Jessica was not specifically named in this exchange, but the reference to her was clear enough that an unrelated third party took a screen shot of Gail and Willow’s conversation, and sent Jessica the unhappy news that her direct reports were “joking” about her in public.
Believe me, this is not something that any boss ever wants to hear!
Not being a mind-reader, I can’t evaluate Gail and Willow’s intentions.
I can’t tell from their words if they were just shooting the shit, or actually meant to diss Jessica — but I can tell that they thought they were sharing a private moment in a situation that actually is not private at all.
Facebook Is Not Private
Unless you’ve taken great care to manage your profile, all of your friends, your neighbors, your angry exes, your grandparents, and everyone else you can think of has access to your Facebook (and other social media) feeds. This means that everything you post is “public speaking” (because it’s not private), and should be governed by the same rules you would use to create a speech with all of these people in your audience.
And that’s even more true if you’re going to be looking for a job anytime soon. Facebook is now one of the primary places that prospective future employers go to research whether or not they’d like to hire you — based in part on how well you got along with people at your last job!
But that’s not the only problem with using FB to let off steam about your workplace.
On Facebook or Live, Office Gossip Drains the Team’s Energy
Some years ago, Transformational Leadership Expert Anne Loehr and I co-wrote a book called Managing the Unmanageable: How to Motivate Even the Most Unruly Employees.
One of the types of UEs (unmanageable employees) we identified is “The Gossip” — someone who indulges in speculative talk or spreads rumors about other people.
Gossip is a verbal virus that can infect your team just as surely as the most virulent flu. Whether it spreads slowly or like wildfire, gossip will weave itself into the fabric of your organization, and weaken the threads that hold your people together.
If that sounds extreme, think about these repercussions of Gail’s and Willow’s actions:
- At least one person had to decide “should I tell Jessica”?
- Jessica has to decide “should I confront Gail and Willow?” (Time, energy, and emotion will be spent, whether Jessica decides to confront them or not.)
- Jessica’s respect for her employees has been compromised.
- Gail and Willow have presented themselves unprofessionally, and have potentially undermined Jessica’s authority.
All of these outcomes could weaken Gail’s and Willow’s credibility, their team’s cohesion, and the quality of everyone’s working environment.
Was the fun that Gail and Willow had joking about their boss on Facebook worth all that potential fallout?
Facebook Knows that You’re Human, So Keep Your Human Fallibility in Mind
Like advertising and Unreality TV, Facebook knows how to use our human frailties to draw us in.
Competition, social anxiety, recklessness, group-think can all come into play when we’re “alone” with our keyboards, looking at pictures of our friends’ gorgeous homes, sparkling social lives, and exotic vacations.
(Facebook can also foster community and help disseminate important ideas, but that’s another discussion.)
It’s easy, in our fast-paced communications world, to lose sight of common sense and broadcast whatever is on our minds, but it’s a professionally dangerous way to manage fleeting emotions.
So apply a little caution when you’re feeling pulled to talk trash on Facebook.
And remember: Once you’ve put something in the public record, digitally, you have forfeited all control over who gets to see — and judge — your words.