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Full Time, All the Time

with Britt Reints

Forget the 9 to 5; the demands of a working mom aren’t limited by a time clock. Full Time, All the Time is a blog about balancing the many roles of a modern woman - and maintaining your wellbeing while doing it. I am a writer, mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend and sometimes volunteer living in Pittsburgh. Oh, and I think you look pretty today.

You can also find Britt on Twitter and at InPursuitOfHappiness.net.

Learning from Southwest vs. Kevin Smith: how much do you talk about your job online?

Categories: break from reality

17 comments

If you stay abreast of social media happenings at all, you may have heard about the recent public argument between director Kevin Smith and Southwest Airlines that occurred on Twitter.  If you don’t hound Twitter (or you missed it), here’s the short version: Kevin Smith got kicked off a Southwest flight due to size restrictions and took his complaints to Twitter.  Southwest responded on Twitter and on their blog.

Personally, I have no dog in that fight and am making no comment here about how either party handled themselves.  What I do find interesting, however, is how one uninvolved employee of Southwest Airlines responded to a satirical blog post about the incident - and used his employer’s name to identify himself.

My friend Angie wrote a humorous little post about what it might have been like to be the person responsible for manning the Southwest twitter account during this PR nightmare.  Shortly after the post went live, a Southwest Airlines employee commented - and he let it be known that he didn’t appreciate the joke.

He accused the blogger of making defamatory statements (which she didn’t).  He accused Kevin Smith of having “the argument skills of a high-school freshman” (which he might). He got into a verbal debate with other commenters.

And he did it all under the flag of being “an employee, but not an official spokesperson”, for Southwest Airlines.

Reading this person’s commentary, I couldn’t help but think “dude, you are just asking to get fired.”  Because whether he clarified that he isn’t an official spokesperson or not, the problem I see is that he was still representing Southwest Airlines.

I’m not sure what the airline’s policy is - but I’m almost positive that any one of my bosses would be ticked to see me using the company name in an online cat fight.  And I work for several online companies. I write here about working - and never once mention the name of the people or places who sign my checks, mostly because I’d like to continue getting said checks.

I’ve seen people talk about at least one of the companies I work for online.  I’ve never added my personal opinion to the conversation, just to be safe.  Because I don’t work in PR, I figure it’s not my responsibility to manage the images of the companies I work for.

This just seems like common sense to me.  What about you?

Would you publicly defend the company you work for?  Do you discuss your job in detail online, using company or employee names?

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17 comments so far...

  • I’m actually shocked that no one from the media or Southwest has looked at the comments left by the Southwest employee (to my knowledge). I’d think they would want to apologize for the negative comments he used on my post. But that’s just me…

    Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing]  |  February 17th, 2010 at 8:12 am

  • Yes, I probably would jump in to defend my company, because personality tests through the year have shown I have a strong loyalty gene. I can’t help it, apparently.

    Of course, if I hated the company and had plans to exit soon, I might be able to overcome that and keep my mouth shut. But otherwise, I’m out there with my sword drawn, ready to die on that hill.

    Julie Sturgeon  |  February 17th, 2010 at 9:14 am

  • Heeeellllllllll no. You’re exactly right. It’s inappropriate at best and most likely a terminable offense. Especially in this situation, where the very last thing the Southwest needs is to piss off Kevin Smith more. Although I’m pretty sure he’d agree about the high schooler stuff. He’d agree and say, “Duh. WTF do you think made me all this money?”

    Rachel  |  February 17th, 2010 at 9:27 am

  • Well, as a person who blogs and does work in PR, I found the whole Southwest/Kevin Smith debaucle quite interesting as well. Frankly, I think both sides could have handled the situation better.

    I’ve been in Kevin’s shoes as a wronged consumer before, but I only went to Twitter to vent my angst after repeated tries to work a solution directly with the company had failed. Fortunately it was the PR people who stepped in and got the company to correct the erroneous charge.

    As far as the Southwest employee on Angie’s blog goes, he should be getting a serious toungue-lashing by their corporate PR folks (if he hasn’t already). Southwest has a very progressive employee communications and social media model, but the success of that model has been largely dependent on their ability to get their employees to respect the rules of the social media game. They keep their issues internal and let the PR folks handle the messes outside the doors. This guy went off the reservation and needs to be wrangled back in quickly.

    Nancy  |  February 17th, 2010 at 9:55 am

  • He was over the line, and if he were my employee, he would at the very least had a stern talking to, if he were to keep his job. Things get viral on the internet VERY fast, so to have someone working for you that is simply adding fuel to the fire is definite cause for discipline of some sort.

    Pgoodness  |  February 17th, 2010 at 10:29 am

  • I work for the DOD - specifically the Air Force. And I can tell you now that I avoid, at all costs, defending or detracting my employer publicly. I do not publicly comment on the president, my Commander in Chief. I do not comment on any military affairs, proposals, projections, tactics, strategies, f**k ups or persons in a position of leadership above me. If I did, I could be tried under UCMJ (court martialed depending on what I said and to whom and how) at worst, discharged and fired at best.

    Lots of people who are employed as I am, however, DO comment publicly. In lots of forums. And detail their daily trials and tribulations (as well as information that just shouldn’t be put out there). They’re wrong for doing so, but that’s up to their installation Public Affairs office or whomever to deal wtih.

    The only time I make comment is on procedural issues when other commenters are clearly talking out of their asses, as in the case of the Army Specialist who is now being discharged for failure to deploy. Those comments are neutral with respect to the “company” and only serve to clarify that which is open source information that no one ever bothers to research before putting in their .02. Occasionally I will offer a personal opinion (as in that noted case) as long as it doesn’t violate “company” policy or the UCMJ.

