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February 7, 2010 5:40 PM   Subscribe

You may be active in social media on your own account. That’s good. But please remember that whether you are on your own time or company time, you’re still a member of our team. And the judgment you exercise on your own time reflects on the judgment you exercise at work. There’s only one you – at play and at work.
posted by h0p3y (75 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
"If you’re still in doubt, seek out the counsel of one of your colleagues. Two sets of eyes are better than one."

How about that? He was right.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 5:43 PM on February 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


And yet the circumstances in which you exercise your judgment while at play presumably differ markedly from those in which you exercise that same judgment while at work, not only in the particular surroundings but also in that the former is play and the latter is work, leading one to suspect that it would be very difficult, in all but the most egregious cases, to draw any informative inferences about how the judgment would be exercised at work based on how it was exercised in play (assuming one's employers even knew enough about the exercise of the judgment in play, rather than rather crude, high-level information about what decision it issued in). Except, of course, if the employer wished merely to have a high-minded but ultimately nonspecific excuse to punish those of its employees it desires to.
posted by kenko at 5:46 PM on February 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


Thank goodness this couldn't possibly happen in the US because of our strict constitutional oversight as well as unwillingness to kowtow to Big Business!
posted by DU at 5:46 PM on February 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Ugh, these "social media PR" people are a pox.
posted by delmoi at 5:49 PM on February 7, 2010 [17 favorites]


Thank goodness this couldn't possibly happen in the US because of our strict constitutional oversight

How exactly would constitutional oversight have anything to do with a private company's policy with regard to social media?
posted by Justinian at 5:50 PM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


How exactly would constitutional oversight have anything to do with a private company's policy with regard to social media?

Right on!

*starts company that hires a) only Republicans and b) prevents them from voting...100% legally!*
posted by DU at 5:54 PM on February 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


I wonder if criticism of this policy in a social media space would run afoul of it.
posted by episteborg at 5:57 PM on February 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


DU, you seem to be laboring under the mistaken idea that I think this policy is something besides idiotic. I was simply asking how the Constitution would have anything to do with this (if it happened in the USA). But that's ok, let's just yell about it instead.
posted by Justinian at 6:01 PM on February 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Be respectful and civil in your tone. (After all, that’s the kind of people we are.)

This one really jumps out at me. It's interesting, because in a single sentence you have the voice of a corporate identity (made up of the collective vision of its leaders, expressed as 'we') trying to relate to an individual human identity with a politely adorned imperative. The imperative itself is formal and in a higher register than the hedge, which is friendly, colloquial, and couched in parenthetical politeness.

A cynical version of me sees the whole thing as inauthentic and pandering. The man is a smarmy ass. Whereas the agreeable and less jaded me (who I strive to side with more often than not) sees it as a bold move towards positively humanizing the sterility of the modern workplace environment. The man is a mensch.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:07 PM on February 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


Hahahaha.

A social media blog with a silhouetted man and woman with a speech bubble "Join the conversation", talking about corporate policies. Is this for real?
posted by amuseDetachment at 6:07 PM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's ironic that they are spending more time thinking about their social media image than they must've spent thinking about what their logo represents next to the name "Fallis."
posted by webhund at 6:07 PM on February 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


I judge the hell out of people's work ethics based on things they do in their personal life. I have coworkers I wouldn't leave alone in a room with fifteen cents and a stuffed animal because of stories they've told me about their personal lives, and I certainly don't trust them to be any more ethical at work than they are at home.

But there is a simple solution to my problem: I don't listen to people's stories about their personal lives. What I do not know does not hurt me. This policy helps me to work with people who have the ethical standing of rabid junkyard dogs in heat. I can pretend they all go home to crotchet doilies and visit the elderly and sick with snacks and kindness. Believe me, I do.

I can't imagine why a company would want to take on such a big role in their employees' personal lives. It seems like a discrimination lawsuit waiting to happen.
posted by winna at 6:07 PM on February 7, 2010 [11 favorites]


Interesting how all the female staff headshots on their frontpage have winsomely tilted heads, while the men gaze straight ahead.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:09 PM on February 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


This policy is more benign and reasonable than half the comments in this thread. What the hell is so repressive about it?
posted by grobstein at 6:15 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Justinian, I think you'll want to examine the First Amendment's Freedom of Sarcasm protections.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:19 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Could someone please spell out or suggest the proper response for this to those of us who don't work in an office and/or corporate setting?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:21 PM on February 7, 2010


grobstei:, nothing, if you're okay with putting every public utterance you make through the filter of "How will this reflect on the company I work for?". If a person has a career in PR, they probably have to do that anyway. Coming from outside the field and a position where I do not self-identify with the company I work for, I find it really creepy.

True, it only applies to those social networking outlets that their employees choose to share on the site, and employees are free to not share. But I imagine they are "strongly encouraged" to share their presences, and therefore provide a sanitized feed that meets the company's objectives. If you're in the social media PR business, that's probably a compromise you have to make. I'm just glad I'm not in that business, and in consequence don't have to censor or anonymize my online doings.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:23 PM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


This registers a giant "meh" for me. If you are working for a web design agency which showcases your twitter/facebook/whatever on their site, you should be managing a separate professional account for that purpose. That's completely obvious. Of course, this constitutes work, and you should be paid for it, or at the very least you should be able to opt out.

