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Social Networking Behavioral Agreements At Work?

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the in-case-they-need-another-reason-to-fire-you dept.

Social Networks 326

r0nc0 writes "My company (a Fortune 15 company) has recently required everyone that accesses the company portal to accept or decline an 'agreement' that governs the use of social networking. It basically states that any discussion of the company or any of the work that you do, whether at the office or at home, must be governed by their rules of social networking. Naturally these rules are that you never say anything bad or negative about the company, nor do you say anything bad or negative about anything. It's presented like a EULA, but if you decline more than 3 times your manager is notified. Naturally I declined it each time until my manager complained to me about all the email he was getting about me not accepting the agreement, so I went ahead and accepted, knowing that anybody who cares would just post anonymously anyway. This is the first time I've run into a forced agreement about social networking, and the agreement is so broad that it can't possibly be enforced. I've tried pointing out that agreements like that only drive people away and aren't necessary anyway, but I might as well talk to a brick wall. Has anyone else out there run into social networking behavioral agreements like this?"

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326 comments

AS your Boss (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27928247)

Let me be the first to say Your FIRED

Re:AS your Boss (1, Offtopic)

desertrat_it (650209) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928767)

See, "your fired" is the possessive, whereas "you're fired" is an abbreviation for "you are fired": so, my fired what? Ceramics? Weapons? Inquiring minds want to know!

Uh (5, Funny)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928265)

I think you just violated it. Oopsie!

Re:Uh (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27928395)

Like you violated your mother's anus last night.

It now looks like this [goatse.fr] .

Re:Uh (4, Funny)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928433)

Holy shit, I've been here quite a while and I don't think I've ever had a goatse troll post in response to me!

Do I get a prize?

Wait, never mind, even if I do I doubt it's anything I want to know about.

Re:Uh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27928923)

Apparently your prize is a -1 offtopic.

Cherish it!

Re:Uh (5, Interesting)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928937)

Sounds like if he did not accept the EULA-style agreement a few times and they keep asking him, he's being harassed at work. A good lawyer would put a stop to it. And if he did get caught out, then a good lawyer could definitely make a case that he was badgered into agreeing.

No, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27928269)

They are getting a little annoyed by all the time I've been spending on GoatseSpace ("A place for rear ends").

More like a safeguard (5, Insightful)

thomasinx (643997) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928277)

That's less of an enforceable EULA, and more of an excuse to fire. This way the company will have a (more) legitimate excuse if they fire you for something said about the company. They'd fire you anyways, but this just gives them more 'grounds' in case you go back and try to sue them.

Re:More like a safeguard (1)

briggsl (1475399) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928655)

The number of people being fired for people posting things about work have increased ridiculously here in the UK. We hear stories of people getting fired because they say they've had a sh*t day, so this is the next logical step for corporations, as they will no doubt be expecting a major, trend setting lawsuit soon enough. Signing something protects them.

Re:More like a safeguard (3, Interesting)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928861)

I don't know why they force you to agree to it. Unless there's some sort of union agreement or tenure issue, most people are at-will employees, at least in the US, and can be fired at any time for any reason.

Maybe the issue is firing for cause, which allows companies to get out of their obligation to pay unemployment, as I understand it, but if it's just a matter of separating the wheat and the chaff, they don't need an agreement to do this.

It goes like this: "Hey, look, this employee clearly isn't happy, and instead of dealing with their manager or colleagues, they're airing their dirty laundry to the world. This isn't the kind of person we want to trust with our trade secrets. G'bye!"

A better company would have identified the problems sooner by using good performance management methodologies which would encourage open and honest communication among the ranks, but many companies can't be bothered. There's a growing sector of the talent management software market that deals with this because some companies do realize that they can save a lot of cutter by keeping their good employees happy and not resorting to these sorts of punitive measures.

Re:More like a safeguard (5, Insightful)

GMFTatsujin (239569) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928945)

Al Capone, the notorious gangster at whose feet practically all of organized crime in the 1920's was lain, was indicted for the one crime they could effectively make stick ...

Income tax evasion.

Not murder or extortion or any other crime that you'd associate with Capone. Tax evasion. With that conviction in the bag, they threw the book at him.

The poster's company's Social Networking agreement seems to be prep for the same kind of action. For whatever reason they might *want* to fire him, or penalize him, or just overlook him for a benefit, they can set him up for failure to comply with a confounding, overly-broad rule that he signed his intention to obey.

It streamlines the bureaucratic process for them, because all they need is *one* reason.

Every time HR asks me to generate a report on the surfing habits of an employee, I know exactly where it's going, and sure enough, I'm deactivating accounts soon afterward.

