Like most people in the service industry from time to time, Charlotte waitress Ashley Johnson got a bad tip recently. After a couple took a three hour lunch—forcing her to stay an hour past the end of her shift—and left a $5 tip, she vented on Facebook. A couple days later, her boss called her in. They had her Facebook post and informed her that she’d violated company policies on not making disparaging remarks about customers or casting the restaurant in a negative light.
Johnson regrets the comments, though she’s not sure how her manager got ahold of them. (She says they’re private, and only her friends can see them—but I think we all know that few people know exactly what is and isn’t public on a social network, especially with Facebook privacy settings changing all the time.) But Johnson isn’t alone—Facebook remorse is on the rise, according to a survey by Retrevo. 32% of people surveyed have posted something online that they regret. Of that 32%:
Interestingly, mobile access apparently gives us even more opportunity to mess up. 59% of iPhone users and 54% of smartphone users have posted something online they regretted. (Age, however, may help: only 27% of people over 25 have posted something they regret, while 54% of those under 25 have.)
Now, before we have the usually “this violates her right to free speech” complaints, let’s remember that it doesn’t. Johnson’s employer, Brixx Pizza, is not the government. The Charlotte Observer reminds us that Brixx Pizza was well within their rights:
While the First Amendment bars government from infringing on citizens’ freedom of speech, [Megan Ruwe, a Minnesota attorney who counsels employers on handling workers and social networks] said, it typically doesn’t stop private employers from limiting their employees’ speech. She advises companies to set policies to make their expectations clear.
If you say something on social networks that puts your employer in a negative light, she said, “that’s not very different than an employee standing on a corner and holding a sign or screaming it. It’s public, and it’s out there for the world to see. Individuals can forget that it is a very public forum.”
Yes, in the USA, we’re allowed to say almost anything we want. But that doesn’t free us from responsibility for our words. We all have to remember: part of online reputation management isn’t doing things you’d be ashamed of on the Internet—even when you might think no one will find out.
Of course, now Brixx Pizza has an ORM problem of its own with people who don’t understand that—and people who sympathize with Johnson. Johnson, for her part, has apologized to the restaurant and is looking for a new job—and has had more than enough of the publicity this story has brought her.
Hat-tip to searchengineman