    FWIW, that SWA employee should have been fired.

    Phe  |  February 17th, 2010 at 10:57 am

  • As far as the Internet is concerned, I may or may not be employed. It’s the safest thing, really.

    Finn  |  February 17th, 2010 at 11:16 am

  • Nothing I say online will indicate who or where my employer is, nor the exact job that I do (trust me, my job title is pretty darn vague). I may occassionally rant or rave in abstract, but never exactly who or what is the object of my ire or praise will be known if its at all work related.

    CV  |  February 17th, 2010 at 12:46 pm

  • I work in healthcare, where if I talk in more than generalizations, I could not only lose my job but possibly be fined thousands of dollars, lose my nursing license, or even serve prison time depending on the severity of the breach of confidentiality. And I work on a lock-down psych unit. The blogging temptation is crazy. But I ignore the temptation, since I like life as I know it!

    Honeybell  |  February 17th, 2010 at 2:40 pm

  • I don’t even give out my name or location, let alone the name of my company or anyone I work with or for. You have to know there is going to be someone, somewhere p’d off no matter what you say about your employer. Companies have PR policies for a reason.

    Sometimes I even worry that my anonymous posts could be read by someone who knows me well enough to put the pieces together. I might have had a nightmare about that at one point.

    There are times I need a really good vent, but even then, I try really hard to be as anonymous as possible. If I start being specific, take that to mean I am looking to get fired. (Some days that actually doesn’t sound half bad, but . . . .)

    If I felt a strong need to defend someone, I might just say something vague like “there are two sides to this story, so don’t rush to judgment unless you have heard both sides.” Even then, I doubt it. Most likely I’d go to our head honcho ASAP and get her involved.

    SKL  |  February 17th, 2010 at 3:24 pm

  • One thing to clear up… according to their own published standards, Kevin Smith was UNJUSTLY kicked off a Southwest plane. He met their size requirements (being able to put the armrests down) for occupying a single seat. Southwest can whitewash it all they want, but they are persecuting people with their arbitrary interpretation of their own rules. Out of fairness to all their passengers, Southwest needs to enforce their size restrictions consistently, equally, and fairly so people don’t have to live in fear of being kicked off a plane when they aren’t breaking any rules. I’d probably handle the situation a lot worse than Kevin Smith did had it been me, so it’s hard for me to condemn his response. Given his notoriety, the media would have distorted events to make a story if he hadn’t told his side of things first.

    Even more reprehensible is the story of the woman who was apparently made an example of on the flight Kevin Smith eventually flew home on. Southwest still hasn’t addressed that piece of the story.

    Keeping on topic here… unless you are officially sanctioned to speak on behalf of your employer, you really have no business doing so. But I guess it’s up to each company to decide what voice their employees are allowed to have when it comes to representing them.

    Dave2  |  February 17th, 2010 at 5:16 pm

  • SKL -
    I’ll never forget…Boston.com was running a piece about a year ago on the fate of an AF project that had local impacts. A poster on the article kept slamming the project based on his “experience” as an AF employee. His comments were over the top negative and really, they amounted to terrible PR for the AF.

    He signed a few comments with his name, so I looked him up in our global address system and posted the following comment to him: So. How’s the weather over there in Rome, NY right now?

    He didn’t comment on the article again.

    It’s true. Just goes to show that you never know who’s watching.

    Phe  |  February 18th, 2010 at 6:46 am

  • Phe, that reminds me of a time when I felt compelled to comment on something I found offensive (crude sexual comments about minor girls) on some site I had found while Web browsing. (It was NOT a porn site!!) Whoever was managing the site disagreed with me, and in his retort, he included my full personal email address, which contained part of my name. That froze my blood. You think you’re anonymous on the internet (at least to mere readers), but that’s not necessarily guaranteed.

    SKL  |  February 18th, 2010 at 9:40 am

  • SKL: The reference to his location was the particular site he worked at. I would never have published his work or personal address or phone number or e-mail.

    What happened to you was well beyond the pale.

    Phe  |  February 18th, 2010 at 10:30 am

  • No, I wouldn’t get involved in an online slanging match to defend a client, the danger of saying the wrong thing (and as a result losing the gig) is too great. I don’t really discuss clients in public either, or if I do, it would be to say something positive. I suppose people who do must still believe in internet anonymity which is very naive. We aren’t anonymous, even if we use fake names and emails, site owners can still see our ip numbers, isps, locations and so on which is enough to identify someone.

    Kate  |  February 18th, 2010 at 1:35 pm

  • Yes I’d respond, but then I am the PR director. However. I would respond professionally and after clueing in my executive team about what was being said and being thoughtful about the answers.

    We have a social media policy that states that employees can respond to topics as private citizens but not as employees. It’s the same thing we do with media–it all comes through my office.

    It’s just harder to police now.

    I do write about work … kind of. I don’t disclose, but you could figure it out if you wanted to use Google and the creative thinking of a ferret. (Which is kinda creative). I blogged a few months ago about my frustrations and it got back to my boss through a 4th party, which was enough to scare the shit out of me.

    I hate that I’m a life blogger and can’t blog openly about my feelings and experiences at work. But such is life.

    Lynn @ human, being  |  February 20th, 2010 at 5:40 pm

  • There was the guy who lasted only a week at Google because he was blogging about his experiences. It wasn’t even bad PR, it was just, you’re sharing the company’s secrets, hello!
    I think it is natural to jump in if you’re feeling attached but you also need to learn how to keep it general.

    Mich  |  February 23rd, 2010 at 2:14 pm

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