People don't *really* get fired for surfing the net. It's just easier to make the case that way.

Re:More like a safeguard (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27929023)

most people are at-will employees, at least in the US, and can be fired at any time for any reason.

You mean, can be fired at any time for _no_ reason.

It's an important distinction (since there are reasons you _can't_ be fired for). See also FMLA, ADA, etc.

So... (5, Insightful)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928305)

What actually happens if you would have kept declining? Does that actually impact your salary or continued employment? And do they consider /. to be a "Social Networking" site?

Personally, I think it'd be worthwhile to mail the text to the EFF.

Re:So... (1)

coolsnowmen (695297) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928349)

I don't consider /. to be a social networking site.

Compared with facebook/myspace where the purpose is to talk about yourself and to make+stalk friends, /. it for discussing news stories.

Also, I've never read a comment and thought to myself, "hmm, that was insightful, maybe we could play together."

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27928403)

... maybe we could play together.

Re:So... (4, Informative)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928729)

From your "profile":

coolsnowmen (695297) is all alone in the world.

Slashdot does have a "friend" concept. I'm sure it's underutilized (and hopefully all dev time is spent elsewhere if that's true), but that gives it a social aspect. I've added a couple of people as friends because I've found things they said to be in line with my views and having a similar interest. I haven't really tried to contact them, but I will occassionally look to see what they are commenting on in case I missed an article that would be of interest to me.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27928749)

Also, I've never read a comment and thought to myself, "hmm, that was insightful, maybe we could play together."

That's because your username is only one character short of saying, "Cools! No women!"

Re:So... (1)

Tamran (1424955) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928951)

I don't consider /. to be a social networking site.

Whether you consider it or not, it IS. Any online public forum could be considered a social networking site. The poster already broke the agreement he signed.

Re:So... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27928377)

Oh, gimme a fucking break. The submitter is lucky to work for a fortune 15 company at all, and he's luckier still that they will even allow him to visit such trash websites.

It only reinforces the notion that Slashdotters are silver-spoon bitches who cried to mommy instead of handling business. But that's what you get when you grow up as a latchkey kid in an affluent Boston or San Francisco suburb with a basement full of supercomputers to tinker with while the other kids get social skills and lives.

Re:So... (5, Informative)

xrayspx (13127) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928483)

The agreement covers his personal time as well. It's not that they let him loose on Facebook at the office, it's that they govern what he can do on Facebook at home.

Re:So... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27928537)

. But that's what you get when you grow up as a latchkey kid in an affluent Boston or San Francisco suburb with a basement full of supercomputers to tinker with while the other kids get social skills and lives.

Hey, you say that like it's a bad thing. Now I'm rich, and I don't need a social skills OR a life. Do I want sex? Sure, that's why I pay for hookers! In fact, I'm getting a BJ right now while I post this! Admit it, you wish you were me!

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27928787)

It only reinforces the notion that Slashdotters are silver-spoon bitches who cried to mommy instead of handling business. But that's what you get when you grow up as a latchkey kid in an affluent Boston or San Francisco suburb with a basement full of supercomputers to tinker with while the other kids get social skills and lives.

But... but... you are posting this on slashdot?

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27928379)

Or, instead of singling himself out, he could tell everyone that will listen to decline it. Depending on the state (if he's in the US) they could fire him for it. Some states, like Kansas, employers don't even need a valid reason to let someone go.

Re:So... (4, Interesting)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928407)

Perhaps most importantly, is it even legal for them to force an existing employee into new terms of employment in his jurisdiction?

A good practice for the employee is to never say anything regarding your employer's business that you have not been authorized to say on your employer's behalf, period. Another is to never allow your personal opinion about something outside your company be mistaken as a company statement. The usual "these thoughts do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer" disclaimer is usually effective for the latter.

It's scary that they are having people agree to something through harassment, though. Everyone should have notice and a chance to show it to their own counsel before signing it.

Re:So... (3, Insightful)

mustafap (452510) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928485)

>Everyone should have notice and a chance to show it to their own counsel before signing it.

What is this with involving lawyers at a simple decision point?

He should be grown up enough to make his own, educated decision. He is educated, isn't he?

Re:So... (5, Insightful)

Nos. (179609) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928557)

You know that educated is not the same thing as omnipotent right? I know a lot about computers, security, etc. Don't know much of anything about medicine though. That's why I go see a doctor when I have questions.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27928597)

Yes, I find it very stupid that someone should go to an expert on laws when it comes to questions about the law.

Re:So... (5, Insightful)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928813)

What's the proper pressure through your car's PVC valve? Your mechanic probably knows.

