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IT Contractors and the “Court of Social Media”

​After last week’s highly visible, and viscerally reprehensible, incident of a Hydro One employee’s  obscene harassment of a female television reporter  was caught on tape in all it’s shameful glory and ultimately led to him losing his job, it’s a good time to pause and consider the ramifications for contractors when working with clients. The incident and the results are now notorious and, while one would think common sense and decency would prevail, we need to take some time to understand what has changed and what is at stake.

The swiftness with which the individual was identified through social media was only matched by the speed with which his employer, Hydro One, dismissed him. While there were whimpers of “does the punishment fit the crime,” there was near unanimity on the side of the employer.  If there was any controversy, it was left for the employment lawyers, many of whom indicated that today, with the advent of social media, there are blurry lines between an individual’s personal time off and company or work time. The court of social media often plays a big role in swiftly identifying individuals and, in many cases, leading the charge in retribution.

It now goes without saying that it does not take long to identify one’s employer or, in the case of independent contractors, their business. LinkedIn and often other social media sites like Facebook can offer that information in seconds. It would follow, then, that there is no apparent reasonable expectation that you in some way do not always represent your employer or your business or your agency. Contractors especially need to protect their reputations as in independent contracting it is very much your currency.

Many organizations today have Employee Codes of Conduct but additionally, now contractors, consultants and suppliers also sign these commitments. While the specifics often reference business relationships, there is both an explicit expectation of good behavior (crime, anti-corruption, privacy, etc.) and there is also an implicit expectation one will represent their client in a positive and ethical acceptable societal standard. While the specific incident referenced above took place in full view of TV cameras, we must all be aware that the things we say and do on internet sites also affect our business, as the digital age has created space for some of the ugliest of human behavior, anonymous and otherwise.

Along with their own business and their clients, independent contractors are also representing their agencies, who put a great deal of work and time into ensuring their standards ,relationships and indeed their core values are upheld with their client, as ethical and quality suppliers are paramount.

In summary, independent contractors must protect their own personal and business reputations that they have worked long and hard to establish. After all, it can only take minutes of bad judgement and behavior to destroy.