“I Got Fired for Tweeting”: No, Not Really.

by Matt Waller

Earlier today while eating lunch (not from a food truck, unfortunately), I came across a tweet (“I got fired for tweeting: ask me how”), which led me to a piece on The Awl about an employee of a food truck who “got fired for tweeting.” That wording is a tad deceptive, and I was under the impression that the act of tweeting alone–not the content or context of a tweet–got the individual fired. As someone who occasionally tweets during my breaks at work, I was interested.

As it turns out, the employee got fired for using Twitter to publicly shame the employer (an advisory firm with 300 employees) of a group who placed a large order without tipping. Granted, placing a $170 lunch order and not tipping is incredibly inconsiderate and disrespectful. I understand the anger of the employees who scrambled to put together the order, at the cost of making other customers wait longer than usual, only to find out the party didn’t tip. But for the employee to take action into his own hands by using Twitter to call out the corporation who employs the individuals? That seems a little much.

The paradox of the employee’s argument is that he calls out an entire corporation for the behavior of a select few individuals whose actions may or may not be representative of the corporation as a whole, but at the same time, the employee fails to see how his behavior could be taken as representative of his company (the food truck) as a whole. If the employee is willing to publicly judge an entire company based on the action of a few individuals, then surely he can understand his boss’s fear of his/her company being judged by the actions of this one employee choosing to publicly shame a customer. The employee didn’t get fired for tweeting; he got fired for reflecting poorly on his employer in a highly visible forum.

The writer notes that he “could have not said anything,” but that he did “because of some misguided notions about ‘the courage of your convictions,’ or whatever.” (Nevermind the sophomoric tone of that statement.) The fact of the matter is that when you enter into an agreement to work for a given company, some sacrifice is involved, and professionalism is generally expected. You become a representative of the organization. Certainly the employee would not have sent the tweet in question using the food truck’s own Twitter account. There are many ways to show “courage of conviction” aside from sending petty tweets which inculpate an entire company for the behavior of a few of its employees; by an extension of that logic, the employee should have realized that his behavior, too, could be misunderstood as representative of his employer. I can sympathize with the employees of the food truck–including the writer of the article–who worked hard only to be snubbed from a well-earned tip. I cannot sympathize, however, with the fact that the guy got fired.

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