Tech & Work

More people are losing their jobs due to online missteps

Despite warnings from career experts around the globe, employees persist in posting personal and sometimes inappropriate information on their personal online accounts.

It's the kind of story that those who use Facebook and Twitter don't like to hear. Last week, CNN Mideast Affairs editor Octavia Nasr lost her post after tweeting her respect for a militant cleric.

In a statement, Ms. Nasr said that she'd exercised poor judgment as a representative of CNN when she tweeted that Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah was "one of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot."

Last month, veteran reporter Helen Thomas was pressured to retire after she made a comment at Jewish American Heritage Month celebration that was later posted online by the rabbi's son that many considered to be anti-Semitic.

Of course, these stories were prominent because they took place in the media by media folks, who have to present an objective face to the world.

But we've also heard about flight attendants who have lost their jobs because of inappropriate pictures posted on their personal Facebook accounts. In a country that allows companies to fire employees at will for any reason other gender or race, it's kind of a time bomb waiting to go off.

So where do we draw the line? As an employer, it wouldn't be pleasant to read something negative one of your employees had to say about your company. The impulse is to let that person go because there are other people out there who need a job, right? But do you want your workforce to be mindless automatons? Is it right to try to control what an employee says on his personal Facebook account even though it could be exposed publicly?

I don't know the answer, but I'm sure it's going to be playing out in the court system for years to come and decided on a case-by-case basis. Do I personally think a flight attendant should be fired for posting sexy pictures on her Facebook account? Not really. I wasn't aware that flight attendants had some kind of moral reputation to uphold. But if that person was a schoolteacher, yeah, I'd probably feel like posting sexy pictures was inappropriate.

Either way, posting online can be a slippery slope for the employed and those hoping to be employed. Exercise good judgment and only say things online that you would say in person in a company board meeting.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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