Best Buy Tries to Fire Employee Over YouTube Video: Social Media and the Workplace Face Off Once Again

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There was another interesting story that came out this week about the uncertain waters that employers wade through when dealing with social media. This story involved Best Buy, a company that you think would be open to its employees’ creativity and technological inventiveness, given the fact that it is the world’s largest home electronics retailer. (In fact, check out this video of Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson, who talks about how a company’s future lies in the hands of its employees and how the employees should be given social media tools and be allowed to create).

But the embracing of social media only goes so far…and not to so far as to embrace a video created by a Best Buy employee that pokes fun of the Richfield-based retail giant.

The video below (snarky and funny, but beware…it contains language that some might find offensive) was made by Brian Maupin, a part-time Best Buy employee. It makes fun of  the iPhone and Evo phone zealots and was made as a way to vent Maupin’s and his colleagues’ frustrations at dealing with the public, a trying task as any one who has worked retail can attest to. The employee tries to talk the customer out of buying an iPhone but to no avail, despite numerous facts that the Evo is a better phone.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FL7yD-0pqZg&hl=en_US&fs=1]

Best Buy didn’t think the video was as funny as Maupin and his colleagues. After careful consideration of the problem (and lots of bad publicity), Best Buy decided not to terminate Maupin. However, serious thought (and a suspension) was given to his termination, as reported in the Star Tribune. In the end, Best Buy

I’ve discussed before the difficult intersection of social media and the workplace. Employers can be greatly impacted by their employees’ actions on line — lost business, lost reputation and defamation are only a few of the legal and business issues that can affect a company. However, in the case of a video like this, which does not mention specifically the company’s name (although an earlier one, which Maupin took down, did), is the proper response to suspend and terminate? Does that only cause more harm than good on employee morale and the company’s reputation? Especially in a company that works in electronics and social media tools, I would say yes.

Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is not do anything at all. But in some cases, it just might be the best.

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