Zimmerman Verdict Draws Twitter Rants, At Least Two People Fired

At least two people have been fired after their Twitter comments about the recent George Zimmerman verdict reached their unsympathetic bosses.

Last week Texan Rita DeShannon was fired for a string of racist tweets, starting with one reading, Confusing political correctness with not being a bigot, she started out with “I’m really f***ing tired of being politically correct for nothing after all these years!” She went on to call Martin a “thug in training” but also noted that she wasn’t racist and that would “kill any color of person who tried to kill her first.”


DeShannon was a special investigator for Child Protective Services (let that sink in for a minute) which has a clear policy on prejudiced behavior at all times and in all venues, including social media. She was fired for violating that policy, which included several tweets with the N-word. (NOTE: I’m working to get a copy of the Texas CPS policy and will update when I receive it.)

In the second instance, a 17-year-old lost a job before she even started in Michigan, after tweeting she was thankful for the bullet that killed Martin on the night the Zimmerman verdict was announced. Sarah Taylor (who listed her name on Twitter as sarah fucking
taylor-RED FLAG) was canned by her new boss at Biggby Coffee after several tweets and Facebook posts alerted him to her comments, which he described as “horrific.”

Both of these ladies were infrequent tweeters with low numbers of followers. If they would have taken their opinions among friends, they’d probably still be employed and I wouldn’t be blogging about them now. But they both turned to a public forum to take part in a larger conversation and added a lot of heat and very little light to the discourse, taking their own employment and reputations down in the process.

I can’t say I’m surprised. The case and the verdict have been so polarizing along class and race lines that people have been very public about their feelings. Unfortunately for these two those feelings don’t reconcile with positions that serve the public at large, which include people like Martin AND Zimmerman.


5 Ways to Uncover The Hidden Social Media Rules of Your Office

In almost any workplace, there are hidden rules that govern how things get done. Perhaps you’ve noticed there’s magically a fresh pot of coffee ready at specific times throughout the day–who makes that? Or you’ve spotted a group of people leaving the office together on Thursday afternoons–where are they going? Your colleague has scored two promotions in the same time you’ve scored zero–what’s happening?

Cloudy worker

Get some clarity around social media at work with these five tips to uncover the hidden social media rules of your office.

A few years ago I spoke at conference hosted by the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of DC on this very topic, and it was amazing how many people have experienced this phenomenon and how few seemed to know what to do about it. It seemed like most of the attendees felt like they were automatically assigned a role on either the inside or the outside, and that they had no control over changing their position. This isn’t true, but it takes some work to find out where you fit in and either stay there or move into a new space.

It’s the people who learn and adapt to these unwritten rules that tend to get ahead at work, and I believe social media is becoming the same. Do you know how your workplace perceives social? Are you colleagues active participants? Do you know where you fit in on your office’s social media scale? If you’re not sure, here are five ways to figure out where you stand and chart a path moving forward.

  • Do your research: does your office have a social media policy? Don’ t assume the answer is know because you haven’t seen one. Ask your supervisor, check with HR or dig around on your corporate intranet to see if one exists. If you find one, read it! Ignorance won’t be an excuse if you violate company policy.

  • Emulate your colleagues: not sure how to best approach engaging with people or sharing information on social networks? Spend some time observing what colleagues you respect do–these days just about every office has people active in social media. This is a good place to start.

  • Tweet for the job you want, not the job you have: this is a play on the old adage “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” I don’t mean engage in a public search for a new job online for all to see. Instead, if you aspire to be a manager, look at what your management team is doing in social media and follow their lead. If your boss isn’t tweeting all day and you aspire to someday have her job, perhaps you shouldn’t be either (unless your position requires it). It’s also a good way to join in conversations about your industry and share useful tips, news and info.

  • Stay in your comfort zone: remember your activity is public, so even if you see your colleagues engaging in online shenanigans (and getting away with it) don’t feel pressured to do the same.  It’s up to you to At the end of the day you’re responsible for the content of your accounts. Similarly, decide your comfort with being online “friends” with your boss and colleagues.

  • Keep it simple: there are tons of social networks–you don’t have to engage in all of them just because others use them. Maybe Twitter and Pinterest is enough for you. Overextending yourself for the sake of social media isn’t a good way to manage your career!

Share your other ideas for ways to figure out how to manage social media at work in the comments below.


1 In 10 Lost Job Opps Thanks to Social Media? A Closer Look

The news has been abuzz thanks to a report that 10 percent of people say they’ve lost a job opportunity because of social media. This kind of news is definitely a big deal, but it’s not the most interesting part of the study released by international mobile research firm On Device last week.

Digging deeper into their research reveals several other nuggets related to social media and the workplace that are much more worrisome–first, that despite this number of people saying social media has impacted their job prospects, nearly 70 percent still say they aren’t concerned with what their social media use today will mean for future career opportunities. Its sort of like an “I know but I don’t really care” attitude, something already seen as a character trait (flaw?) of millenials.

Second, another question reveals that respondents do regularly adjust their profiles in light of how they might appear to others, but the numbers are higher for changes based on what would appeal to friends than what appeals to employers. Not surprisingly countries like China and Nigeria, where governments are known to be more repressive, have much higher rates of social account adjustments for employers–47 and 54 percent, respectively.

These numbers come from the Young People’s Consumer Confidence (YPCC) Index, a survey of 6000 16-34 year olds across six countries (Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, the US and UK) conducted by On Device Research. The index looks at consumer confidence in employment and education among young people to give companies a heads up on trends. The social media specific questions were distributed to a much wider population, up to more than 20,000 across those six countries in the case of the social media firings question, and about 17,000 respondents for the others.

