twitter-bird-white-on-blue.pngI know a lot of you don’t take Twitter seriously, but a recent rogue tweet by a once-prominent CEO proves otherwise.

Jack Welch, the former head of General Electric who went on to make a career for himself as a writer for a host of business publications, decided to take his political fervor for Mitt Romney and trash the staff at the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS.

You see, he was apparently upset that the BLS’ unemployment data for September showed a drop in the jobless rate and wrote a tweet that questioned the integrity of the BLS numbers.

Here’s his tweet:

“Unbelievable jobs numbers…these Chicago guys will do anything…can’t debate so change numbers.”

I was particularly perturbed over Welch’s tweet because I know many of the folks at the BLS and they’ve always seemed to have the utmost integrity no matter which administration they served under. But clearly, Welch has a right to say what ever the heck he wants.

But, and here’s the big but, it can end up hurting your career, as it appears to have in Welch’s case.

Following a backlash over his tweet, it was announced that Welch would be leaving his writing posts at Reuters and Fortune.

Here’s a fairly powerful player in Corporate America and even he has to watch what he tweets. It’s a cautionary tale for all you tweeters and Facebookers and Pinteresters, etc., out there.

Employees need to think before they send messages out into the social media abyss, especially when you want to get political.

Despite what many think, there is no free speech in the private workplace.

Employees are not only engaging in political conversations with co-workers face to face, they’re also increasingly using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, or blogs, e-mail and instant messaging, to get their opinions out this political season.

Few if any states have laws protecting employee free speech who work for private employers, but government employees tend to have more First Amendment rights said Risa Lieberwitz, professor of labor and employment law at Cornell University’s ILR School. But, she added, “The scope of those rights has been severely limited by a series of Supreme Court cases.”

Only unions, she continued, give workers the best protections because typically union contracts require that workers can only be fired or suffer any adverse job action for “just cause.”

So, think before you watch the debates and tweet.

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