Thursday, USA Today reported that an Indiana deputy attorney general was fired for inappropriate remarks on Twitter.
The whole thing started when Jeff Cox, a deputy attorney general since 2003, replied to a tweet by nonprofit news magazine Mother Jones that riot police in Madison, Wis., had been ordered to remove union supporters from the state capitol. Cox replied, "use live ammunition" and then called the protestors "political enemies" and "thugs."
In the course of the ensuing Twitter exchange with the Mother Jones reporter responsible for the tweet, Cox indicated that he advocated deadly force because the union supporters were "physically threatening legally elected officials."
Though Cox said he regrets his poor choice of words, he did not intend for the post to be taken literally, the story says.
Yes, it's social media cautionary tale number 2,053 for employees, but employers can learn something just as valuable from this situation.
A spokesman for the Indiana Attorney General's Office, who is quoted in the story, says the office does not (yet) have an official policy on employee use of social networking tools. Instead, he pointed to an employee handbook provision requiring employees to act in a professional manner during and after work hours.
Don't wait until something embarrassing happens before you craft your policies and then educate your employees about them. They're much more effective as a preventative tool than when they're used to clean up a public relations mess.