Don't do that! Forget social networks, don't diss your boss to a major magazine reporter

Reuters/Larry Downing: U.S. President Barack Obama announces that Gen. David Petraeus (R) will replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal as his top commander in Afghanistan.Reuters/Larry Downing: U.S. President Barack Obama announces that Gen. David Petraeus (R) will replace Gen. Stanley …A day doesn't go by when we're not reminded somehow about how foolish it is to diss our bosses and complain about our jobs on Facebook and other social networks. So what could possibly lead a disciplined military leader to kvetch to a reporter writing a story for Rolling Stone magazine about the president of the United States and his administration?

In the hours leading up to President Barack Obama's not-surprising dismissal of General Stanley A. McChrystal of his command in Afghanistan, we learned that freelance journalist Michael Hastings met the general and his staff in Paris following the Eyjafjallajokull volcano eruption. He traveled by road with them to Berlin, where they chatted for a week at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel while waiting for the ash to clear, according to the New York Times Media Decoder blog. So maybe the military guys, so used to keeping the press at a controlled distance, forgot to go over a few ground rules, such as what's off the record and what isn't??

Whatever happened, there are lessons to be learned here for the rest of us who do not hold the lives of soldiers and our country's standing in the world in the balance when we utter some disrespectful words about the people we work with and for.

Most of us won't be approached by reporters to discuss our jobs and employers, but if you are, don't say anything you wouldn't want to see in print. Also: if you've established a trusted relationship with a reporter, set some ground rules. (Can you say "off the record," General McChrystal?) Apply the same rule to coworkers you don't know very well--and many you do--and you'll be in better shape than the general. If you don't want something you say to wind up being told to some higher-ups, then don't say it.

Clearly, this message applies to social networks, where it may be fun to be clever and complain and make oblique references to idiot managers, but, truly, no good can come from it. So don't do it.

The only thing that seems to make sense about how this unfolded is that McChrystal was terribly fed up with the people he had to answer to on a war assignment that seems to have no possible good resolution. So, in the end, he got one wish: He doesn't have to deal with any of it anymore.