Breaking news from the BBC today – a sixteen year old, Kimberly Swann, was fired from her job because on her Facebook page, she said her job was “boring.” In fact, the actual quote was, “today my job was so boring.”
It’s important to note that she did not name the company (Ivell Marketing and Logistics), nor was the company listed anywhere on her page (i.e. in the Info section). However, some of her colleagues were “friends” and saw the comment. The company’s spokesperson, Steve Ivell said, “her display of disrespect and dissatisfaction undermined the relationship and made it untenable.” He went on to say that had she put that comment “on the company’s bulletin board, it would have been the same result.”
Well, okay. I can see that. If she had put a note on company property, okay, it would be time for a chat. But, I really think this company is overreacting here. Swann said that it was just a “throw-away comment and that employees shouldn’t be hassled outside of work.”
Secretary General Brendan Barber suggested that employers need “thicker skins” in relation to social networking sites. And, he goes on to point out that “most employers wouldn’t dream of following their staff down to the pub to see if they were sounding off about work to their friends.”
Now, that’s certainly true. But, an argument could be made that a comment made verbally doesn’t have the permanence of something posted to Facebook…which brings me back to the fact that unless you knew Swann and knew where she worked, there was no real damage done to the company since they weren’t named.
What really gets me is that Ivell Marketing and Logistics missed a great opportunity here. From now on, they will – at least in the UK – be known as the company that fired that poor little girl. They’ve now created a brand impression of being “un-hip” and “big-brother-like.” Maybe that won’t matter to them right now. But, as they attempt to attract younger staff – which every company must do to stay alive – they just might find the Web 2.0 generation has a pretty long memory.
Plus, wouldn’t this have made a much better story if the company, after having seen that comment, made the effort to improve Swann’s job satisfaction? After all, a bored employee is not always a bad problem to have. Give that employee more work, different work, or get her involved in some other aspect of the company and the headline could have been Teen’s Comment About Boring Job on Facebook Drove Company to Find Her A Better Position. Okay, so it’s a crummy headline, but you get the point.
We have absolutely seen Facebook comments that are grounds for firing. And, I’ve certainly heard colleague comments in the break room that would have sent the bosses through the roof. But, I really believe this is a case where the boss made a mountain of negative press out of the teeniest mole hill of a statement.