For some reason, many people have the idea that if they use a social network or other popular website they can say whatever they want. People feel that sites like Facebook are their playground. They can talk about their employer or former employer without any recourse. People are finding out that this is not true. Steven Hodson of Inquisitr reports that Virgin Atlantic fired 13 people due to their Facebook use:

Recently there has been a bunch os folks say that corporations need to lighten up and let their servants employees waste spend company time on social media sites like Facebook. Well apparently someone forgot to send the memo though to Virgin Atlantic Airways because 13 staff found themselves fired due to some silliness they had done on Facebook.

In the quote, you will notice that Steven “crosses out” the words servants and waste. As much as Steven did this for humorous effect, but I find this interesting because people ignore these ideas. People also think that spending some time on social networks while working is not a big deal, but there are some people who spend a large portion of their work day on these sites. Of course, some sites feel this is not a problem. TechDirt calls banning facebook at work silly:

Earlier this year, we pointed out that it was silly for companies to block Facebook at work, because it’s merely a communications tool. It can be misused, but that would show up in the performance of the employee. Instead, embracing Facebook and recognizing that it’s just a communications platform — like the telephone or like email (both of which some companies wanted to ban when they first became popular), it can be a very valuable tool.

Facebook could be a valuable tool for some companies, but it really depends on what your position is and what you are saying on these networks. For a large company like Virgin Atlantic, having your own employees complain about passengers or safety standards is a very big issue. If you have your employer information on your social network profile, you must be aware of the fact that people will read what you are saying as an employee of that company. For the Virgin Atlantic example, we all know that these people are not stating the “official opinion” of the company, but if these people do interact with passengers they are definitely damaging the reputation of the company. The Inquisitr has the “money quote” from this situation:

“It is impossible for these cabin crew members to uphold [our] high standards of customer service… if they hold these views.”

You may disagree with management’s response, but let’s look at this from a different angle. If you are looking for an airline to use for a future trip, and you see that the cabin crew from Virgin Atlantic is complaining about passengers, will you book a flight on that airline? I highly doubt it.

So, in response to situations like this, many companies will ban social network sites while at the workplace. Obviously, people complain about this but are missing the real point. If you are a staff accountant, there is very little benefit to the company for you having Facebook access. If there are questions you need to find answers for, then you can email people or use a search engine. There may be sites specific to your job function that you need access to, and that should be allowed. This is a very realistic stance for larger corporations. Again, let’s look at this from a more personal angle. If you hire a plumber to fix your sink, is it OK if the plumber uses your computer and internet connection to update his Facebook status to say they are fixing your sink or even just to browse around Facebook for 15 minutes? Again, I highly doubt it. You are paying the plumber for every minute they are at your residence. You do not want to pay the plumber for playing with Facebook, do you?

When you work for someone, you are generally seen as an employee of that company. People know that you do not represent the “official opinion” of that company, but your opinions are still seen as an employee of that company. When you make comments on a site like Facebook, those comments are readily available to whoever wants to see them. On the internet, almost everything is public. If you want to blow off steam with some coworkers, go to a bar and complain at the bartender.

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