That said, "professional" social media is mostly vacuous and stupid. (Restaurants tweeting daily specials = cool. Random employees tweeting about their awesome Canucks seats = stupid.)
posted by mek at 6:25 PM on February 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


grobstein, in essence the policy is "whatever you do online in any context whatsoever will be treated as if you did it in the name of the company." I consider that unbelievably intrusive.
posted by Lazlo at 6:26 PM on February 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


DU, you seem to be laboring under the mistaken idea that I think this policy is something besides idiotic. I was simply asking how the Constitution would have anything to do with this...

The Constitution is a set of principles and ideals. The government is legally bound by them, which to my mind includes regulating private entities when the principles are de facto broken. For instance, in a dystopian world where no one can criticize any BigCorp (or their legally chosen governmental representatives) for fear of losing their jobs and thus healthcare, food, etc.
posted by DU at 6:29 PM on February 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


He's concerned that his people are wearing only the minimum number of required pieces of flair.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:30 PM on February 7, 2010 [24 favorites]


grobstein, in essence the policy is "whatever you do online in any context whatsoever will be treated as if you did it in the name of the company." I consider that unbelievably intrusive.

My interpretation was if you're going to share your personal account via the corporate site, that the personal stuff has to meet corporate muster. I don't have a problem with that, especially as the sharing is optional.

Now, if it's "optional" but really expected, that's something else. And yea, in that case, there had better be some bux in it.
posted by maxwelton at 6:31 PM on February 7, 2010


Things you post on the internet are not private.

Private employers are allowed to fire you if they don't like what you say in non-private settings, or with even less justification, so long as you cannot prove that some sort of invidious discrimination based on certain personal characteristics motivated the firing.

If you link your social networking sites to your employers' web sites, you should not be surprised that your employer might monitor and pass judgment on your content and that of the people with whom you interact.
posted by Slap Factory at 6:33 PM on February 7, 2010


Rather than intrusive, it just seems realistic. For better or worse, Steve Jobs' Twitter and Facebook pages would reflect on Apple. Similarly, if a client of someone working at this firm Googles them, and finds drunken shenanigans on Facebook or bitchy Tweets, it could negatively affect business.

In the same way we always tell people to be careful of what potential employers find if they Google you, it's true of potential clients or co-workers. They're not saying, "always be thinking of work," they're saying, "there's no magic dividing wall, you're really just one person."
posted by explosion at 6:34 PM on February 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Private employers are allowed to fire you if they don't like what you say in non-private settings, or with even less justification

My God, what kind of uncivilised country would allow that to happen? You'd have to have a scant regard for human rights and a belief that employers own their workers' conscience to allow that by law.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:42 PM on February 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


Here is where I dispense an interpretation of the law, an argument that isn't mine and that will win over any resort to human factors.
posted by nervousfritz at 6:44 PM on February 7, 2010


DU: "The Constitution is a set of principles and ideals. The government is legally bound by them...."

Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech...."

At least as of this morning, the 1st Amendment still only applied to governmental, not private, regulations concerning speech. I say "as of this morning" because I tend to agree with the sentiment behind DU's comment re. the ubermensch status corporate America seems to be gaining. Still, no First Amendment issue here; potential discrimination claims? Absolutely.
posted by webhund at 6:47 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


WOW CHECK OUT THIS HILARIOUS VIRAL VIDEO GUYS!!! Rated "one star" on youtube.

Also, some of their profile descriptions are hilarious examples of corp-speak:
Leisha MacDonald’s clients know her to be driven to excel, committed to providing high-level service, passionate about detail in execution, and almost always available to assist with projects that require an extremely short turn-around. She draws on multidisciplinary talents and a calm, clear-thinking, creative approach to recommend, develop and implement innovative and appropriate solutions to achieve the goals and objectives of her clients’ communications programs; on spec, on time and on budget, even in the most challenging of circumstances.

Laura Mindorff has a thirst for knowledge and a drive to succeed. Coupled with a high level of integrity and organizational ability, she brings a fresh perspective to any project she undertakes. Her creative flair and down to earth, yet professional, approach have been the attributes that clients remember most. Laura’s top priority is to make sure her clients are getting the best value and service by delivering on time and on budget.
posted by delmoi at 7:08 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


The First Amendment guarantees you freedom of speech so long as what you say is unlikely to cause someone with power over you a sense of discomfort, or cost them money. To those with no power over you, you may say whatever you like, but even so, those with power over you are often listening and judging, secure in the knowledge that as they don't actually pass laws to abridge you, they may exercise that power as they see fit.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:10 PM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


This isn't really a good case to tease out "free speech vs. corporate control of private life" issues. The company's been encouraging its employees to mix personal and corporate social media streams; we can assume the employees have been doing just that; now that the bosses have seen the messy result they're asking the employees (who already agreed to mix personal and corporate streams) to back off a little from anything that might reflect badly on the company. Is that a fair summary?

