Jack Out of the Box blog

NOT FOREVER IN BLUE JEANS

I found this piece from The New York Times to be a really interesting discussion about the intersection of social media and employee relations in corporate America.  Jennifer Sey, who was at one time considered on the fast track to be CEO at Levi’s, recently left the company in part based on her Twitter activity.  It seems her tweets included advocating for school openings and questioning CDC guidelines. She also took at least one shot at Dr. Fauci,  whom she accused of fear mongering.  Her appearance on Laura Ingraham’s show added fuel to the fire.

Ms. Sey contends that she was the victim of the liberal elite who apparently run Levi’s.  In her view, she tweeted comments that deviated too far from the orthodoxy favored by the company.  In Levi’s view,  Ms. Sey “went far beyond calling for schools to reopen, and frequently used her platform to criticize public health guidelines and denounce elected officials and government scientists.”

It’s a tough question with no easy answers. On the one hand, employees probably ought to be able to participate and comment on political issues.  It is a free country, right? On the other hand, where a high profile employee is publicly taking positions at odds with the company, it’s not a good look.

In the absence of absolute answers, there are some guidelines.  From the employee’s perspective, it might be a good idea to talk with a colleague before taking to Twitter on a hot button issue.  Some guidance may be helpful.  From the employer’s perspective, it would be a good idea to publish social media guidelines that set out expectations about employee social media use.  Some clarity would be helpful.

This whole issue remains a gray area, and I expect we’ll continue to see these type of issues pop up.  But companies that would prefer to avoid this type of publicity really ought to give it some thought before it’s too late.