More often than not, posts about Facebook on this blog address what employees should and shouldn't do via the social networking site if they don't want their social media activity to negatively impact their jobs. But today, the employer's "should" and "should not" lists are more the running theme.
First there is the labor law case in which the National Labor Relations Board is arguing that a Connecticut ambulance worker should not have been fired for very colorfully "airing her grievances" about her supervisor in a Facebook post, to which her colleagues apparently responded, resulting in a "discussion" of sorts. That discussion of the terms and conditions of employment should have been protected speech under labor laws, the board said. In its complaint, the agency likened Facebook to the company water cooler.
Though the hearing in the matter has been delayed in favor of continuing settlement negotiations, resolution of the case could set a very interesting precedent indeed.
Worse than that, though, are the instances in which employers have made use of Facebook to communicate to employees regarding the status of their employment. Remember the teenager in the UK who was informed she was no longer needed at her weekend cafe job via a wall post from her supervisor?
I was aggravated at the idea of such "firing" then. It's not professional. I don't care how casual the employment relationship, it's not the way to go. But now I have an example that hits closer to home-and "aggravated" is a gross understatement.
A few weeks ago, a friend's spouse was laid off from a part-time position at a local retail establishment via Facebook message. One day, he got a message from his manager asking why he needed the few hours per week he was working. He responded, and a week later, he and a handful of coworkers received a group Facebook message telling them not to report for their next scheduled shifts.
Seriously? In this kind of economy, you're going to use Facebook to tell a grown man who comes into your brick and mortar place of business to serve your customers that he no longer has the job he counted on to help support his household while he goes to school full time?
This isn't a school girl earning spending money to supplement her allowance. This is an adult who was working to pay bills so he and his wife can eat and have a roof over their heads, for pity's sake. Have the decency to tell him to his face that you're cutting back. Anything less is dehumanizing and disrespectful.
Even if he had been a teleworker-making calls for a collections company based in another town, for instance-I would still say there are better ways to go about letting him go.
Several years ago, I was laid off from a home-based position due to a company-wide reduction in force. At the time, my supervisor, who was based in Michigan (I think), called me at home and conferenced in our department's Colorado-based human resources specialist. They took the time to explain what was happening and to answer all of my questions. It wasn't fun, but I wasn't mistreated, and as a result, I didn't leave with a sour taste in my mouth. In fact, I could even recommend the company later when people asked what my experience there had been like.
Using Facebook to deliver a life-changing message like "You no longer have a job" tells the employee that you couldn't care less about his contribution to your company or about him as a person. The fact that other people were included on the message adds insult to injury, notwithstanding that they, too, lost their jobs. Give them time to deal with the news themselves before having to put on a brave face in front of others.
And think about the kind of message such practices send to prospective employees, or even customers, when word gets around. It won't be pretty.
Yes, you may have an organization that almost prides itself on a casual, cutting-edge approach, but when you're dealing with someone's livelihood, tread carefully. Doing otherwise may impact your business in ways you can't foresee.