If so, this seems a pretty specific edge case with limited application elsewhere (although teachers have dealt with this sort of "you're one person" stuff for centuries). But yeah, count me among the "damn that's really fucking creepy" crowd when it comes to watching a boss claim, "your expressions of thought in your private life are within my purview."
posted by mediareport at 7:24 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


What really bothers me is the divide is labeled "work" and "play." The time when I'm not at work isn't "play," it's my life.
posted by paisley henosis at 7:26 PM on February 7, 2010 [33 favorites]


This could have easily been part of the pretendoffice.co.uk setup.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:31 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


So in that clip, is he implying that 'Latin Grammy's' are in fact easier to win?
All work me, and no play me make Me me a something something.
posted by infinite intimation at 7:34 PM on February 7, 2010


OK, now that I've amused myself teasing US-centricity... where I live, you could contract with your employer to conduct your out-of-hours life to a particular standard, and I think in certain kinds of jobs it might be argued that conduct is understood to be an employment condition. So I can imagine someone contracting to be subject to this kind of policy, although I never would. In fact I kind of admire that the policy is open and stated and out there, instead of being some sort of covert post-facto ad-hoccery.

But I will never get used to people who think that being liable to be dismissed for what you say on your own time is a natural state of affairs with any job.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:37 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


...multidisciplinary talents and a calm, clear-thinking, creative approach to recommend, develop and implement innovative and appropriate solutions to achieve the goals and objectives of her clients’ communications programs; on spec, on time and on budget, even in the most challenging of circumstances.

This sentence has more triplets and modifiers than something I would write... is this written by the play me?
Perhaps while the work me was staring at my cubicle, or maybe moving all the filing cabinets away from the wall... trying to find the exit hole; or rather the entrance passage to Malkovitch.
They appear to be mostly Canadian... and a .Ca web space, so it would have be an alternate reality version of the first ammendment if it were to apply.
Is Terry Fallis aka "Thornlea Fallis"?

Also I'd challenge someone to figure out what is this book by Terry Fallis about. Twitter?
posted by infinite intimation at 7:54 PM on February 7, 2010


This sticks out:
First, when participating in social media, please always be mindful of why we are involved in social media. Our company’s objectives are:

* To educate ourselves.
* To contribute to our community by sharing our knowledge with others. (We believe in the culture of generosity and recognize that we should contribute more to the community than we take out.)
* To attract talented people
* To attract sophisticated clients

As a first step in deciding whether to write or post something online, ask yourself if doing so would contribute to the achievement of these objectives. If so, then publish away. If your post would be at odds with these objectives, please do not post it.
The way it's written, it sounds like that guideline is directed at people's private, off-work conversations. If so, then this attitude is completely inappropriate. My personal goals are not to attract people to my company. If I'm doing that in my off time, I should get paid for it.

These, on the other hand, seem like common-sense guidelines that anyone should try to follow:
Of course, sometimes, it’s nice to have some simple, plain language guidelines to point the way. So, here are some basic rules for day to day conduct.

1. Cause no harm to any person.
2. Be respectful and civil in your tone. (After all, that’s the kind of people we are.)
3. Respect our clients’ right to decide for themselves what they want to make public. Unless they specifically grant us permission, do not post about client wins or client assignments.
4. Be transparent. If you are posting about a client or commenting on a client competitor or posting about anything in which we may have a material interest, disclose the relationship or interest.
But, that said, it bothers me that the company possibly thinks it has the right to supervise or enforce those kinds of guidelines. While I try to follow those rules, if I get drunk or get in a fight or lose my cool or something online, I don't think my employer has the right to be the one to call me out for it. I'm not going to stand for my company taking my ex-wife's side! Note: Fictitious ex-wife fabricated for illustrative purposes.
posted by Xezlec at 7:57 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ugh. Social media went very quickly, for me, from being a useful and interesting and fun way to communicate with friends and colleagues all over the world, to a medium in which I really had better not express myself on any subject aside from professional sports and the weather. It's just turning into one more way for work to screw up your private life. I have social media guru "friends" who I knew in real life before they took up social media, and from whom I've read hundreds of Tweets and Facebook and Foursquare and whatever posts from, and I really don't know the first thing about what's actually happening in their lives anymore.
posted by citron at 8:07 PM on February 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


MEMO: RE: SOCIAL MEDIA
FROM: VP OF ENGENDERING FORWARD-THINKING SOCIAL PARADIGMS

It has come to our attention that employees are spending time outside of work not working. While we acknowledge that we technically only pay you for your efforts spent from 9:00AM to 5:00PM, Monday to Friday, we believe there is implied work contract covering the hours spent outside of work. As such we expect that you refrain from expressing any views or ideas not in harmony with the company marketing plan. Also, please be sure to check your corporate email (via your Blackberry) often (at intervals not exceeding 30 minutes) while outside of work for future communication. We appreciate your full cooperation in these matters.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:07 PM on February 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


You know, I've gone back and read this more carefully, and this passage now leaps out at me:
We also created a page on our corporate Website that displays the current conversations our employees are having in social media. Each employee has their own page on which they can display whatever social media and information they want to share. They can add their personal blog feeds, links to their Facebook pages, Twitter streams, LinkedIn profiles – whatever social media they wanted.

