Gagging Order on Twitter hints at future of employment contracts

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On Sky Sports News today there was an article about Leicester Tigers Rugby Player Jordan Crane - who had tweeted about the possible extended lay-off he would suffer following an ankle injury. Coach Richard Cockerill was quick to comdemn his player’s actions and issue a blanket ban on all Twitter and Facebook activities mentioning anything related to the Tigers Club or its team members’ activities.


In a discussion with my Rugby player colleague Chris, I voiced my opinion how this was surely all a bit of a storm in a teacup. He however quickly countered with the argument that the Tigers’ opponents could use this information to gain advantage in team selection, training and strategy, knowing that the Tigers would be fielding a less tried and most likely less capable player in the number 8 position for an extended period.


This then got me thinking about the reality of Social Media and Twitter and Facebook, and how commonplace it is these days to tweet or post updates about anything and everything. It thus stands to reason that somewhere in amongst all these tweets, some people will be inadvertently giving away significant company and team secrects and strategies which competitors could and would use against them.


We all know that many employers check a prospective employee’s Facebook and Twitter accounts as part of the original interview and vetting process, but how many companies regularly check on their employees ongoing activities?


Now that the Tigers players have received an offical gagging order from the club, where they are specifically prohibited from tweeting anything club-related, how soon is it before companies en masse start introducing specific clauses into their employment contracts to ban employees from mentioning any of their employer’s activities.


Twitter really is a two-edged sword, as its great promotional ability has been proven again and again; yet, if every time you tweet about your company’s activities your competitors take note of your actions - how soon before they will have something seemingly innocuous that they can twist and spin to use against you.


Never forget how quickly the fortunes of companies can be reversed by one inadvertent statement - all you need to do is think ’Gerald Ratner’!


Up against the need for company privacy and secrecy, you have the full force of Social Networking and Social Media, which an enormous swathe of the population actually loves using and wants to be part of both within their working and leisure lifestyles. An increasing number of job applicants are looking for roles which encompass online social activities. How is the enormous trend for openness, collaboration and networking going to stack up against the corporate need for secrecy?


I foresee whole legal departments drafting airtight contracts which pretty much render Twitter and Facebook unusable for certain types of employees. Just when some of those types of employees are fired up about getting involved in those social activities - it will be fascinating to see how this subject pans out ...

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