How long do you cook a 2" thick steak on a 675F flat grill to get it medium rare? I bet some high school kid in your town can tell you from his job at a restaurant.

What's the best type of broom for cleaning up a spill of damp gerbil food? Is it nylon, polyester, horsehair, palmyra, PVC, or straw?

What's a typical range of muzzle velocity of a Remington .223 rifle?

How do you write a 32-bit adder in 6502 assembly language?

Whats the technical flood stage of the Mississippi river at St. Louis, MO's official measuring point?

What's the third note of the melody in Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries?

Come on, you should know all of these things without looking them up or asking anyone. After all, you're educated, aren't you?

Re:So... (1)

GPLDAN (732269) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928441)

The EFF isn't going to take up a fight with a corporate policy. Never in a million years. If it is Fortune 15, then it is probably public, i.e. it's stock is public.

That's the only way you have to affect a reversal of that policy. Get a lot of shares amassed and invite yourself to a board meeting. Outside of that, forget it. The EFF won't touch it.

Re:So... (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928949)

"I cannot agree to this contract because without consideration it is not valid."

Consideration for new contract terms cannot be the same consideration that you accepted for your original terms.

This is important. Without consideration, it's not a contract. If it's not a contract, it's not an enforceable agreement.
If they can enforce this agreement, it's only because they *already* have your agreement to abide by company policies that are already subject to change. In other words, they don't need you to accept anything, really, they just need an instrument to show that you were given notice of the policy. By "declining" it, you've really given them what they need - a record that shows you were given notice.

Big Mistake (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27928313)

Naturally I declined it each time until my manager complained to me about all the email he was getting about me not accepting the agreement, so I went ahead and accepted, knowing that anybody who cares would just post anonymously anyway.

Umm, congratulations on signing away those rights. You should have told him politely that you intend to keep declining the terms, and that he should talk to the people in charge of the system about the massive amount of pointless messages it sends out which prevent real work from getting done. Simply accepting the terms because it is annoying isn't a good idea in my book.

Re:Big Mistake (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27928991)

I disagree. The best defense is a good offense.
If you politely threatened to send to the EFF, perhaps they would abandon the practice.

But I understand the fear, especially now with so few jobs.

I have a similar problem. I am planning on quitting and I want to make a custers-last-stand. They are probably monitoring my typing so this will have to wait....

Re:Big Mistake (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 4 years ago | (#27929051)

Where is the line between "being able to list this job on my resume" and "not being allowed to discuss this job at all"?

I think they are trying to constrain an employee to disclose *facts* about his work environment. Taken to an extreme interpretation, it means he's not allowed to answer questions at a job interview. Bingo, first amendment challenge. Get a legal definition that makes a meaningful distinction between a job interview dialog and a blog posting, and have that definition somehow pass First Amendment muster. I don't believe this is possible.

On the other hand, the special agreement probably doesn't change anything, since you probably already agreed to reasonably abide by company policies. If it's legal for them to ask you to do it, it's legal for them to fire you for refusing, at least in non-contract right-to-work situations.

It's time for new laws to protect employees. (2, Interesting)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928329)

IIRC there are no laws preventing companies from subjecting employees to micromanagement even off the clock aside from those rendering any "indentured servitude" contracts void.

Given the proliferation of electronic surveillance tools I think it's time to pass some, and we have a progressive president who is likely to be receptive if enough public momentum can be built.

If you have a decent CV, i'd dump that job of yours as soon as the economy picks up, and tell them exactly why. Encourage others who are talented contributors to do the same. When the company sees its most productive members going byebye they will cease with the policy.

Btw, grow a pair and name the company so i can avoid applying there.

Re:It's time for new laws to protect employees. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27928675)

Shouldn't be too hard to guess.

1 Exxon Mobil

2 Wal-Mart Stores

3 Chevron

4 ConocoPhillips

5 General Electric

6 General Motors

7 Ford Motor

8 AT&T

9 Hewlett-Packard

10 Valero Energy

11 Bank of America Corp.

12 Citigroup

13 Berkshire Hathaway

14 International Business Machines

15 McKesson

Re:It's time for new laws to protect employees. (4, Funny)

kpainter (901021) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928703)

Btw, grow a pair and name the company so i can avoid applying there.

You don't have to worry. Best Buy security doormen are not subject to this new policy.

Simple Solution (5, Insightful)

vertinox (846076) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928343)

Don't use social networking at work.

Secondly, don't use social networking at home with information or pictures that could identify you at least to the public.

If you want to talk about things without retribution, you need to do it anonymously or without your real name.

