Monday, May 14, 2012

This time, it's personal

A Canada Post Corporation employee has been relieved of their duties as a sorter due to some angry and derogatory comments made about the management of her organization on Facebook. The Union is appealing the decision on the basis that the employee should not have been fired suddenly due to her years of service with the organization, while the members of management affected have each taken a leave of absence to deal with the stress and trauma of being called out online. The employee is unrepentant, stating that it was management who drove her to make the comments because of the toxic work environment that they had created.

While most of us know that Facebook is a public social media service which is readily accessible to all, we also know that it can and will be held against us. Whether it's friendly blackmail of you at that party where you've had a few too many or the bad stuff that you say about your ex, the stuff on the internet is free game and you must be careful what you post.

The case of this woman is pretty clear. She abused her management through social networking and her rants were public. She wrote herself a one way ticket out of her job and pleading ignorance will not do her any good, especially to a tech-savvy young generation of people who know the pitfalls and joys of cyberculture all too well. But it does raise an interesting and important question: just how do you divide the line between your personal and your private life? Your life online is more public than you think, and it's not just reputations that can get stained, but jobs can get lost too.

And it's not just the jobs we have, but future employment as well. Apparently, more and more employers are checking their prospective employees on Facebook and Twitter as well as other social media sites. While they cannot force the employee to give them access, they can search and view pages that may belong to you and are not intended for professional purposes.

So how much of our online profile is fair game? Is it fair for prospective employees to check on intangible qualities, like my recreational preferences or the fact that I might have a cute dog? Will employers see an opportunity to peak into the lives of their employees and check if they're family-oriented or listen to rap music? Will it allow them to discriminate based on lifestyle choices?

The honest answer is that it will. The follow up question is whether or not it should. Your social media profile should not factor into a decision about your employability or your character. Employees should not be obligated to disclose their social media information to their employer or 'Friend' them.

And on the flipside? Less may be more when it comes to your online footprint with social media.

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