I soon realized that our employees are generating much more social media traffic than I had been aware of.
The way I read that, no one is compelling employees to add their FB, Twitter etc streams to their employers' site. Neither is anyone preventing employees from maintaining two online identities. (In fact I have a friend who's the PR head of a local telco who follows exactly this strategy, a telco branded twitter stream and an unofficial personal one). Read in context, this policy is about what staff publish on their employer's site and not about whatever they do that isn't on that site. So I'm putting my pitchfork away for now.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:21 PM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


The government is legally bound by them, which to my mind includes regulating private entities when the principles are de facto broken.
Well, just so long as you realize it's only to your mind.
posted by planet at 8:26 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


As mentioned up-thread, I agree with you, or your spleen, Joe.
posted by maxwelton at 8:31 PM on February 7, 2010


I have social media guru "friends" who I knew in real life before they took up social media, and from whom I've read hundreds of Tweets and Facebook and Foursquare and whatever posts from, and I really don't know the first thing about what's actually happening in their lives anymore.

I wish this comment didn't resonate so much with my own experiences of social media. It's depressing finding out which of your friends have the social instincts of a used car salesbot.

Interpreting the social media policy in that light, and with awareness that people are apparently using their social media streams that way, it doesn't seem like there's a lot to complain about in the policy. It's intrusive if they mean you have to add your Facebook and Twitter and so on to their site, but if you're the kind of person who's already selling yourself professionally all the time on Twitter, Xezlec's second list of principles is smart anyhow.
posted by immlass at 8:35 PM on February 7, 2010


Ugh. Social media went very quickly, for me, from being a useful and interesting and fun way to communicate with friends and colleagues all over the world, to a medium in which I really had better not express myself on any subject aside from professional sports and the weather.

"Social media" died once it was named such. Lucky us who knew the good times, way back when. Maybe we should return to CB/ham radio?
posted by Surfurrus at 9:43 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


An interesting column about employment law in Canada (specifically BC) that I came across the other day: Employers still have much say in employee conduct outside of working hours.
The law of wrongful dismissal has its roots in the out-dated notion of master and servant. ...

The general principle handed down from antiquity: if the servant does anything incompatible with the due or faithful discharge of his duty to his master, the master has the right to dismiss him. The misconduct need not be in delivering employment services. If the misconduct is prejudicial or likely to be prejudicial to the interests or reputation of the master, the master will be justified in dismissing the servant. ...

Under the second part of the general rule from antiquity, the key test relates not necessarily to the conduct itself, but to how that conduct affects the workplace or the employer’s reputation.

If the conduct outside the workplace is found to have insufficient destructive impact on the workplace or the employer’s reputation, summary dismissal of the employee won’t be justified.
posted by russilwvong at 9:46 PM on February 7, 2010


If you're publicly embarrassing to your employer in a blog or FB or twitter feed you deliberately link to their website, why shouldn't they fire you? How is that any different than getting drunk at the company Christmas party and making an ass of yourself?
posted by msalt at 10:37 PM on February 7, 2010


Why on earth should your employer fire you if you get drunk at a company Christmas party and make an ass of yourself?

TIP: if you don't want your employees to make asses of themselves at company functions, don't give them alcohol in plenty.
posted by kenko at 10:52 PM on February 7, 2010


My God, what kind of uncivilised country would allow that to happen? You'd have to have a scant regard for human rights and a belief that employers own their workers' conscience to allow that by law.

Or a belief that adults should be free to enter any contract without negative externalities - including, yes, the possibility of being fired for reasons like this.
posted by ripley_ at 11:33 PM on February 7, 2010


I don't want to create a big derail, but in my country, we believe that in general the balance of power lies clearly in favour of employers, who generally can easily replace you, especially in these times where orthodoxy regards a minimum level of structural unemployment as desireable. You can certainly explicitly make an employment contract that would provide for this kind of thing, but we regard "at will" type laws as barbaric tools which allow capital to ensure an undignified servility from all but the most skilled workers. The worker's unequal bargaining power with the employer is also a "negative externality" which our regime merely compensates for somewhat.

It's an interesting argument, and I understand that your position is a principled one, but it's certainly not a default, obvious choice the way so many Americans seem to think it is.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:51 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


ripley_ Or a belief that adults should be free to enter any contract without negative externalities - including, yes, the possibility of being fired for reasons like this.

Engaging in such contracts is a negative externality. If Fred the Employer sees that the employees of Bill the Employer will put up with being so treated, he will look at his own employees and think "hmm, I could do that to them too".

