In the news: two employees of an auto-detailing shop were fired recently for making “disrespectful, damaging and derogatory” comments on Facebook about their boss and their employer, West Coast Mazda. The B.C. Labour Relations board rejected a claim of wrongful dismissal by United Food and Commercial Workers International, the union representing the employees, who claimed that they were the victims of anti-union retaliation.

Well.  At thepowerserve™, we figure it’s better to get a successful lawsuit out of the gate early on in this era of social media and its relationship to our work lives.

Ten years ago, can you imagine the idea of going to a party with 100 or so guests, many from work (including the boss), and making derogatory and threatening comments directed at the boss to this captive audience – and expecting to have a job in the morning?

As my Irish mother used to say “Sure, you can’t do that lads…are you mad?”

Now we have Facebook.  The situation is no different.  Wake up out there! You are your job.  Yes, we know we are all more than that in the big picture but how you represent the organization that provides your paycheck in return for your skill and talents reflects on you – loudly and clearly.

If anything, participating in social networking requires that you take a good sober look at how you communicate with those around you. Once sent, your words can not be recovered.  They’re on permanent record.

So what’s different about the cocktail party scenario and the scenario that led to two employees being fired for dissing the company and the boss on Facebook? Consider this: in today’s connected world we are all empowered in the true sense of the word.  We have the power to wreak havoc on a company’s product, service and reputation or on that of another individual just by typing it and sending it to the public arena. It’s sort of like standing on the table at every cocktail party on the planet – with a bullhorn!

But in doing this mischief you do the same damage to yourself.  Even if your activities are magically not traced, you will know what you’ve done and that knowledge will erode the best of what’s in you. Eventually, negativism will seep out even when not using your social weapon of choice.

Temper is pleasure. Think about it: releasing our temper is a pleasant feeling of strength and power – it’s standing up for our rights.  But the aftermath is an emotional hangover with serious consequences. Your quality of service to your company – which is your customer – is your responsibility. The logic here is not complicated.  What is complicated are the emotions and motives that might cause you to use social networking to the detriment of others and yourself.  That might be the gift in this tempting technology – the realization that you need to take ownership of your responses and develop effective coping skills for the things you experience. Using Facebook, Twitter and all the other options to vent publicly is a costly way to express thoughts. This should be dealt with personally, with a counselor or with the appropriate authorities depending on the scope of the situation.

But let’s recognize that there are lots of employees who will use social media in a positive way and even as a tool – particularly Twitter, where front line employees use it to access information to serve their customers better. Another gift from this lawsuit: West Coast Mazda has pledged that management will develop a policy to inform employees about what constitutes “private” on Facebook.  Organizations should take note as they, too, need to get on board and ready their employees for effective and acceptable use of their power to connect with the world’s largest cocktail party.   The key: employees must know what it looks like, feels like, and how it impacts others when you own the quality of your service.