And as an aside...

Back in the late 90's when the internet first took off, most of the internet users never used their real name for anything. Maybe we were all geeks and loved being able to role play bad asses (aka trolls) on IRC, forums, and online games, but I'm just shocked these days on how people use their real names for just about everything.

It was assumed back then, the only way people could get to you was if they knew your real life info and now today it seems that people give it out by default without giving a second thought.

Re:Simple Solution (3, Informative)

An ominous Cow art (320322) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928645)

In the 80s and early 90s, you saw quite a lot of real names, addresses, and phone numbers in peoples' USENET signatures. Of course most people had their accounts through school or work (or the military) and may not have had a choice of username, but it was definitely a different mindset.

Re:Simple Solution (2, Insightful)

bzzfzz (1542813) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928785)

The trouble is that many people participate in social networking sites where the use of real names is expected. Opting out of social networking entirely is like opting out of the banking system -- possible, but not worth it for most people.

Re:Simple Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27928801)

I got a lot of feedback from friends for using an alias on facebook, a lot of criticism in fact (note that it wasn't from the most tech savvy or brightest individuals). I eventually gave in and started using my real name after locking down the privacy settings and ONLY having close friends on my facebook. For awhile I even created a second facebook account which was my 'public' profile. Most of the shit I've seen posted by my friends will come back to haunt me in years, I'm sure.

Re:Simple Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27928887)

I feel the same way.

The bigger problem, though, is that people can tag you in photos without your knowledge or consent. Getting an account, at least you can untag them.

Re:Simple Solution (1)

whitefang1121 (1432411) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928941)

Don't use social networking sites at all!! These sites seem to get our attentions wrapped up in a fantasy land where your friends don't even have to know the real you. This causes an unhealthy relationship and you'll start to ditch your other friends, so is there really any pros to going on a social networking site. there is still only one reason, and that would be a business related social networking site, like monster, to get a job. so people!! stay off the sites, go have a beer with a real friend and get a real girlfriend!

Re:Simple Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27928957)

"don't use social networking at home with information or pictures that could identify you at least to the public."

Doesn't that really defeat the main point of social networking in general?

Re:Simple Solution (1)

Celc (1471887) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928995)

Maybe people realized that putting your name on the Internet doesn't mean people will show up at your doorstep and rape you. Also now that hundreds of millions of people (billions?) on the Internet there's plenty of people who share the same name.

Except for me because someone thought it was a good idea to name me after an American comic book character, an old-Swedish middle name and a Norwegian lastname. Thanks!

The only thing I'm really worried about is a potential future employer googling me and finding drunken rant of mine (as to say I'd tell the employer I was drunk at the time..).

Re:Simple Solution (2, Interesting)

GMFTatsujin (239569) | more than 4 years ago | (#27929059)

Don't use social networking at work.

That's reasonable.

Secondly, don't use social networking at home with information or pictures that could identify you at least to the public.

That's not. It defeats the purpose of, you know, engaging with the society through networking: how you have an identity and you identify as part of the group? Socially?

If you want to talk about things without retribution, you need to do it anonymously or without your real name.

Sure. But anonymity is a precious commodity, and very hard to come by these days. The point of social networking sites is to encourage openness and communication.

One should not have to adopt the tactics of the (literally) secret society in one's spare time. Your approach reminds me of Agent Smith asking Mr. Anderson what good a phone call will do him.

I've had similar (3, Informative)

alitheg (1550581) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928371)

Working for a well-known retailer in the UK part-time while at University, one person I know lost their job because of (or at least partly because of, there *were* other factors) comments about the company and some people working for it on a social networking site. Shortly afterwards, the guidelines on computing were revised, and everyone asked to sign them, including a section on not posting negatively about the company or its employees "for example social networking sites or web-logs (blogs)"

Re:I've had similar (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928755)

Which makes it seem rather pointless - if they were able to fire them because of that, why do they need the extra slip of paper where you "agreed" not to do it?

What's the name of the company? (4, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928375)

Go home and post anonymously. You can't hold corporations to be accountable if you do not speak out.

Let's see... (3, Funny)

Orbital Sander (237340) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928399)

You're taking their money, right? In that case, bend over and take it like a r0nc0.

Re:Let's see... (5, Insightful)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928605)

Wrong attitude.
You have a business agreement of equals with your employer, you're not their slave.
You give them time, they give you money. At no point do you have to or should you ever be subservient to them or give up any of your human rights, or anything else they haven't already agree to pay you for.
Yet for some reason especially in the USA employees let their employers walk all over them, which sends the message that we're all a bunch of pussies that will put up with anything, so the employer does it even more. Basically its the fault of every employee with an attitude like yours that it can happen in the first place.