Proliferation of onerous employment conditions, whether enforced by contract or social expectation, cause a race to the bottom. This is yet another of the many, many reasons why employee unionization is so vitally important: to prevent working conditions from approaching whatever the most unethical boss can impose on the most desperate employee.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:27 AM on February 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


grobstein, in essence the policy is "whatever you do online in any context whatsoever will be treated as if you did it in the name of the company." I consider that unbelievably intrusive.

This seems more like a statement of fact than a policy. We've seen plenty of examples where somebody's private actions have been considered company policy so it can pretty much be considered a fact that if you act like a neo-nazi asshat on facebook, and it can be linked back to your company, someone will do so. That's part of what the information age means.

This also isn't exactly a new policy. People who tend to publicly embarrass the company they work for, tend to be terminated, as a general "cover your ass" policy. You could really rephrase it as "If you do shit that makes us look bad to be your employer, we won't be your employer for long."
posted by happyroach at 2:36 AM on February 8, 2010


If Fred the Employer sees that the employees of Bill the Employer will put up with being so treated, he will look at his own employees and think "hmm, I could do that to them too".

Well, that depends upon the situation. When companies are competing for talent, the opposite can happen. But not all workers are lucky enough to be the ones companies fight over, so of course your point probably applies more often than not.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:40 AM on February 8, 2010


wildcrdj But not all workers are lucky enough to be the ones companies fight over, so of course your point probably applies more often than not.

That seems a very equivocal way to describe maybe 9,999 workers out of 10,000.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:18 AM on February 8, 2010


People who have soft or nonexistent work/life boundaries make me nervous and maybe a little sad. Employers who have soft or nonexistent work/life boundaries make me fucking Old Testament wrath of God furious.

I appreciate what these people are trying to do in terms of having a simple, straightforward, and largely face-up policy about what their people do while riding the Cluetrain, but this is a perfect example of why type A "you are your work" crazed workaholic entrepreneurial founders make shitty managers. They abhor the idea of compartmentalizing your workplace since doing so would have caused them to fail. Whereas for the people who work for them, doing so is what prevents them from failing.
posted by majick at 5:00 AM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


STAN I need to talk about your flair.

JOANNA Really? I have 15 buttons on. I, uh, (shows him)

STAN Well, ok, 15 is minimum, ok?

JOANNA Ok.

STAN Now, it's up to you whether or not you want to just do the bare minimum. Well, like Brian, for example, has 37 pieces of flair. And a terrific smile.

JOANNA Ok. Ok, you want me to wear more?

STAN Look. Joanna.

JOANNA Yeah.

STAN People can get a cheeseburger anywhere, ok? They come to Chotchkie's for the atmosphere and the attitude. That's what the flair's about. It's about fun.

JOANNA Ok. So, more then?

STAN Look, we want you to express yourself, ok? If you think the bare
minimum is enough, then ok. But some people choose to wear more and we encourage that, ok? You do want to express yourself, don't you?

JOANNA Yeah. Yeah.

STAN Great. Great. That's all I ask.
posted by scalefree at 6:05 AM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Speaking as a person in the PR industry who has seen the consequences of a few Twitter car crashes, all I can say is this, there is no such thing as a private person on social media.

The reason social media corporate policies exist is because businesses are afraid of other people (press, public, customers) holding them to account for the online activities of their employees if those activities indicate the business is irresponsible, offensive or hypocritical. Your employer doesn't really care what you get up to away from work (in my experience), they're just scared of the fall out.

Real life example: someone went to Atlanta to visit a client and tweeted that it was not the sort of place he wanted to live (or wtte). The client read the tweet and kicked off at the company, although the tweet was from a private account. In the client's mind, that person may as well have turned to them in person and said 'I hate your city'.

Hypothetical example 2: I, Summer, work for X PR company. You could find out which one without too much trouble. You could also trawl all my Metafilter posts for evidence I'm saying things my clients wouldn't approve of. If you wanted, you could then go on Twitter and say Summer, representative of client X, says X about client X's industry on legendarily liberal pinko nest of agitation Metafilter. Shocking.

That's the problem with social media. No one is going to respected your professional/personal boundaries when anyone can hear what you're saying - not the press, not a company's customers, not the blogosphere, not Metafilter, no one. And everyone loves a scandal.

If you want to safeguard your independence and right to say absolutely what the hell you like with no consequences, don't go on Twitter/Facebook/start a blog, or do this but work for yourself. Otherwise, just learn to keep what you say in check.
posted by Summer at 6:12 AM on February 8, 2010


"Thornley Fallis: sure, we'll come over this Saturday and help you move your couch! That's just the kind of people we are."


Too many employers think of their employees as human capital, as objects that are owned and can be moved around and used with as much thought as you'd give to a chair or a stapler. And discarded just as easily. Yet they maintain this fiction of showing a huge amount of loyalty, respect, and dedication to the employees, which the employees are expected to reciprocate tenfold.

My policy with employers has always been, when I'm on the clock, I'm going to do an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. When I'm off the clock, keep your nose out of my life. Let's not pretend I'm "part of family" or any other such bullshit designed to make me forget that I am providing a valuable service for fair compensation.
posted by Robin Kestrel at 6:30 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


"they're just scared of the fall out."

