Social Media Got Me Fired

We all know social media is a powerful business tool, even if we don’t always know exactly how to apply it. In fact, according to Accelir’s 2014 Recognition Trends Report, more than 82 percent of organizations do not currently include social media in their rewards program, and more than half (55 percent) simply do not want social media in their rewards program.

However, social media has quickly become adopted as a recruitment tool, and its ability to instantly communicate with millions of people can be a wonderful gift or a huge liability, as we have all witnessed before. These days it’s a pretty regular occurrence to see someone lose a job because of a tweet or post that went viral. In March 2009, a 22-year old named Connor Riley tweeted about “weighing the utility of fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work,” which prompted her employer, Cisco, to withdraw the job offer they had just made to her. A similar incident occurred the same year when a California Pizza Kitchen employee posted a colorful complaint about the company’s uniforms on their twitter page.

Most recently, an Instagram photo of a poor Halloween costume choice caused a young woman named Alicia Ann Lynch more grief than she probably was prepared to handle. If you haven’t seen the costume in question, it is quite offensive on several levels. After a tidal wave of social media backlash, Alicia lost her job and now her family receives death threats on a regular basis.

These days we may be more used to tweeting or posting status updates about our lives in real time, but since its inception social media has evolved beyond being a fun distraction—recruiters, HR officials, and senior leaders are using it more and more to get feedback from customers and vet new hires. In other words, they’re online and they’re listening. Anything an employee posts is only a few retweets away from landing right in the CEO’s inbox.  In The Social Network, the seminal 2010 film about the creation of Facebook, one of the characters reminds us that “the Internet’s not written in pencil, it’s written in ink.” How many more inappropriate photos, lost jobs, and disgraced politicians will it take before folks realize the delete key no longer exists?

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