Kimberley Swann was a 16-year-old office administrator at Ivell Marketing & Logistics, located in the international financial powerhouse that is Clacton-on-Sea, Essex. She, like most teenagers, owned a Facebook page, but little did she know that it would result in her dismissal from her job.
Facebook, which enables users to share their thoughts with others via status updates and wall posts, is becoming more and more common each day, and companies are aware of the potential damage that it can do. In Kimberley’s case, she described her office administrator’s job as “boring”, and unfortunately for her, this was visible to the public. Her post was discovered, and she was promptly fired, receiving a letter which read:“Following your comments made on Facebook about your job and the company we feel it is better that, as you are not happy and do not enjoy your work we end your employment with Ivell Marketing & Logistics with immediate effect.”1
Kimberley’s story is not unique. Her comment that her job was boring was decidedly mild compared to the British girl who forgot that she added her boss as a friend and then went on to lampoon his homosexual behavior, using rampant profanity in her comments2. Needless to say, she didn’t work for him much longer.
There is an intense debate brewing about whether companies should be able to fire their employees based on comments they make on social networking sites such as Facebook. Miss Swann thought that her company was intruding upon her privacy, saying that they had no right to peruse her “personal site”. General secretary Brendan Barber compared the company’s examination of Facebook to following employees down to the pub to see if they were complaining about their job to their friends. However, there are plenty of arguments to support the other side as well. During the job search, several employers glance at the online profiles of potential employers to get a glimpse of their personality in general, because most job applications contain only what the applicant wants the employer to see. Most of the information posted on Facebook is visible to the general public, and how is an employer supposed to react if he stumbles upon an employee’s Facebook page that denounces the boss as homosexual?
So, just to be careful, next time you log on to your Facebook account. Remember that anything you post could be viewed by the general public, so if you want to keep your job, it is best to keep your negative thoughts to yourself. Even though Facebook markets itself as a place to express yourself, this can come back to hurt your career, so use discretion.