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Fired News Reporter Shea Allen Illustrates the Meaning of 'Profersonal' for Today’s Workers

Employees need to realize that anything they say online can impact their professional persona, and that every negative or offensive statement could lead to discipline or termination (even if employers can overreact in these situations).

August 5, 2013

It’s been about a year since I first wrote about the disappearing line between the professional and personal online. Jason Seiden, the co-founder and CEO of Ajax Workforce Marketing, calls it profersonal, social media’s intertwining of our professional and personal personas.

The Today Show brought us a textbook example. Shea Allen, a Hunstville, Alabama, television news reporter, lost her job because of a post she wrote on her personal blog. The post, entitled, “No Apologies: Confessions of a red headed reporter,” included the following:

  • I’ve gone bra-less during a live broadcast and no one was the wiser.
  • My best sources are the ones who secretly have a crush on me.
  • I am better live when I have no script and no idea what I’m talking about.
  • I’m frightened of old people and I refuse to do stories involving them or the places they reside.
  • I’ve taken naps in the news car.
  • If you ramble and I deem you unnecessary for my story, I’ll stop recording but let you think otherwise.

That an employee was fired for something she posted on her personal blog is not necessarily newsworthy. However, it makes for an interesting juxtaposition with a recently published report on business ethics and social media.

According to the National Business Ethics Survey® of Social Networkers:

  • 79 percent of social networkers (defined as an employee who has an account on at least one social network) consider how their employer would react before posting something work-related on a personal social networking site.
  • 64 percent consider how their employer would react to personal information posted to a personal site.
  • 26 percent believe it is acceptable to post about their job even if they do not identify their employer.

It is comforting to read that nearly 8 out of 10 social networkers consider their employer before posting. Yet, when one considers that according to the Today Show, 53 percent of Americans side with Shea Allen and feel that she shouldn’t have lost her job, it is clear that there still is work to be done in educating employees about what it means to profersonal.

Thus, I’ll leave you with my words on this topic from one year ago, which bear repeating:

Employees need to realize that anything they say online can impact their professional persona, and that every negative or offensive statement could lead to discipline or termination (even if employers can overreact in these situations). Until people fully understand that social media is erasing (has erased?) the line between the personal and the professional, these issues will continue to arise. It is our job as employers to help educate our employees about living in a “profersonal” world.

Written by Jon Hyman, a partner in the Labor & Employment group of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz. For more information, contact Jon at (216) 736-7226 or jth@kjk.com. You can also follow Jon on Twitter @jonhyman.