Employing humans as opposed to robots is a messy business, but it confers many advantages to the employer. If the disadvantages of human employment -- such as the employee having opinions, an identity, or individuality distinct from an employer -- are too difficult for employers to deal with, they're welcome to employ robots instead.

"The client read the tweet and [yelled] at the company..."

If my employer's client does not want to know my personal opinions, why are they actively seeking them out? It's not like anyone is sending out letters on logo corporate letterhead saying "your town sucks" with a signature from the CEO, and a reaction as though they were is out of line.

The employer's stance here should be clear: "We support our employee's right to his opinion, and while we might not agree with his opinion, it's none of the client's business."

"No one is going to respected your professional/personal boundaries...not the press, not a company's customers, not the blogosphere, not Metafilter, no one."

You left an extremely important entity off that list: the employer. And my employer had better fucking well respect my personal boundaries unless they're paying me a wage that covers 8760 hours a year. At my current billing rate, before overtime compensation, that's over three quarter million bucks a year (probably closer to four million once you cover overtime and double overtime) and no, that's not realistic compensation for my work.

Come 5PM, unless you're cutting me an overtime check, you as an employer no longer have a right to my time, attention, or consideration. Period. THAT is realistic compensation for my work.
posted by majick at 6:46 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


What really bothers me is the divide is labeled "work" and "play." The time when I'm not at work isn't "play," it's my life.

"The opposite of play is not seriousness--it is reality."
--Sigmund Freud. "The Creative Writer and Daydreaming."
posted by octobersurprise at 6:48 AM on February 8, 2010


And my employer had better fucking well respect my personal boundaries unless they're paying me a wage that covers 8760 hours a year.

Your employer may well, but your employer isn't the one who has created the problem - it's the ubiquity and public nature of personal information and how people will use it against you and against your company. Everyone loves a drama and these social media storms when they happen go on and on and on.

Come 5PM, unless you're cutting me an overtime check, you as an employer no longer have a right to my time, attention, or consideration.

This really isn't about that. These social media policies aren't about making you do something. They're about stopping you from doing something.

Having said all that, very few people below director level, or outside of politics and communications disciplines should really care all that much.
posted by Summer at 7:43 AM on February 8, 2010


I dunno. Seems to me you have a relationship with your employer, same as with your loved ones. You negotiate the boundaries. They are being up front and clear about what they expect. If you don't like it, why would you want to work there?

No one is trapped working for a PR company. It's not like they are ever the single employer in a 2,000 person factory town. They're big city concerns that seek people with liberal arts educations. And you know what? PR firms are concerned with public image. I'm sorry no one ever explained that to you.
posted by msalt at 9:54 AM on February 8, 2010


The social media connection here is pretty much just a distraction. The core issue is still true via newspaper or behavior at parties or even gossip. The only difference is the speed of dissemination of the information.

This is about your value to the company.

Basically, although you have the freedom to do whatever you want on your own time, the company employs you based on a value equation that includes knowns (your work output) and a bunch of unknowns regarding your ethics and your likely future performance and how much you can be trusted with company affairs (based on estimates of your character and your reputation).

If you do visible actions off the clock that allow a company to quantify some of those unknowns because you did something abhorrent, it's unreasonable to expect them to ignore that just because it was "your time".

If an employer learns someone is in the KKK, or that they cheat on their wife, or that they collect kiddie porn, or even that they constantly slag the company, these absolutely reflect on whether a person can be trusted at work. I find it somewhat ridiculous that a company should turn a blind eye to reprehensible behavior just because it's "off the clock".

Yes, I'm exaggerating the case. But if you demonstrate bad behavior or poor judgment on your time, you're going to change my estimate of how like you are to demonstrate bad behavior or poor judgment for the hours that I'm paying you.

You're not a slave. You can say anything you like. But similarly, I'm not under any obligation to keep employing you if you seem more of a liability than a benefit.
posted by argh at 10:12 AM on February 8, 2010


My god, are you saying it's ok to be fired for adultery? I think you might be.

Barbarism.

Leaving aside the tenuous connections between your political beliefs or your sexual conduct, and your ability to do your job; or the possibility of employers having unreasonable personal definitions of "reprehensible"; what you seem to regard as natural and normal in relations between workers and bosses is no such thing.

Real life example: someone went to Atlanta to visit a client and tweeted that it was not the sort of place he wanted to live (or wtte). The client read the tweet and kicked off at the company, although the tweet was from a private account. In the client's mind, that person may as well have turned to them in person and said 'I hate your city'.

Again, this example only makes sense in an environment where clients believe bosses own their workers. To me this is a perfect illustration of a sick society that believes an ordinary person must police themselves to a high degree to deserve the privilege of a job.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:30 AM on February 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Maybe managers should "quantify some of those unknowns" by, you know, managing the employee's work performance, rather than digging around in the employee's private life.
posted by Robin Kestrel at 10:33 AM on February 8, 2010


Also, please be sure to check your corporate email (via your Blackberry) often (at intervals not exceeding 30 minutes) while outside of work for future communication...

