Don’t Hit Send, and Other Stories of Internet Revenge

Let’s imagine you’re one of those people who wants a modicum of success in his or her life. Sounds like most of us, no? Maybe you’d like to pick a career and enjoy a good run leading up to a good retirement. Maybe you want to build a business and turn it into an institution. Maybe you’d just like a good job and a comfortable life.

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If you want these things, what are some things you don’t want to do?

  • You don’t want to be the guy who reacts like a maniac when someone cuts you off in traffic.
  • If you do react like a maniac when someone cuts you off in traffic, you don’t want to become the guy who follows the offending motorist several miles to his home.
  • If you do become the guy who follows the offending motorist home, you don’t want to become the guy who slings slurs during a racist tirade.
  • If you do become the guy who slings slurs during a racist tirade, you don’t want to become the guy who continues the outburst while being recorded on a cell phone.
  • And if all else fails, and you do become the guy who continues said tirade on camera, never under any circumstances do you want to be frothing at the mouth through the driver-side window of your work truck, with your company name, telephone number, and state contractor license number emblazoned across the door.

You just might find that the business—and your hopes for a successful career—will see a wee bit of a setback. (By the way, this isn’t my overactive imagination—it was a real thing.)

It Might Be Impossible to Keep Work and Personal Life Separate

As much as people try to separate work and personal lives, the two inevitably run together.  For instance, a number of baseball players and celebrities during the last few weeks are learning the hard way that social media posts from long ago can lying in wait to throw sand in your gears today.  As former ESPN contributor and current Arizona State football coach Herman Edwards is fond of exclaiming, “Don’t. Hit. Send!”

For employers, however, your employees did hit “Send” in the past and will continue to do so in the future.  We have featured a number of posts the last several weeks specific to social media issues, and I recommend them to you for your consideration.  As a general matter, though, your employees need to realize that, even if off the clock, their actions outside your walls can reflect back on you just as much as their actions on the clock:

  • The employee who drives her work vehicle with the company logo represents you even if she’s not conducting business at the moment.
  • The employee who wears his uniform on the way home and berates a store clerk will cost you business just the same as if he were making a sales call.

What can you do, beyond training and hoping that you hire great people?  For starters, I recommend policies on off-work time conduct, especially for those employees who drive a company vehicle.  Consider whether state law will allow or restrict the company’s ability to track the location of that vehicle, so your vehicle doesn’t become a billboard sitting outside of any, well … less than desirable establishments.

As the line between professional and personal, work and play, and individual and corporate blur even further, employers need to keep their eyes on the ball.