Should Social Media Posting be Grounds for Firing?

May 21, 2012
Should social media posting be ground for firing?

Earlier this year CFO Gene Morphis was fired for posting comments about board meetings, earnings calls, and other company-related activities on his public Twitter and Facebook accounts. The line between business and personal has blurred, sometimes with negative consequences.

First it was an increase in the amount of companies asking for interviewees’ social media usernames and passwords; and there’s no shortage of stories of individuals who were fired after posting negative status updates about their jobs.

The case of Gene Morphis, however, is the first involving a CFO of a public company (Francesca Holdings Corp.).

What happened

Although Morphis had a history of posting company-related statuses, these are supposedly the two tweets that landed him in hot water:

This isn’t anything earth-shattering. Anyone who’s spent more than five minutes in business (or seen an episode of “Shark Tank”) knows that board members like good numbers. So why was Morphis fired?

According to Francesca Holdings Corp., Morphis was fired “for cause.” They’re electing not to comment further, but to me this sounds suspiciously like, “We’re not exactly certain what rule he broke, but his social media activity makes us uncomfortable, so he needs to go.”

The bigger issue

While letting an employee go because of inappropriate behavior may sometimes be necessary, there always needs to be reason provided — not only for the edification of the former employee, but also to protect the company in the event of legal action.

But social media changes so quickly—and larger companies’ processes so slowly—that it can be difficult to back up a firing with a specific reason.

Be prepared

Social media is not going away, and employees and companies need to be able to properly navigate the ever-changing waters.

Understand privacy settings

All social media platforms have some kind of configurable privacy settings. For example, Twitter accounts can either be completely public or completely protected, and Facebook’s privacy settings are known for their complexity and granularity.

If you’re an individual who doesn’t want the company for which you work to see your social media activity, make sure to configure privacy settings; if you’re a company who doesn’t want employees to tweet publicly, make sure this requirement is documented and discussed.

Create a social media policy

A recent survey by the Society for Human Resources Management indicates that only approximately 40% of companies have a social media policy in place. You muddy the waters if you don’t have a company-wide document that clearly states acceptable and unacceptable online behavior.

Any policy you create should include:

  • The company’s stance on social media
  • Social media objectives
  • Policies for using social media while on the clock
  • Best practices for individual platforms
  • Other relevant information

Policies will differ from company to company, but you can use any of these 100 social media policy examples as a starting point.

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