I've actually had that memo land in my inbox at a few points in my career. My favorite rendition of which was that I had to call into my extension's voicemail hourly on the weekends to make sure there were no messages, despite having a text pager.

Then again, I also remember a time when you got paid extra to carry a company phone or pager on you...
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:29 AM on February 8, 2010


Y'know, if you're a ditch digger, I'm totally willing to quantify your performance by how much ditch digging you can accomplish.

But if I'm trying to decide if I should give you unsupervised access to the bank vault, or if I'm going to trust you to represent the company at an outside meeting in a different country... I'm absolutely going to take the fact that you cheat on your wife into account. How can I believe that you're a trustworthy person if you're willing to lie to someone close to you?

Should you be fired for adultery? Probably not. Should you be trusted as much as if you always behaved honorably? Not in my view.
posted by argh at 1:02 PM on February 8, 2010


What really bothers me is the divide is labeled "work" and "play." The time when I'm not at work isn't "play," it's my life.

Yeah. Also see "spare time".

I once read an introduction email from a new co-worker who said that in her "spare time" she likes to spend time with her ten-year-old son. That's how she spends her spare time? Mighty decent of her.
posted by tangerine at 1:16 PM on February 8, 2010


I can feel the value of the position defending parts of this kind of 'rule', especially given current societal realities, and various related factors, but I guess my feeling is one of wondering; can anyone explain in a larger context, like outside of the current situational reality (where it seems to be "acceptable" that bosses "own" what political (social?) expression their employees may make; as Private Individual Members of Society, in a Public Sphere...)

Can anyone explain why our population must (will? does?) accept that we are in effect no longer allowed to universally be Political Persons... or at the least, this is an idea that will not only stop racists, or bad ideas from being promulgated, but also cause people to think twice before fighting for future civil rights advancement, with policies like this being the precursor to what it feels like is being described; Many of the political positions of civil rights activists are, and have been "unpopular" (before society at large embraces the changes). It is not a pleasant reality if this is so, it inculcates societal FEAR about Individual Expression; or in other words, a fear of exactly that which makes us all human persons...

It seems to be coming from the same people who are giving us SEO (whatever on earth that ubiquitous, yet seemingly never defined acronym actually means) so I am not sure that I like this namby pamby idea of lying down in front of the SEO bulldozer of universal employer loyalty... It feels like more fields should consider incorporating the concept of "tenure", where one is allowed to study any ideas, no matter how the "politics" of the department might disagree. This situation might have reasonable realities, but it is a slope, and we are already all jumping down it like it's a slip-n-slide... I have seen an ask-me where someone had something that they found to not represent themselves got posted on their facebook wall by someone else... now sure, maybe the boss agrees with this thing a random friend posted... but what if they don't... do you delete it? Are you responsible for it?

What if you delete it, and your boss actually approved of it, now it looks like you don't believe what the boss believes... So much uncertainty. This type of needing to quadruple think everything that ever comes from ones mouth, or fingers ever, will lead to a more neurotic society... judging by the violence of the day, we don't need this. Let people be people, and go hire some cute robots if you want cute robot employees.

Bottom line, if a company wants a Spokesperson... then contract that in, and hire a Spokesperson... but some general employee is not a spokesperson for the company... are they? (isn't that something that people have to go to university for years to learn how to do properly?) If yes, pay them for that Professional position... if No... MYOCB (Mind Your Own Corporate-speak Blog).... Um, that said, yeah, if you are talking on your employers corporate webspace, in a role of employee, during work time, and on paid initiative of the employer talking negatively about a CLIENT from WORK... yeah, sure, that's not cool. Don't do that. Punish this, go for it. Makes logical sense; bad-mouthing clients, leads to ones employer losing clients, business will go down, business fails, no job.
posted by infinite intimation at 2:03 PM on February 8, 2010


argh...

The problem with that is that you get to decide what's a risk factor, without regard for whether it has any actual bearing on work performance. Who gets to decide what's relevant? What if someone decides that, say, riding a motorcycle is Very Bad and they don't want any of "those kind of people" working for them?

Also, if your system worked out, I should think the higher up you go in the corporate ladder, you'd only find people of sterling character. That's why bankers and CEOs never get into any sort of scandals, I guess.
posted by Robin Kestrel at 2:36 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Although the tone is smarmy, condescending and ultimately disingenuous (because, despite the rhetoric, you will get fired if you fuck up on Twitter), it's all common sense. Saying the wrong thing online can affect your employer, so be careful. Now, if you work as a software developer or construction manager, it shouldn't make any difference if you blog about politics or whatever, but if you're in PR, or in my case, in government, your public persona should probably avoid politics.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:23 PM on February 8, 2010


As the guy who developed and posted the online communications policy for Thornley Fallis, I've found this thread to be a heck of an interesting read.

One theme that seems to run through the comments is that I'm attempting to impose corporate values on people's personal lives. In fact, I developed this policy to replace our old one ("Be smart. Cause no harm to any person.") when I saw how many social media feeds our employees were adding to our Website.

