In our social media driven world, are our posts solely our own? I like to err on the side of caution and say, no.
We’ve all heard the news reports in recent years about professionals losing their jobs due to the content they post on their blogs or Facebook pages.
Getting fired for the content of your blog became a new thing in 2002 when Heather Armstrong and her site, dooce.com, was one of the first to be publicly scrutinized after her termination.
The content on her site involved some witty boss-bashing and co-worker insults. In response to her pink slip she solicited this advice to fellow bloggers:
“I started this website in February 2001. A year later I was fired from my job for this website because I had written stories that included people in my workplace. My advice to you is BE YE NOT SO STUPID.”
In late September 2012, the National Labor Relations Board upheld the firing of Robert Becker, a BMW dealership employee fired for his Facebook postings about a neighboring dealership.
The latest story comes from Huntsville, AL where local NBC affiliate WAAY reporter Shea Allen was recently terminated.
In her blog, ‘No Apologies; Confessions of a Red Headed Reporter’ Allen details her many experiences as a reporter, both in front of and behind the camera.
Two days after posting her latest “confession”, which boldly communicates her aversion to elderly people and her bra-less appearance during a live broadcast, WAAY sent her on a permanent vacation.
This is a lesson many people are still learning, that lesson being, be careful what you share. If you don’t think you need a filter, you do.
Not only could this derail current employment, but affect potential employment as well. Most of us are looking to enter our chosen field of study. What you post via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or your blog could deter your dream employer from hiring you.
As Allen put it in her NBC Today Show interview, “I was being snarky and funny, I certainly didn’t think it would come to this.”
This is not to say that you can’t have an on-line persona, just keep it clean, professional, politically correct, and leave your place of employment out of it. It doesn’t matter how anonymous you think you are being social media is far reaching.
1. Know where your company stands: It’s OK for an employer to fire you for things you say on-line. Ask about the company social media policy before you start a blog, even if you are doing it anonymously. Does your company establish boundaries? Is blogging acceptable? Is it OK to mention your employer? Are there topics that are off-limits? What are the consequences? If your employer doesn’t have a social media policy, offer to develop one for them!
2. Blog on your own time: If you are using company hardware, a company network or doing it on company time, you are likely bound by company policy and will likely be reprimanded or terminated for wrongful use. Don’t hide it from your boss. Be honest about your blog and ask your employer if it is acceptable. Consider it akin to asking your bosses permission to speak at an industry conference.
3. Practice safe blogs: “Employees who go around sharing negative or confidential information about their company, product or service — either internal or external — to the company would and should get fired,” says Pete Quintas, CTO of SilkRoad Technology, creator of an enterprise blogging application called Silkblogs. “You need to be honest and not secretive about what you are writing unless you are willing to deal with the consequences.” If you’re going to rant it better be factual, like how your employer is violating workers’ rights or breaking the law.
4. Use good judgment: If you consider blogs and the Internet an extension of your voice, what you say on your blog about your company, product or service should be kept within the guidelines of what you would say in public, according to Quintas. “Treat it with the same restraint of how you talk in person about your company, remembering that more people have access to what you say,” he suggests.
5. Inappropriate activity trumps protected speech: (Refer to number three above.) Our first amendment allows us freedom of speech, the press, and assembly. However, let’s put this into perspective. If you look your boss in the eye and tell him to “shove it” you might get canned shortly after your utterance. Similarly, if you write gratuitous, snarky posts about how you “hate” your job, co-workers or cube-mate, don’t expect to be employed for long. Although we have free speech we also have a thing called insubordination…
6. Last but not least, don’t post pictures of yourself in a drunken stupor, table dancing in a bar, or doing keg stands. Even if you don’t have a drinking problem making such behavior public might lead a potential employer (or current one) to believe you do. They could lose respect for you and you could lose out on some great professional opportunities.