Bill Simmons was recently suspended by ESPN for comments he made about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Whatever you think about Simmons, Goodell, or any of the players recently suspended by the NFL, here’s the thing to remember: Doing or saying something that hurts your employer’s reputation can lead to being terminated. The same is true of another type of speech: social media. Many people have taken to Facebook or Twitter to be critical of their employer or supervisor. In many states, such action is grounds for dismissal. Be careful before you do something that can put your income at risk.
One more word about Bill Simmons. I often find him funny and sometimes insightful. He is also a good businessman. If ESPN decides to get rid of him, he will have other opportunities. We should all follow his example. Have a Plan B for your career and build a reputation that will make other employers want to hire us.
When we’re terminated or laid off from a position, we often feel anger or shame. That’s natural. However, those feelings can lead us to do things we will later regret. If an employer offers any kind of incentive, read the document carefully and know what you are signing.
One of my clients works in a specialized industry where there are few employers and limited opportunities to work. When her employer let he go, he offered her a month’s salary and a month of paid healthcare. All he asked is that she sign a piece of paper. Luckily, she read the agreement, which included a non-compete clause that would have made it impossible for her to work for any company in metro Chicago. My client weighed her options and walked away from the offer.
If you are in this position, read the document carefully. If you don’t understand it, inform your employer that you want to have time to review it. If the employer pressures you to sign it immediately, there is probably something in that document that he does not want you to understand. Have the document reviewed by a lawyer who understands employment law. Don’t let yourself be bullied into signing something that can hurt your ability to get a job. Know what you are signing
A friend sent me an article from the Society of Human Resources Managers (SHRM). It discussed the case of an employee who was fired for what she wrote in a personal blog. A TV reporter mocked her managers and, worst still, viewers. The article notes that this was not the first time that the employee posted negative comments about her job and pay.
Some might say that this was a personal space, the employee’s blog. That claim might work if she had written her words in a journal that no one else sees or if she used a function similar to the one on Facebook that limits who can view an online post. A blog is public. It can be viewed by anyone, including employers.
If your thoughts about your job are disparaging or harmful to the company, it can – in most cases – end your employment. Use “social” media very carefully. We’ve all heard stories of people who lost opportunities because of photos or posts on Facebook. Companies are using social media to evaluate both prospective and current employees. Practice good career management: Think before you post.
I always learn great lessons from my clients. Today a client told me about a boss who was trying to intimidate him into signing a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). In most cases, PIPs lead to termination. My client has been at his current job less than a year. In that time, his unit has been recognized as the top performing unit in the nation.
When presented with the PIP, my client kept his cool. He has more than 25 years experience in his industry. He asked his District Manager why this step was being taken. The District Manager gave a vague answer and asked him to sign the PIP. My client then asked about how he was being evaluated and how he was evaluated by other employers. Again, the District Manager did not address his point. He said signing is not a big deal. In reality, it is an admission of poor performance that can lead to termination. My client knows this and refused to sign.
Then he did something very bold. He offered two weeks notice. At this point, the District Manager backed down and said they would discuss the matter later. My client informed his boss that the issue was not personal. He then put an exclamation mark on the affair by buying lunch for the person who was trying to set him up for termination.
For me, this client is a role model in knowing how to evaluate his own performance and having the courage to stand up for himself. Could he be fired? Of course. However, signing the PIP would drag out the process and usually have the same result. My client is not waiting to see what will happen next. He has begun looking for a new job. The good news is that he can do so with a feeling of self-respect. He did not let a bad boss bully him.
Huffington Post reports that a McDonald’s employee in Wales was fired for putting too many sprinkles on an ice cream dessert. She was an experienced worker with good evaluations. She sued and settled with McDonald’s for £3,000 (about $5,000). The moral of the story is to fight back. Workers in Wisconsin and Michigan may not win today, but they will if they keep fighting – as teachers did in Chicago, and as did a worker who was fired for using too may sprinkles. The Staple Singers said it best: “Respect yourself.”