Re:Let's see... (2, Funny)

compro01 (777531) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928843)

You have a business agreement of equals

Yes, a single man is the "equal" of a $100+ billion corporation.

Re:Let's see... (4, Insightful)

ThrowAwaySociety (1351793) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928911)

Wrong attitude.
You have a business agreement of equals with your employer, you're not their slave.

Indeed. And, as an equal, if my employer were denigrating me in public (or semi-public), I would not hesitate to terminate all agreements with them. Thus, I do not fault them if they would do the same to me.

You give them time, they give you money. At no point do you have to or should you ever be subservient to them or give up any of your human rights, or anything else they haven't already agree to pay you for.

Indeed. And under no religion, or charter I am aware of is the right to be abusive without consequence a human right.

Yet for some reason especially in the USA employees let their employers walk all over them, which sends the message that we're all a bunch of pussies that will put up with anything, so the employer does it even more. Basically its the fault of every employee with an attitude like yours that it can happen in the first place.

I, for one, am not a pussy. I wield the ultimate power over my employer: the right to walk away if I am dissatisfied in any way, at any time. And I see nothing in the summary that would make a reasonable person exercise that right.

It's the economy (3, Insightful)

bzzfzz (1542813) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928415)

It's usually the market that keeps employers from following through on ridiculous "agreements" like this.

I believe they have increased boldness because the high unemployment makes them less concerned about how they will replace people they fire for one or another petty infraction of the rules.

Lots of companies have codes of conduct/ethics/etc (5, Insightful)

netruner (588721) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928445)

And most of them are just excuses to get rid of "problem" elements should an issue arise. (proprietary data leaks come to mind)

My employer makes us sign a code of ethics that's really just common sense - nothing really intrusive (if you end up on the front page of the local paper with your company badge on robbing an orphanage, or if you're stealing from the company or if you're falsifying paperwork, you're probably going to be fired). Other companies see it as a broad license to exert control over things they ought not.

The only problem I've had with it is the "agree to this new requirement to keep the job you've been doing" approach. (I know, I know - fairness and uniformity)

I wish folks would keep these agreements in mind when they get on their soapbox about "anonymous" posters being "cowards" for not putting their names to their comments. (that attitude always sounded to me like someone who was trying to figure out who to exact revenge on anyway)

Fun Code of Ethics Exercise (3, Funny)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928711)

Prior to handing it in to your manager/HR person, ask them to clarify the bit about bribing foreign officials. Tell them you want to make sure that it's only for company purposes and you can still bribe foreign officials for non-company-related business. Hilarity ensues...

Do you really need to use the portal itself? (2, Interesting)

nxtw (866177) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928471)

If possible, you could have avoided it. Where I work, the web-based resources I need aren't part of the same site and could be accessed without going through the portal.

And if this "agreement" was only on the front page of the portal, you may have been able to bypass it by navigating to a different page within the portal.

Seems normal. (1, Insightful)

SneakyMishkin (1298729) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928499)

Seems pretty straight forward to me. If you use their network, you play by their rules. Not discussing work outside of work is nothing new. You wouldn't go downtown and post internal information about your copmany on a bulletin board or telephone pole, why put it on Facebook or Twitter? Seems like this is mostly just common sense. They probably need just to have it in writing so when they fire you for being on Facebook all day they have something to cover their asses. C.Y.A. That has always been policy in any business.

Re:Seems normal. (2, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928791)

Is it still ok for them to police your personal conduct when you're at home using your own network?

Poor Corporate Counsel . . . (2, Insightful)

pacergh (882705) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928501)

Whoever the attorneys are for this outfit are fools. It is likely they didn't do so well in law school and had connections.

Seriously, this is a stupid legal move for all of the reasons presented by the original poster.

Ah well. I guess bad law students have to eat, too.

Either that, or the managers wrote a legal-like document without understanding the law. Good for anyone who then needs to sue them later, but bad for the company.

Re:Poor Corporate Counsel . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27928905)

Just because a thing has no legal merit doesn't mean that it has no merit at all. You are assuming that the agreement was intended to be tight if tested in court. It could be that someone in the company just wanted to express their opinion on the issue, and did so in the form of a legal agreement because they felt it carried more weight than a corporate memo.
 
Anyway, I just think its a mistake to assume that the people that wrote it were fools. They were probably just doing what they were told and maybe got a little over enthusiastic.

Giving away your free-speech rights (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27928521)

If it really says that you can't say anything negative about anything publically, then wow.

