A Person Divided

by Dec 29, 2014

The thin line between work and one’s private life has slowly eroded away with the advent of social media and the internet itself. Before, employees were told to keep their work and off-work lives separate. When clocking-out at work meant checking-in at home; this was the daily ritual of switching between the two mental states. Now, it’s almost impossible to remove yourself from your job title and your employer. This might be considered OK for some people that enjoy networking and socializing with their title displayed proudly on a name tag. But it also opens the doors to removing privacy to an employee’s stance on big social issues that have little to no relevance to their job. And where they stand on those personal issues could cost them their jobs, even if they hung up their work life for the day hours ago.

This situation is most notable with CEO’s, if only because they are in the public view more often than other employees. The short lived CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich, resigned over his $1,000 donation to California’s Prop 8 which was anti-gay. His donation occurred in 2008, it was made public in 2012, and he remained with the company until his resignation in 2014. Only when he was promoted to CEO on March 24, 2014 did people call for him to step down or be fired. Under pressure from internal and external sources, he stepped down as CEO and resigned from Mozilla on April 3, 2014. Mozilla prides itself for being a highly inclusive company, which Eich didn’t reflect with an anti-gay donation. Eich had been with Mozilla since 1998 and until he took a position of power did he have to face the backlash of his stance on something quite personal. After his resignation, he never took a stance against his donation, only that he wouldn’t have been an effective leader to the company.

Another step into forcefully removing that line is another site (that I will not link to) that aims to get individuals fired from their jobs due to their racist comments on their personal social media platforms. While lovingly called “Internet Darwinism” it further solidifies the reality that an employee cannot remove the tie they have with their employer, even during their personal off-work hours. The anti-racist website targets all levels of employees, from managers to greeters, no one is safe until they learn to use their privacy settings properly. While some might see this as progress, it can open doors to endangering people exercising their free-speech right as a citizen. But that’s another topic completely.

So is there still a line where you can kick off your work persona and just be yourself in private (no matter how disagreeable that person is private might be)? Will becoming an employee with any company force you to relinquish your privacy? It might become a clause in the new-hire contract where every moment employed for them will be highly scrutinized; even off-hours. And does being the CEO of a company mean you cast off all your views about sensitive issues and adopt the company’s? Are you the face of the company 24/7 with no other defining characteristics of your own? Would it be worth valuing a paycheck over personal principals? A choice everyone with a job and a social media page need to consider before posting anything.

*I don’t condone anti-gay sentiment or racism. However, they are not topics I discuss lightly. My stance on these topics is personal, just like it is with everyone else. These are only examples used to illustrate the lack of work/life separation.