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When PR is more important than principles

social media knowledgeThis week, David Rowat was fired from his job at Argos for taking to Facebook to have a moan about a bad day at work.

Now, we don’t need to tell you that it’s inadvisable to badmouth your employer on social networks. It’s about as subtle as writing “I hate my job” on your forehead and even if it doesn’t get you in trouble, it certainly won’t single you out as an ideal candidate for promotion.

Under normal circumstances I would argue that, assuming a company has a proper social media policy in place, bringing your employers into disrepute in any way is enough to warrant at least a warning, at worst a dismissal.

However, as more context began to emerge I found myself, oddly, disagreeing with myself. While I still think Mr. Rowat was beyond foolish for posting anything negative about work on Facebook, let’s examine what he actually said. Having come back from holiday to find that work had not been done to a high standard, he grumbled:

“”Had a great day back at work after my hols who am I kidding!! Back to the shambles that is work.”

For a start, Mr. Rowat didn’t mention the company by name. To add to this, at the time of writing a quick search shows he has fewer than 100 Facebook friends – and he posted this to his private wall. While his comments may have been inappropriate, did they really constitute the “gross misconduct” for which he was sacked?

The plot thickens. As it transpires, David Rowat has cancer of the lymph nodes. He had worked at Argos for thirteen years, and even met his wife (who is also in ill health) there.  Facts that the media was all too quick to pick up on.

The story soon became a tabloid’s dream. An extremely unwell man, fired for having an ill-advised yet probably harmless moan on Facebook about a bad day at work, a story of company loyalty being paid back with callousness – you couldn’t make it up.

I’m not an expert in employment law – and I understand that social media needs to be used carefully and that companies need to stick to their policies in order for them to be effective.

But overall, what has caused the company more damage? The poorly thought out ramblings of someone fed up with a bad day at work? Or the business that fired a loyal employee with cancer and a family to support? You decide.

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