Most employers have clauses about saying things in public about the company that are negative, or that would, by association, put the company in a bad light.

It's rather a tough call. For example, you're at a conference, holding court in the hallways, telling people what a crock of poop the competitions product is, in terms that are perhaps "less than professional". This calls the professionalism of your company into question.

Whenever you're operating under your corporate persona, you are generally bound by the rules of conduct. If that is spelled out in your employment agreement as "behave nicely in public", then I think that they're merely covering all their bases by being explicit about social networking sites.

But to broaden it, to include public statements made by you under your non-corporate persona is stretching things. If my private self spouts off about what a moron my ex wife is in a public forum, the company can hardly claim that I was speaking on behalf of the company in that context.

The fact is, that you can contractually bind yourself to giving away some of your free-speech rights. It has been the cost of having a "mega corporation" job for a long time, since long before the Internet was big, and social networking sites were around.

Unilateral contract variation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27928541)

You don't say where you live, so I assume you're in the USA, partly because you mention the Fortune 15. I know little about US employment law, but my perception is that it's heavily weighted in favour of the employer.

Your employer would be on very tricky ground in the UK. Unilateral variations in your contract of employment can't enforced over here, I'm happy to say. Sometimes employers make contract variations a condition of benefiting from a pay review, but even that's fraught with difficulty. We also have a concept of unfair relations in contracts that your employer would probably be breaching unless they could demonstrate that good chat room behaviour was critical to your ability to do your job. Finally, your employer would be likely to receive claims of discrimination unless the rule were enforced unifomly against all employees.

In the UK... it would almost certainly be worthless. Fancy moving to a real country?

Use the Proxomitron... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27928563)

or some other HTML rewriting proxy to make it say something agreeable (I'm assuming it's a web portal).

I changed "expressly consent" to "expressly refuse consent and expressly revoke any implied consent" in the onerous "agreement" my company forces upon users.

Re:Use the Proxomitron... (1)

pwfffff (1517213) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928817)

Do you really, seriously, legitimately believe that a judge is going to fall for that?

Off duty conduct policy (3, Interesting)

slimshady945 (1553213) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928569)

I worked for a company that had an off duty conduct policy. It was intended, I think, for people who get arrested or convicted for things that happen while they are not at work, eg drunk driving. However (comma pause for effect) it was generally used against people who complained about their boss or work on their own time. Kind of like this. [abajournal.com]

That company is IPC International Corporation. It's a contract security firm, so I doubt many people here would work for them, but throwing it out there just in case. It wasn't the way I would have liked to leave, but I thank G-d every day that I never have to deal with them again. It may seem like I have a lot of resentment toward them. Maybe I do... hindsight being 20/20 I should have taken unemployment and finished my degree. (which I am doing now.)

Also that policy applied to the guards, maybe not management. Or it may be even more restrictive for management.

Interal Needs vs. Externalities (2, Interesting)

davecrusoe (861547) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928579)

An agreement such as this likely covers two areas: first, badmouthing the company on social sites (it wants to protect itself) and second, using social sites for personal reasons, rather than for work-related reasoning.

If anything is the case, sooner or later, workplaces will have to accept that social media blurs the lines between work and life even further. I'm on Facebook Causes for my workplaces, although my personal account is linked to the Facebook Causes.

Social media policies are the knee-jerk reaction put in place by individuals who don't yet see that blurred line, nor understand how to work with, rather than against, social media services. It's still something that's being figured out, anyway, so there's an excuse (so they say).

Cheers,
--Dave

Fortune 1000 in your Future (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928607)

1. If it it bothers you enough to post on /. find another job. Seriously, if it's not a good personal fit, then find a place that is a better fit.

2. While you can probably work there for quite a while in this state, at some point the tension will probably do bad things to your overall physical/mental health.

3. that you never say anything bad or negative about the company, nor do you say anything bad or negative about anything.
  I make mistakes and I'm not human perfection, so... Someone please explain how that works because I don't get it.

4. Please, tell me the name of this glorious organization so I can steer clear of this distopia.

Already under NDA? (5, Insightful)

cbuskirk (99904) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928613)

Let's face it the moment you were hired you were presented with the same/similar document outlining what you could and could not say about the company. This is just a friendly pop-up to remind all the kiddies just out of college that Facebook is not exempt from the NDA they didn't read.

Re:Already under NDA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27928985)

Let's face it the moment you were hired you were presented with the same/similar document outlining what you could and could not say about the company. This is just a friendly pop-up to remind all the kiddies just out of college that Facebook is not exempt from the NDA they didn't read.

