Category Archives: 3. News You Can Use

Bad Behavior Anytime Can Get You Fired

While it’s clear that misconduct at work—theft, insubordination, or discrimination toward a co-worker—is cause for termination, the prevalence of videos recording bad behavior outside of work is now leading to the same result. And it’s legal.

The reason? The government must protect free speech, but private employers are not under the same obligation, giving non-governmental organizations broad reach for lawful termination. Consequently, an employee working at a bank, tech company, or law firm cannot be arrested for saying or doing hateful or distasteful things, but that person canbe fired.

It plays out like this. Someone takes a video of another’s objectionable behavior and posts it on social media. Through re-posting, the individual saying or doing the distasteful act is identified. The person’s employer sees it. The offender is fired.

The media widely reported a recent incident of that exact scenario. The event occurred in New York when a white woman in Central Park called police after a Black man, who was bird-watching, asked the woman to leash her dog as required by the park’s rules. The woman untruthfully claimed the man was threatening her and her dog to the police. However, as she made the call, the man documented it on video as he stood calmly nearby. Later the woman was charged with filing a false police report and was subsequently fired by her employer after the incident went viral. Similar situations have also resulted in terminations.

Private employers in the United States can generally fire their workers under the employment-at-will doctrine as long as the reason for the termination is not due to race, religion, age, or disability. After all, employees’ actions reflect upon their employers whether those actions occur at the workplace or outside of it.


  1. How does the employment-at-will doctrine affect employees?
  2. Why does the First Amendment right to free speech not protect some workers from being fired?
  3. Why does employee conduct outside of the office reflect on employers?

From The Wall Street Journal

How to (and not to) Cope with Covid’s Impact

Reports of anxiety, stress, and fear stretch from sea to shining sea as we enter the seventh month since the coronavirus was declared a global threat. It’s normal for mental health to take a blow under the circumstances, experts say, but there are good and bad ways to cope.

Research from the University of California at Santa Barbara notes that people find many different ways to deal with a pandemic. Some accept the situation, called acceptance-based coping, and make plans and look for distractions—think hobbies or work. This strategy also includes seeking emotional support from loved ones to mitigate loneliness and generate feelings of wellbeing.

Others practice positive framing, or looking for the small bits of good in a bad situation. People who use this tactic seem to have less depression and stress, the research found. Self-compassion is another positive way of dealing with the stress and frustrations facing Americans. This strategy is not easy for many people to adopt because it requires them to be as kind and understanding to themselves as they are to friends or family.

What doesn’t work? Venting—spouting negative or painful emotionsto others–was found to be an unhelpful strategy to deal with the impact of the pandemic. Behavior disengagement, or just giving up, was also a poor strategy for coping.

The bottom line is to realize that a sense of wellbeing in this challenging time takes work.


  1. What are some small activities or events that can bring you moments of joy?
  2. Why do you think venting negative feelings can be counterproductive?
  3. What strategies can you use to ensure you do not disengage from classwork and other responsibilities?

From The Current

COVID Alters E-Mail Language

As the pandemic continues, people in the business world have adjusted the way they correspond in a way that acknowledges the collective angst associated with COVID-19. Gone are exclamation points to indicate enthusiasm and emojis to show light-heartedness. In their place are heartfelt words that reflect the danger and upheaval the pandemic has wrought all over the world.

Public relations experts such as Benjamin Schmerler in New York say that any communication today should at least acknowledge the “collective vulnerability that people feel.” He adds that because so many employees are working from home, the ability to communicate casually in the office isn’t possible, so written communications such as e-mail, texts, instant messaging, and even Slack messages should include a personal touch.

Gretchen McCulloch, the author of Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language,explains that COVID-19 has created a shared reality that workplace communication reflects. Likewise, Prof. Naomi Baron says that people are more deliberate when they write, which leads to text that divulges more personal and truthful remarks. This phenomenon is exacerbated by the fact that many people are not working at the office, so sharing personal touches—such as a blooming backyard garden—has become gracious rather than extraneous.

This in no way means the writer should wax eloquent or be verbose, says Brian Metcalf, the founder of a digital marketing agency. He tells employees to remove jargon and to message concisely—no one wants to wade through lengthy messages. This fundamental principle of business communication remains in effect today.

One element all the experts agree upon is to omit blatant enthusiasm. Grinning emojis should be replaced with a thumbs-up to acknowledge receipt of a message. Carefree smiley faces and cat pictures show a level of tone-deafness unacceptable in the current situation.

The bottom line is to show sensitivity without oversharing the personal. At the same time, to pretend that it’s life and business as usual can make the recipient of a message feel disrespected.


  1. Why do experts suggest it’s important to mention health and wellness in professional messages today?
  2. What are some softening phrases you might use at the beginning of an e-mail or text message that are not clichéd?
  3. Which emojis should you avoid in professional communication, and why?

From The Wall Street Journal