It’s a tricky one, isn’t it ? How much do you trust your friends / contacts on any of the social media you’re frequenting not to blab if you had a slip of the tongue that could be interpreted as slandering the company you’re working for. And I’m not even referring to something as obvious as someone saying they hate their job so much they don’t want to get up in the morning, only to be told by their boss that their wish is granted: from now on they can stay in bed because there’s no longer a job for them.
Surely no-one would do something as stupid as this, would they ? Well I must admit that I’ve come too close for comfort on one occasion, making me very wary to have many people from work as friends on Facebook or connections on LinkedIn. The reason for this is that at one stage I was only an inch away from a disciplinary and had to grovel and eat humble pie after I made the following comment on LinkedIn: “Where are our business analysts when you need them? They may as well be on the moon for all the good they are to us.”
Can’t quite remember what exactly brought about this outburst, but it must have stemmed from a long-standing feeling that whatever the business analysts were working on, it wasn’t on things that would help me, and by implication the audience that I was trying to serve. It’s a feeling that I was not alone with, since I’d heard the same sentiments expressed at Process Control. Except that this was done in a private conversation and not, like I did, on social media.
I don’t know who of my connections shopped me to Keith Steel, but the first I knew was a terse email displaying a screenshot of the offending comment, with the explicit message that this was a final warning, and that if the message was not taken down, or if any repeat offence happened in the future, more severe action would be taken.
As I said, my response after discussing my options with my boss (to be honest there weren’t many available) was to apologise, claim that I hadn’t realised the gravity of the situation, and promise that this would never happen again. Where upon I closed my LinkedIn account and took the further precaution to defriend about two thirds of Tata Steel people I was friends with on Facebook.
Since then I’ve reopened my LinkedIn account, but this time round was more careful about who I accepted as connections. Besides, until I started writing this blog, I never added any further content apart from maybe padding out my profile. It’s far too easy to see a joke or sarcastic remark taken out of context and have it used as evidence that you’re bringing the company into disrepute.
Still, even after all these years I still feel bad about this episode. For starters, my comments were not directed at the company, I was merely regurgitating a gripe about a small subset of its employees. Secondly, I didn’t name anyone by name, nor did I say what company I was referring to (although obviously people in the know would have understood who it was aimed at). And thirdly, even though I clearly was in the wrong, I felt like someone was misusing their position of power to blackmail me into submission.
It may have been for what was officially all the right reasons, but I don’t like blackmail.