That's not an NDA. I've signed many NDAs, and never seen terms like that. NDA covers things that are proprietary, secret, and valuable.

This guy claims that the company wants to control what he says all the time, which isn't normally found in an NDA. It sounds like you can't have a beer in a pub and talk about the great new product your company started selling without prior approval.

Employment contract (2, Interesting)

janwedekind (778872) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928631)

As far as I know it is quite normal that an employment contract forbids you to talk negatively about your company in public (during and after your employment). So they have a legal means of firing you if you simply expose corporate malpractice to the public. That can make it difficult for employees to defend themselves especially if they depend on their income.

DO NOT WANT (1)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928647)

There's no way I'd agree to something like that, I have a right to freedom of speech!

Re:DO NOT WANT (2, Insightful)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928881)

...and because you signed an employment contract that you have broken because of your free speech, then they have the right to dismiss you.

Unfortunately, these stupid rules on social networking get enforced because some people are severely lacking in any common sense. Some 30 years ago whilst I was at school, a teacher whom I admired greatly said one of the most important things that has ever been said to me:

"You are free to do anything you like in life but you must face up to the consequences of what you do."

And that sums up one of the major problems with society today. Here in the UK we have rampant youth knife crime because one kid will bad mouth another kid without thinking first that he might get stabbed if he says it, for example...

As for the Internet, it has made that situation worse - these same unthinking people get far too openly opinionated when they think that they're hidden behind a wall of anonymity, plus they're actively *encouraged* to voice opinions about every trivial thing that goes on when, in reality, very few people give a toss about their opinion.

So yes, you have the right to say what you want - but it's no bad thing to stop and take a deep breath to think about what you are saying first...

Re:DO NOT WANT (1)

Garbad Ropedink (1542973) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928893)

Yes you do. And your company has a right to turf you if you're badmouthing them. They'll just say 'well you clearly don't like working here based on all the comments you made on Facebook'

It's a pain. But that's how employment works.

My employeer (2, Informative)

djsmiley (752149) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928649)

My employeer(?) asks me to not mention who I work for on any kind of social networking site/chat rooms, but the reasoning for this is my work has implications which may lead people to believe that I am able to access things which I can't, and its a blanket request for the whole company, who I just happen to be covered with (I work in IT... lol, so unless its a request for data they are out of luck anyway)

I'm sure if people actually read their contracts this kind of thing is pretty normal/standard but sometimes presented under another light of "I wont do anything to make the company look bad, be it while I'm working, or while im not".

Even in my previous retail roles as a shop assistance all the contracts I've signed had this sort of agreement - covers them if you say something stupid/incriminating and they suddenly need you to "disappear" out of the company.

Looking at who's in the Fortune 15 (3, Interesting)

Nexzus (673421) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928739)

Looking at [cnn.com] the current Fortune 15, a whole lotta those companies have been in the news. I can imagine his company wanting to minimize any amount of bad publicity they can, right down to the musings of their employees. Citigroup, in particular, who received a fair amount of bailout money, may not want it known if its rank and file employees are using extragent perks. Just an example.

Re:Looking at who's in the Fortune 15 (3, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928883)

Looking at the current Fortune 15, a whole lotta those companies have been in the news.

You can narrow it down more than that - No one describes themselves as a "fortune 15" company unless they failed to make the top ten... So that leaves:
  • #11, Bank of America
  • #12, Citigroup
  • #13, Berkshire Hathaway
  • #14, IBM
  • #15, McKesson

On top of that, I'd rule out IBM and BRK, just as a gut feeling that they have a bit more sense than to reduce morale with such a useless policy.

sure it's enforceable. you're fired. (2, Insightful)

swschrad (312009) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928745)

seriously, that's how MBAs see it. what it comes down to is this: if you talk, use no name. if you don't talk, you could use your name, if you could have talked.

or you can post using library computers requiring no check-in procedure, and under the CEO's name.

Let's boycott them! Fortune 15 list. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27928747)

The 2008 ranking of Fortune 15:
1 Wal-Mart Stores
2 Exxon Mobil
3 Chevron
4 General Motors
5 ConocoPhillips
6 General Electric
7 Ford Motor
8 Citigroup
9 Bank of America Corp.
10 AT&T
11 Berkshire Hathaway
12 J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.
13 American International Group
14 Hewlett-Packard
15 International Business Machines
Boycott them all

at work only? (1)

drdozer (1552231) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928825)

Does this apply to your working hours and/or use of the work network, or does it bind you in your own time and on your own hardware?

