Think Before You Tweet

August 13, 2012

Twitter gossipAlthough social media is a relatively new technology, we have already learned numerous lessons about how many different ways it can cause trouble for unwary users. 

The broad reach and informal nature of content make social media convenient and fun, but also a potential threat. It has brought down careless politicians, tripped up job applicants, and disclosed valuable proprietary information.

We know that employees can lose their jobs as a result of inappropriate social media postings.

However, the media reports describing the story of Gene Morphis, remind us that thoughtless tweeting can cost even the most senior corporate executives their jobs.

Until recently, Morphis was the chief financial officer of the publicly-traded, fashion retailing company, Francesca’s Holdings Corporation.  He was also an active social media user, posting frequently on both Facebook and Twitter.

Like most social media users, his online posts covered a range of personal and professional topics. The ones which ultimately got him in trouble, however, were his candid thoughts regarding his company, his job, and his colleagues.

It is important to note that Morphis never posted any illegal material.

He did not disclose trade secrets, violate intellectual property or securities disclosure laws, or publish any defamatory content.

All he did was present his thoughts about his work and the people around him.

Unfortunately for Mr. Morphis, those thoughts included opinions regarding his relationship with the company’s board of directors and investors.

His posts included discussion of how his interaction with the company’s board of directors was no longer as fun as it formerly was, as he now felt the need always to be on his guard when dealing with the board members.

After reviewing the Morphis social media content, his company fired him, for cause. 

Although not illegal, the company considered his social media communications to be inappropriate conduct for a senior executive.

The Morphis experience provides a timely and significant lesson.  When participating in social media, it is essential to think before you tweet.

This is true whether you are a junior staffer, a mid-level employee, or a senior executive.

The old adage advises that before you speak you should consider whether you would like to see your comments published as the headline of the next day’s newspaper.

That advice remains sound today.  In the digital age, publishing your posts on social media is the equivalent of a front page headline, as all your friends and followers around the world have immediate access to your opinions.

Consider that the next time you are ready to post.  It is a sobering thought.