Twitter-shaming can cost you your job

Complaint on Twitter about overheard off-color jokes ends up costing two techies their jobs

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Richards has received a mixture of praise and criticism, the latter ranging from thoughtful to mean-spirited, sexist, and profanity-laden, including multiple instances of the b-word and c-word, which arguably advance Richards' point that sexism is rampant in the tech world. Many critics are blaming her for Mr-Hank losing his job, which may not be entirely fair given that his company ultimately made that decision.

Richards' supporters may be disappointed to learn that her employer, SendGrid, announced on Facebook that she has been terminated: "Effective immediately, SendGrid has terminated the employment of Adria Richards. While we generally are sensitive and confidential with respect to employee matters, the situation has taken on a public nature. We have taken action that we believe is in the overall best interests of SendGrid, its employees, and our customers. As we continue to process the vast amount of information, we will post something more comprehensive."

There are some clear lessons in this tale. First, Twitter shaming is clearly no longer for teens, politicians, and celebrities. Simply being cautious as to what you post to Twitter (or Facebook or wherever) doesn't cut it; we evidently need to be mindful of all that we say, do, and wear as we go out in public, because you never know whether someone with influence is quietly monitoring you and has no qualms in outing your subjectively bad behavior to the world. One off-color comment can result in your reputation being tarnished and you losing your job.

(Incidentally, making off-color jokes in public doesn't necessarily make you a horrible human being who deserves public shaming, a point that Richards herself should appreciate as she recently joked with a fellow Twitter user about stuffing his pants with socks the next time he has to undergo a TSA pat-down.)

Second, it's a reminder as to how sensitive companies have become to even a whiff of potentially bad publicity that social networking can generate so quickly. Just look back at the whole Susan G. Komen-Planned Parenthood spat from last year as a case study in how social networking can rapidly affect an organization's reputation. In this case, the guys' employer's logo could be seen on their shirts in the photo that Richards posted. It's possible that the employer, PlayHaven, fired him for other reasons, but it's a safe bet this incident at least exacerbated by the fact that the company name was being connected to allegedly offensive and sexist comments at a professional conference.

Third: Hopefully this incident will serve as a reminder that there may be more productive and fruitful ways to address personal conflicts and grievances than immediately taking them straight to social networking. How about talking to the offending party face to face to work through any potential misunderstandings?

Ironically, Richards herself alluded to that fact in her blog in which she defended her actions: "What has to change is that everyone must take personal accountability and speak up when they hear something that isn't OK. It takes three words to make a difference: 'That's not cool.' ... We need to build bridges and be aware of our actions and not discount that our words carry weight."

This story, "Twitter shaming no longer just for teens and celebrities," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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