center. The department said the video was derogatory and displayed the firefighter's poor judgment. He was fired.
Michael Fertik, founder and chief executive of Reputation.com, said that when posting anything to Facebook, users need to consider how it might appear to an employer, or even to a future employer.
"It's best to operate in all social media with the mind-set, 'Would my mother approve?' Think before you post 'like,' accept friendships and tag photos."
Fertik also stressed the importance of strict privacy settings, which can help avoid misinterpretations of online material. Fertik suggested using a free Facebook app, PrivacyDefender, to monitor settings.
"It allows you to easily adjust your privacy settings to share your life with only the people you want," he said.