It's entirely up to our employees to decide what to add to our Website. I encourage everyone in the company to participate in social media because I believe that participation is necessary to really understand the culture and dynamic of social media. But participation in social media is not a condition of employment. Some people participate more. Others less.

What I am trying to do is provide some guidelines that will establish a safe zone for their posting when they are associated with the company. And I've tried to do it in a way that minimizes rules and counts on their good judgment.

As I read the MetaFilter thread, I realized that I need to further clarify in the policy that it applies only to content posted on the company Website or relating directly to the company.

By the way, this policy was first posted on our internal company Wiki and I've invited and received comments on it. These comments have led to changes in the policy - and I expect we'll continue to change it.
posted by thornley at 6:14 AM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Heh. Hiya, Joseph.
posted by cortex at 6:31 AM on February 9, 2010


My God, what kind of uncivilised country would allow that to happen? You'd have to have a scant regard for human rights and a belief that employers own their workers' conscience to allow that by law.

Or a belief that adults should be free to enter any contract without negative externalities - including, yes, the possibility of being fired for reasons like this.

So we are clear, the "uncivilised" country is the United States of America. You might think as a normative principle that it is unfair or uncivilized or whatever to fire people for things they do off the clock, but in the United States, as a general matter, employers may do so without legal repercussions. Adults are free to contract around that default rule, but if a job candidate came to me and asked for an employment contract that specifically excludes his off-work online activities as a basis for termination, I would be pretty suspicious.
posted by Slap Factory at 6:40 AM on February 10, 2010


From the one of the links at the head of the Heroes thread:
I ask you, Mr. Kring, because, since these are members of your staff, they’re representing you and the program – whether they accept that responsibility or not – when they make these kinds of statements.
I'm not endorsing the opinions of the writer I quoted (or trying to refute them), just pointing out a real live example of what we're discussing in this thread that popped up elsewhere on the blue.
posted by immlass at 8:31 AM on February 10, 2010


Slap Factory: yes, I am very well aware of that. I do think it's wrong. And I am troubled how in recent years, owing to the spread of American culture through movies and television, young people in my own country are becoming ignorant of their own rights and our traditional values.

So pointing out the absurdity and inhumanity of American practice to Americans in an American-dominated forum is just my way of returning the favour.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:49 AM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure a lot of people are fully grasping the intent here. For whatever reason, they skipped right to the part where rights were violated because blah blah blah forced to be a part of this social networking charade blah blah blah.

I have a lot - an unfortunately large amount, actually - of personal friends who have started using their real life likenesses on Twitter and Facebook (in particular) to put a real face and a human perspective on the company they now so adamantly desire. To let users know that these people truly care about what they do so much that they're spending their entire days retweeting posts from bigwigs in their specific industry or linking to blog posts they come across during the day.

One of these people in particular has their Twitter account linked to their Facebook account and their Buzz account. So I'm getting three of this guy's boring feeds about what funny sweater-vests his co-workers are wearing that day, new product launches, where he's going for breakfast, how cold it is at the bus stop, how much he hates such and such restaurant because of their service, how wonderful his wife is, and back around again to how awesome it is to work for his employer. Quite honestly, it's drab. He's treading the fine line between trying to maintain this image of purity enough so that he won't be reprimanded, but he's also so torn about what his own personal social media means to him that he's also filling it in with crap no one at his company nor reading about his company want to know. He doesn't watch his Facebook account as much as his Twitter, so he'll get comments on FB and not read them or delete them after realizing someone's made a smartass remark. I'm guilty of this, but I added you because I knew you in real life, I didn't know you as some la-de-dah Web 2.0 Grand Wizard.

He's then used this followers he's achieved to branch off and make several Tumblr accounts which he then hash-tags within his personal/professional Twitter. Now this is where I draw the line. Not "ohhhhh man so drunk rite noww. 10:24pm" / "shit i was ttly loged in2 the wrong act!11! 10:25pm"

I don't think anyone's that dumb, well, not all of the time.

The simple answer here is to create separate business accounts or duplicate the so-called "Social Media Mullet"; have it set up so that, like on the aforementioned site, the only posts that go through to your company's site have a certain hashtag from specific users.

I'm a firm believer that while it makes a company look less like the corporation that it is and more like some dudes you could totally down a PBR with, that this sort of thing should be incredibly limited to certain people - or that each position within the company should have a sole person that reports anything their co-workers find, then naming that person, with or without an @. I know everyone likes to see their accounts pulled into a massive feed and it gives some sort of false implication that every "SLYT - Cute animals doing cute things to brighten up your Monday!" is important and will totally make all the hip young guns LOL! and RT; and that's nice, but when there's really something worth saying, that's what guest blogging is for.

Personally, I really dig what Analog has going on in the paragraph under their mug shots. Simple, fun, to the point. Takes a little more time to implement and you might have to get used to the formatting, but it's refreshing and just enough of the "Ah, there's real people inside that there internet!"

#tl;dr #wat
posted by june made him a gemini at 5:36 AM on February 17, 2010


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