(This post originally appeared at www.boydneil.com)

So, employers think this is smart?

A teacher’s aide in Michigan was let go from her job after a school administrator demanded that she turn over her Facebook password and she refused. The aide, Kimberly Hester, is preparing for a legal showdown with the school system. (Read the full story at Time’s Moneyland)

Wrong . . . this is simply daft in so many ways. Yet it is popping up more frequently.

Here are five good reasons to think twice before you tread on the private lives of your employees:

  1. Other employees will disdain not only your authoritarianism and disrespect for privacy but also your evident lack of understanding about how social networks work
  2. You will inevitably face the kind of social web backlash that attends any maneuver to control personal online behaviour

  1. Your actions will make it impossible in the future to claim with any credibility that you are committed to “employee engagement”, “openness”, “transparency” and any other popular business tropes
  2. Your kids, for whom social networks are central to their lives, will think you’re a dork
  3. You will be giving succor to governments which want to “extend the state’s investigatory powers” in dangerous and unnecessary ways

So don’t do it: You’ve got so little to gain in terms of advocating employee self-discipline and so much to lose in terms of respect.