Career Ending Social Media Missteps

Recent social media missteps show how just one tweet can have an impact on your career

Two recent high profile social media incidents have me thinking about how new media impacts careers. The Society for Human Resource Management or SHRM has written about this for some time, so it’s not a new phenomenon.

Here in Charlotte, NC where I live, a woman was terminated over the weekend for her behavior the was captured on a cell phone. She is seen in the video harassing two African American women. In another recent incident a VP at Campbell Soup Company is leaving the organization after a controversial tweet. These are just two examples among many that social media is influencing the workplace. You can spend a long time building your personal brand and reputation but it can be fundamentally changed with a single social media misstep.

Companies have values and a brand or reputation to protect. When employees who are associated with a company or brand do things in public that are not in line with those values, companies have to reflect on how they want to handle the situation. They may consider the seriousness of the offending behavior or the impact to their brand. Based on their reflection, they may punish the employee including up to termination.

But what about free speech? We are blessed in the United States to have the freedom of speech. However, that doesn’t mean freedom from the responsibility associated with our speech. Our associations with companies can be linked through our employment records and social media accounts like LinkedIn. If our behavior online reflects poorly on our employer’s brand or is in contradiction with their values, there will likely be consequences to our speech.

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