Mendoza School of Business

You’re fired! How to decide when a tweet goes too far

Published: March 3, 2017 / Author: Joseph Holt

Joseph Holt

President Trump, in his address to Congress this week, honored Carryn Owens, the widow of William “Ryan” Owens. Chief Owens is the highly-decorated Navy Seal who was killed in a raid in Yemen on January 29th. Carryn received a heartfelt two-minute standing ovation from the crowd. Many hearts in the room and across the nation surely went out to her.

Not all hearts were so kind, though. Take Dan Grillo, a principal in the Chicago-area Liberty Advisor Group and a former Clinton and Obama volunteer. After the Congressional address, Grillo tweeted the following heartless and insensitive message: “Sorry, Owens’ wife, you’re not helping yourself or your husband’s memory by standing there and clapping like an idiot. Trump just used you.”

Read the entire op-ed on the
CNBC website.Grillo was fired the day after this ill-considered tweet, and that firing seems warranted for reasons the company gave in a statement.

The company described Grillo’s tweet as “offensive and inappropriate,” and said it was “inconsistent with the company’s values.” The company’s statement went on to say, “Regardless of whether the comments in the tweet were intended to cause the hurt and anger that they ultimately generated, they were unacceptable to us, and the individual who issued the tweet is no longer affiliated with Liberty.”

The company’s decision was only strengthened by the fact that Grillo had named the company in his Twitter profile. So the company was at considerable risk for being associated with the tweet.

Grillo’s firing, in my opinion, is a clear case of when an ill-advised tweet should lead to a dismissal. But under what less-clear circumstances should such a tweet or post result in a firing?