Rules to live by (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928871)

1) Never give your real name or address to a one night stand, and 2) Never say anything online that can be traced back to your work persona. If you criticize your own company, it carries more weight because you are an "insider". If you criticize another company, they can sue your company because it has deeper pockets than you as an individual. Also, if you have stock in the company you work for, anything you say about the company online is probably subject to SEC rules. Conclusion: if you absolutely have to facebook, create a separate private and career persona. Don't associate any information with the private persona that links it to your real name or career (trust me, you wouldn't be the first person that has ever lied about their personal details in their facebook profile!).

Not that it applies to anyone here, but the Michael Phelp's Corollary also applies: If millions of people recognize your face, you should be extremely careful about where and with whom you engage in embarrassing practices like taking bong hits. And the Paris Hilton corollary: Never, ever, under any circumstance, allow yourself to be recorded while having sex, or even while displaying your naughty bits. Think about it: is a cheap necklace of mardi gras beads really worth the embarrassment of showing up in a "Girl geeks gone wild!" video?

Social networking, no. Copyrights, yes. (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928891)

One company I worked for required that we list all our copyrights, websites and other intellectual content to avoid any conflicts with the company policy that any idea that pops into your head at work or at home belonged to the company. Several people offered to quit outright over the policy, others got clever by listing the URLs of every Slashdot they ever posted, and some threaten to sue. This soon became an unmanageable mess that the company was forced to drop the policy.

"anything bad or negative about anything" ??? (1)

RexDevious (321791) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928917)

Would that include speaking disapprovingly of negative comments about the company? Or natural and man made disasters?

Seems to me you protest that you simply can't in good conscious refuse to NOT say anything bad about either 9/11, or your supervisor's tragic and daily bouts with STD's. But you *will* cheerfully agree to their terms when they give you a specific list of things, actions, situations, ideas, and adjectives about which are not to say negative things about - and given you adequate time to commit the list to memory.

You work for a lawyer-douchey company (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928925)

Your choices should be:

1. Don't do any browsing at work at all
2. Bring your own gear (Say like a nice Dell mini 9) and use mobile wireless. If this isn't allowed at work, go to choice #1 and get over it.

The right way to handle this (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#27928931)

The right way to handle company policy is NOT to have you sign an "agreement" but rather have you sign an acknowledgment that you have read the policy. By taking their check, you've already agreed to comply with any and all legally enforceable company policies.

Wrong:
"I agree not to speak negatively about the company. Sign one of these: ___Yes ___no"

Right:
"It is against company policy to speak negatively about the company. Violations of company policy can result in disciplinary action including termination. Sign here: ___ Acknowledged"

It's a bit heavy-handed but at least there's no pretending you "agree" to anything.

If your company's way of doing business bothers you, circulate your resume. Just use a headhunter who can do it anonymously and don't be so detailed that your own company's recruiters spot you.

Fortune top 15 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27929013)

1 Exxon Mobil

2 Wal-Mart Stores

3 Chevron

4 ConocoPhillips

5 General Electric

6 General Motors

7 Ford Motor

8 AT&T

9 Hewlett-Packard

10 Valero Energy

11 Bank of America Corp.

12 Citigroup

13 Berkshire Hathaway

14 International Business Machines

15 McKesson
 

My guess is the author is talking about IBM considering the douche bag things they've doing to their employees lately - like canning them and sending the jobs overseas. Then telling them that they can keep their jobs if: 1. They move to India. 2. At an Indian salary.

Maybe we should start a pool?

Company restrictions on social networking (2, Interesting)

managerialslime (739286) | more than 4 years ago | (#27929045)

Restrictions on social networking may be an example of the "new" technology-driven world reflecting what has always been policy at many large companies.

Thirty years ago, my boss forced me to fire someone who was a member of a social group (outside of work that) my boss found to be objectionable. Mind you, this employee never opened his mouth or said anything unprofessional at work.

My boss took me aside and explained to me that like it or not, every employee's "personal life" could always be construed as a representation of the employer and so any publicly controversial image was grounds for termination.

What I found out then and is even more true in the US today, is that as long as your reason for firing someone is not directly based on their age, race, officially recognized religion, country of national origin, or recognized handicap, that you can pretty much fire them for any other reason (or non-reason), work-related or not.

Some of the freedoms for the "pursuit of happiness" in the US are reserved for the unemployed and entrepreneurs.

I accepted this reality early in my career. It is not the bravest position. Then again, I am not the bravest of people.

You went ahead and accepted? (1)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 4 years ago | (#27929069)

You went ahead and accepted even though you knew it was wrong.
Its people like you that make employers think that this sort of shit is even a possibility.
Good luck with whatever even more restrictive crap they now put you through just because you caved like a pussy the first time.

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