Social media sacked employees and The Mother Test

First let me say this is not new people have been losing their jobs for years based on what they publish online, it is now the services being used are changing slightly.

Last month Virgin Atlantic sacked 13 cabin crew for criticizing the airline and its passenger on Facebook.

The action follows an investigation into the remarks posted on Facebook, which concerned planes flying from London’s Gatwick airport and insulted passengers, as well as reportedly saying the planes were full of cockroaches.

“Virgin Atlantic can confirm that 13 members of its cabin crew will be leaving the company after breaking staff policies due to totally inappropriate behaviour,” the airline said in a statement.

This week Australia forklift driver, Matthew Garry Ward, was convicted of breaching safety laws by conducting burn outs and two-wheeled stunts on his company provided forklift. How did he get caught? A video on YouTube, which unfortunately is not longer available, was found by a fellow employee and reported to management. Matthew had filmed the stunts using his mobile phone and posted it on YouTube. Before being convicted he had previously been sacked by his employer, Australasian Pipeline & Pre-Cast Pty Ltd.  The WorkSafe media release indicated that forklifts were one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment in use at workplaces.

WorkSafe’s Executive Director (Health and Safety) John Merritt, said forklifts were among the most dangerous pieces of equipment in Victorian workplaces accounting for 56 lives since 1985.  Of these 19 were forklift drivers. 

Once again while companies need to be careful of what is published on social media sites so do employees. It is going to be a long time before anyone using search engines to background check Matthew Garry Ward before his activities do not appear, not to mention any basic police check will reveal the conviction.

This comes as US President elect Barack Obama requires all applicants for senior positions in his government to disclose online activity and complete a seven page, 63 question job application process which includes:

“If you have ever sent an electronic communication, including but not limited to an e-mail, text message or instant message, that could suggest a conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the President-elect if it were made public, please describe.”


“Please list and, if readily available, provide a copy of each book, article, column or publication (including but not limited to any post or comments on blogs or other websites) you have authored, individually or with others. Please list all aliases or “handles” you have used to communicate on the Internet.”

My 5 tips for managing your brand online is called The Mother Test:

  1. Make sure you have a consistent profile you are willing to show your mother. It is very hard if not impossible to remain completely anonymous online, even if you never use your real name. For example I know of several bloggers who blog under anonymous names, but I also know who they really are. 
  2. Make sure you don’t do/say anything you would not be proud to show your mother. You might not want your mother to see what you have done, but if you had to show her and example yourself would you be proud of what you had done?
  3. Make sure you don’t post pictures/videos you would not be willing to show your mother. Like doing or saying things online, if you had to explain yourself could you and would you be proud of what you have done?
  4. Is your reputation online one your mother would be proud of? You might not specifically say or post anything that is suspect but we all have a reputation, even on sites that are password protected. 
  5. Would your activities online make your mother trust you? Trust is the ultimate test of what you are doing and defines your integrity, ability, or character. 

If you don’t have that sort of relationship with your mother, substitute with your father, children or grandparents.

5 thoughts on “Social media sacked employees and The Mother Test

  1. I disassociate myself from my online personality in all areas by the use of a pseudonym – except facebook. But in the case of facebook, external semi-anonymous twitters, blog posts, comments do not link back to facebook. It does go the other way though. My friends on facebook can see my other content.

    In all cases the mother test applied for me, even though it has been subconsciously.

    Nice post 🙂

  2. Brett Easton Ellis wrote the brilliant (and highly disturning) American Psycho when he was just 27 years old.

    This book fails on almost ever level the Mother Test, yeat Eason Eillis is both famous and rich from that book and others like it.

    So the Mother Test has value, but is also a horses for courses test. Many would do well to publicise their edgy/weird/disturbing online actions to reinforce their career.

    Take Paris Hilton- would she be famous without her porn video? I think NOT


  3. @Tom I’m sure Brett would be proud for his mother to see the book. Paris well less said the better but I get your point, ;-). Basic premise is if you do edgy things online don’t complain if they backfire.

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