Thank goodness that social media barely existed when I was coming up through the ranks. Even so, there were some close calls. Chalk it up to the hubris of youth, but I did some real bone head things 20-something years ago, and I know that I wasn’t alone in this. But, back then, there were no phone camera’s handy or tweets available to catch/share our ill-conceived attempts at humor.
One such incident had me writing an academy award type acceptance speech for a sales contest that I had won. My company had just installed a mainframe version of email and I sent it out to my entire office. Except that it wasn’t to my entire office, I inadvertently sent it out to my entire company… over 2,000 employees across 6 countries and 4 continents. Whups.
I didn’t get fired for this although I was in a great deal of hot water when my boss received a call from the President of the company (his manager’s manager’s manager’s manager). I like to think that I helped my company pioneer an “Acceptable Use Policy” for our new email system.
So, fast forward to today. Not only are cameras included on every phone, but people are extremely in-tune with political correctness. Everyone loves a sensational story and some people make it a point to take others down whenever possible. In this environment, we all must be hyper vigilant about what we say and do. There are currently no shortage of stories about people being punished and/or losing their jobs due to bad decisions or stupid, stupid behavior. A most recent example is Deborah Drever, the newly elected MLA from Calgary who is facing repercussions from her online postings. But the list is long – Jian Ghomeshi, Rob Ford and Shawn Simoes all have been vilified (and perhaps rightly so) in social media. Two of the three lost their jobs as a response (and, again, perhaps rightly so).
My point is that there are significant consequences when poor judgement is demonstrated. People can and do lose their jobs over this, especially when social media is involved. A very good article has been written by MacLeans on this topic. It shows that there is little to no boundaries between our personal and professional lives anymore. David O’Brien also recently posted about how this topic is very relevant to independent contractors.
Now, more than ever, it is important to understand that at any given time the whole world might be watching. And your employer will be watching as well. What may be captured can have both immediate consequences as well as those that will dog you for the rest of your life. We all need to maintain a higher degree of professionalism in this, our personal and business lives are now inextricably mixed.