Social Media

Who really gets fired for social media posts? We studied hundreds of cases to discover

Who really gets fired for social media posts?  We studied hundreds of cases to discover

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What you say and do on social media can affect your job; it can keep you from getting hired, block your career progression, and even get you fired. Is this fair or an invasion of privacy?

Our recent to research involved a study of 312 news articles about people who had been fired because of a social media post.

These included stories about posts people had made themselves, like a teacher who was fired after coming out as bisexual on Instagram, or a retail worker who dropped a racist post on Facebook.

It also included articles about posts made by others, such as videos of police officers engaging in racial profiling (which led to their firing).

Racism was the most common reason people were fired in these stories, with 28% of stories specifically related to racism. Other forms of discriminatory behavior were sometimes involved, such as queerphobia and misogyny (7%); workplace conflict (17%); offensive content such as “malicious jokes” and insensitive messages (16%); acts of violence and abuse (8%); and “political content” (5%).

We also found these stories focused on cases of people being laid off from public-facing jobs with high levels of responsibility and control. These included police/law enforcement (20%), teachers (8%), media workers (8%), healthcare professionals (7%) and civil servants (3%) , as well as workers in service positions such as reception and catering. retail trade (13%).

Social media is a double-edged sword. It can be used to hold people accountable for discriminatory opinions, comments or actions. But our study also raised important questions about privacy, common HR practices and how employers use social media to make decisions about their workforce.

Young people in particular are expected to navigate social media use (documenting their lives, spending time with friends and expressing themselves) with the threat of future reputational damage.

Are all online publications fair?

Many believe that people just have to accept the fact that what you say and do on social media can be used against you.

And that one should only post content that their boss (or potential boss) wouldn’t mind. seeing.

But to what extent should employers and hiring managers respect employee privacy and not use personal social networks to make employment decisions?

Or is it all fair game in making hiring and firing decisions?

On the one hand, the ability to use social media to hold certain people (like the police and politicians) to account for what they say and do can be extremely valuable for democracy and society.

Powerful social movements such as #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter have used social media to expose structural social issues and individual bad actors.

On the other hand, when ordinary people lose their jobs (or not get hired in the first place) because they are LGBTQ+, post a picture of themselves in a bikini, or complain about customers in private spaces (all stories from our study), the boundary between work and private life is blurry.

Cell phones, email, working from home, highly competitive job markets, and the intertwining of “work” with “identity” all blur that line.

Some workers need to develop their own strategies and tacticssuch as not making friends or not following colleagues on certain social networks (which in itself can lead to tension).

And even when one derives joy and fulfillment from work, one should expect certain boundaries to be respected.

Employers, HR workers and managers need to think carefully about the boundaries between work and personal life; using social media in employment decisions can be more complicated than it seems.

A “hidden surveillance program”

When people feel watched by employers (current or imagined future) when they use social media, it creates a “hidden surveillance program.” For young people in particular, this can be detrimental and inhibiting.

This hidden agenda of surveillance works to produce compliant, empowered citizen-employees. They are pushed to organize often very sterile representations of their life on social networks, always under the threat of job loss.

At the same time, these same social media have a clear and productive role in exposing abuses of power. Bad behavior, misconduct, racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and other forms of bigotry, harassment and violence have all been exposed through social media.

So this surveillance can be both bad and good – invasive in some cases and for some people (especially young people whose digital lives are managed through this lens of future impact) but also liberating and enabling justice, accountability and transparency. in other scenarios and for other actors.

Social media can be a effective way for people to find workfor employers to find employeesto present professional profiles on sites like LinkedIn or work portfolios on platforms like Instagram, but these can also be personal spaces even when not set to private.

How we get the right balance between using social media to hold people accountable and the risk of invading people’s privacy is context-dependent, of course, and ultimately a question of power.

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