What does this all mean? To borrow a British phrase, young people need to “mind the gap” between what their profiles represent and the expectations of employers. Unless your friends are doing the hiring, applicants can be excluded for a variety of reasons including social media profiles, which can add a layer of difficulty to breaking into a changing market in the first place.

Sick Kids, Bad Patients Lead to Social Flareups

I’m a new mom so two recent stories to hit the news about parents, doctors and social media firings really stuck out to me. In the first, a Georgia mother was fired after posting on her Facebook page about taking her sick daughter to urgent care because her own employer—a pediatrician’s office—didn’t have any appointments available. Sounds like a reasonable complaint—who wouldn’t think they should be able to slip their child in to see the doctor they work for? But not only did the office in question not agree, they found those comments troubling and fired her for violating the company’s social media policy of not posting anything disrespectful or defamatory.

This is a hard lesson, and media reports state the mother in question, Misty Robinson, is working with an attorney who believes her rights have been violated. This is a perfect scenario of social media conversations leading to different interpretations. Robinson didn’t think her post was problematic—she just wanted to share that her daughter was treated after all! But how would her employer know her motivations? Certainly they want to show they treat everyone fairly–imagine the response if she posted that another patient was bumped for her child. Whatever their reasons, they’re in the drivers seat when it comes to deciding how to respond. I’ll be interested to see how Robinson’s legal case proceeds.

The second story is no less aggravating, but for different reasons. Dr. Amy Dunbar, an OB/GYN from St. Louis, took to Facebook to complain about a patient that regularly arrived extremely late for prenatal appointments or blew them off entirely. She closed with “May I show up late for her delivery?” After complaints appeared to the hospital, administrators came out to support Dunbar, noting she didn’t violate any privacy regulations.

Dr. dunbar-Facebook


There’ve been plenty of cases where medical staff went far over the line in sharing personal patient information in social media. This isn’t one of them, and I’m glad the hospital reacted as they did. I’m sure Dunbar will never complain about her patients publicly again, but if she would it seems most of the public would continue to support her—comments on the hospital’s Facebook page for new mothers are overwhelmingly in support of the doctor. My aggravation stems from those folks calling her and her colleagues out for their Facebook comments.

Oh, and who shows up three hours late to the doctor in the first place? How rude!

Infographic: 2013 New Social Media Laws Take Effect

Every year Jan. 1 marks the start of new legislation taking effect around the country. This year several states have new laws on the books related to social media, specifically related to how employers can or can’t use your social media info, like passwords, to hire or fire you.

Check out this infographic for more details on these new laws.

Do you think these new restrictions will have much impact? Or are they a waste of time? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Louisiana News Station Fires Two Staffers Over Social Media Policy

The internet is abuzz with news about the firing of meteorologist Rhonda Lee for a Facebook post she made on her former employer’s account. Lee, who until November 28 was a meteorologist at KTBS in Shreveport, La., responded to a comment from a viewer on the station’s Facebook about the “Black woman with the short hair,” noting he didn’t like it and questioning if she was a cancer patient.

After several days Lee decided to respond with what I and many others consider a well-thought out message to the viewer, noting that her health was fine, her hair was a reflection of her African-American heritage, and that she hoped to set an example for kids that they can be successful with all types of appearances.

The higher-ups at KTBS responded by firing her for violating the station’s social media policy.

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Employees Go Social to Decry Thanksgiving Black Friday Hours

This year Target joins the list of retailers opening up for “Black Friday” sales on Thanksgiving, and employees of the store are taking to social media to complain about the decision.

Target employee Casey St. Clair of California started a Change.org petition a week ago urging the store to reverse their decision. The petition has more than 200,000 signatures as of this morning, and several Target employees have left their own thoughts in the comments:

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Olympians Take Sponsorship Protest Social to Demand Change

Last year I praised the International Olympic Committee for their forward thinking policy around social media at this year’s London games. The straightforward policy sets out rules that I think are fair while still being restrictive enough to give the IOC control over the brand everyone in the world talks about for a few weeks every four years. And considering how tightly they control the image in other settings, the policy becomes even more understandable.

But there is another rule Olympic athletes must adhere to, Rule 40, that’s become a hot topic in the Olympic conversation on and offline. Simply put, Rule 40 limits Olympic athletes from mentioning their sponsors unless they are Top IOC partners (aka advertisers).

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Facebook Timelines And Your Professional Life

Have you upgraded your Facebook profile to Timeline yet? Given any consideration to how it looks to your colleagues or potential employers who may be looking at your digital tracks? Now is the time! Timeline is not yet mandatory but it will be soon, and it will automatically create a personal history for you based on past posts and connections. Basically Facebook is building a running chronology of major events in the lives of its users–including work.

I’ve never shared a lot about my professional life on Facebook (that’s what LinkedIn is for IMO), so for me Timeline as a resume makes no sense. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t looking at it anyway—we know recruiters use Facebook to connect with (aka spy on?) potential candidates. So if your resume says you were working as an actress in L.A. but your Timeline shows you were waiting tables in N.Y., you’re in trouble.

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CNN’s Roland Martin Suspended After Super Bowl Tweets

CNN Correspondent Roland Martin was indefinitely suspended by the network this week after the outcry over his Twitter commentary during the Super Bowl grew too loud for the network to ignore.

During last Sunday’s big game Martin took issue with David Beckham’s H&M ad, tweeting “If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him! #superbowl”. At another point he wrote, “Who the hell was that New England Patriot they just showed in a head to toe pink suit? Oh, he needs a visit from #teamwhipdatass.” Many took his comments as advocating violence against gays and called for an apology, which trickled out over several days.

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