The case study “Fired over Facebook” by Gossett (2012) from Case Studies in Organizational Communication is concerned with employers monitoring workers’ social media. This problem is high on the agenda in the modern world because a significant amount of communication and information sharing happens online, and general access to such information is nowadays unlimited. The largest issue, in this case, is associated with the variety of ways whereby employees’ organizational responsibilities may come into direct conflict with their rights (Gossett, 2012). In this assessment, a situation reflecting the problem under consideration will be discussed along with solutions for addressing such incidents. Because an employee of BRIXX restaurant made a negative comment online that mentioned the company’s name, she was fired instantly regardless of the situation not being as transparent as it first seemed. The solution was rather ineffective because it raised questions about the appropriateness of monitoring employees’ behaviors online, prompting arguments on social media policies in the workplace.
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Evaluation of Solution
The ongoing increase in the number of social media platforms has blurred the boundaries between personal and workplace privacy. From the perspective of ethical theory, some level of controversy arises between supporting an employee’s duty to an organization and supporting individual rights (Gossett, 2012). The key conflict, in this case, arises when bosses monitor the activities of their subordinates online because they are afraid of their reputation being ruined. On one side of the argument, workers must support the rules and interests of their companies online if they want to retain their positions. On the other side, collective systems have a responsibility to protect the interests of employees. Overall, the issue is complex and requires serious collaboration between employers and employees to establish boundaries that all parties will find acceptable.
The case study mentioned the example of an employee being fired because of her online behavior. In this case, a waitress, Ms. Johnson, complained about a customer who left a small tip after occupying a table in her station for three hours. Upset with the customer, she posted the following on her Facebook page: “Thanks for eating at BRIXX, you cheap piece of **** camper” (Gossett, 2012, p. 210). The restaurant’s management justified firing the waitress because she violated a policy clause that prohibited workers from making negative online statements involving the company. Thus, the company sought to solve the problem of a negative post on social media by firing a worker without considering the array of accompanying details (“Managing and leveraging workplace use of social media,” 2016). While this may seem an open-and-shut case, the problem lays in the fact that the waitress used a privacy setting that shared her Facebook posts with only a small number of friends. As a result, the solution to the problem received a mixed response from the general public that was aware of the case.
The BRIXX case is important to consider because it can be interpreted in numerous ways. Some may say that an employee who does not like the rules set by an employer should find another job. For example, a commenter left the following observation: “The girl violated company policy. Her fault, not the company’s” (Gossett, 2012, p. 211). Another common response to the situation was that it is fine to complain online about one’s job as long as all tracks are covered, for example: “Had Ashley not mentioned BRIXX then it would be just another person complaining about her job” (Gossett, 2012, p. 212). Other comments on the situation included such opinions as “complaining is acceptable but offline” and “Ms. Johnson did not violate the policy because her post was not visible to the general public.”
The debate about whether it is right for workers to make negative online comments about an organization where they work is directly related to the policies that companies establish. Any business can enforce any rules regarding online behavior, and employees have the right to choose whether they will work for companies that have strict rules. However, it is important that these rules are as specific as possible and do not violate the laws and regulations established in a given jurisdiction. The power of unions also plays a significant role in creating guidelines associated with media use because, after all, they represent the interests of workers and will not allow employers to set standards that cannot be achieved.
Thus, the solution to the issue of monitoring employees’ online behavior is associated with combining corporate social media policies that consider and respect privacy rights. These policies should provide answers to the main question regarding what extent a message posted online showing a negative attitude toward a company may differ from a private email sent by a worker to a third party (Gossett, 2012). Other questions should include the following:
What are the limits for employers in terms of the ability to fire workers because of their private statements online?
- Does an organization have the right to monitor what workers say on social media?
- When does online monitoring restrict the personal right to free speech?
- Does it matter what workers say about a company in their free time?
- Is positive feedback okay, but negative is forbidden?
When a company establishes a policy that gives answers to all the questions mentioned above, fewer confrontations will likely take place between employers and employees. This solution will work when both bosses and subordinates comply with their responsibilities and perform their due diligence in pointing out whether a party has violated the established rules. Unfortunately, violations and misunderstandings are bound to occur due to the nature of human error; however, in investigating cases of their employees’ unethical online behavior, employers should exercise caution and consider all aspects of the situation.
In conclusion, the case of an employee being fired because of her negative comments posted online has proved to be extremely complex. Companies that monitor what their workers say online are deeply concerned with their image and public perception. The issue of being fired over Facebook posts is controversial because every individual has likely complained about his or her work at least once, and social media is a common vehicle for doing so. The case of BRIXX firing a waitress for making a negative online comment received major attention, with opinions being divided into: “the post should not have been published” and “such posts are made every day.” The solution of firing a worker over a Facebook post was not effective because the management did not explore the issue in great detail, thus failing to consider all circumstances of the situation. Thus, it is a good idea to establish a clear workplace policy outlining the pros and cons of social media posting before firing workers because of non-compliance.
Gossett, L. M. (2012). Fired over Facebook: Issue of employee monitoring and personal privacy on social media websites. In S. May (Ed.), Case studies in organizational communication: Ethical perspectives and practices (pp. 207-217). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.