Fired because of Facebook – Implications for Reputation Managers

A South African has been fired and two others suspended for posting Facebook updates considered unacceptable by the their companies, The Times reported on Wednesday.

A 23-year-old administration clerk at a clothing factory south of Durban lost his job for calling his boss a "serial masturbator" on Facebook after being reported by a co-worker.

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The article ends of by stating that  Labour lawyer Johann van Zyl said many South African companies have blocked Facebook but are also wising up to the need for labour policies designed to prevent employees from bringing the company into disrepute in their private time.

But here in lies the problem.

How can you expect certain things of an employee if you have not educated them in the importance of reputation and the things that can affect it? Does your company have a Blogging Policy? A Policy that incorporates best practices, take into account constitutional issues freedom of  speech, whistle blowing, transparency and stakeholder engagement issues?

Have you adequately INFORMED, EDUCATED, TRAINED & INSTRUCTED the employee in the use of the Internet, Social Media, and what they are allowed to write , and not write, together with the consequences and results of non-compliance?

Employers have rights and responsibilities and so does employees, but this case is not as simple as it seems on the surface.

Why would an employee use that avenue to vent? Have you determined the real reasons why? What if a customer or stakeholder did that? Will you resort to going to court, just like Telkom did?

This issue goes far deeper. To solve will need a communication, labour relations, organizational behavior, legal and reputation related intervention.

Beware of setting policies randomly in offices. Do your homework, and do it carefully.