For those of you that don’t know what the term “dooced” means, it’s a phrase that was coined by blogger Heather Armstrong after she was fired from her web design job for writing about work and colleagues on her blog, dooce.com. Getting fired for posting on the blog or through other social media is not new, and as long as there are people, there will be employees that get fired for the comments they make.
According to a local news source, a Seattle barista was writing anonymously on his blog “Bitter Barista.” In the blog, he made comments about certain customers but did not identify the customers and he wrote that his vocabulary was too complex for his boss to understand. (“I like to use a lot of big words when I tweet, that way if my boss ever finds my twitter account, he won’t understand any of it”, “One day my boss is going to stumble on my twitter account. I’ll need to borrow some money the day after that happens…” and “My boss saw my Facebook Page last night. Anyone know anyone looking to hire a barista with a terrible attitude and inflexible schedule?” The Bitter Barista’s comments most likely would’ve remained anonymous had not another coffee site (sprudge.com) outed him. Needless to say, upon learning of the Bitter Barista’s comments, his boss, demonstrating his affinity for using language that was not too complex, told the barista that he was fired. (Actually, the boss had someone else fire Bitter. “The worst part about my boss not having the courage to fire me himself: I didn’t get to yell, “No, YOU’RE fired!””) Before you get up in arms and start rallying the troops against the folks at sprudge, it appears members of the coffee community have shared their opinions of sprudge.com’s decision to out the Bitter Barista. Some of the nicer comments call those responsible lame, immature and childish. Other comments, shall we say are more colorful, and suggest rather uncomfortable sexual acts.
The real issue is whether the employer could fire the Bitter Barista. Assuming Bitter was an at will employee, there was nothing protecting him from termination in light of his comments. Employees tend to think of witty things to say about their coworkers, company and customers and they tend share them with the entire world on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and on blogs. It is not that the employee intended to act in a malicious fashion; they use social media as a mechanism to communicate with their peers (and the rest of the world) to blow off steam. It is the “rest of the world” part of the social media equation that is the problem, for them and you.
The Bitter Barista is not the first, nor the last, employee to get dooced.
As an employee, you should know that what you post, share or otherwise communicate to the world at large will come back to hurt you. That holds true even if you post anonymously or limit access to your social media account. A good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t say it directly to the person’s face, don’t share it on the web.
Employers, you spend too much time training employees to lose them due to an error in judgment. These problems can be avoided if you take the time to educate your employees about what your company considers to be proper and improper uses of social media. As part of that educational process, you should have an up-to-date handbook that addresses, among other things, the company’s policies on social media, blogging, email and Internet usage.
Until next time, be careful with what you share on the web.