Martha Stewart Living Radio: The Radio Blog

Career Advice with Maggie: Should I be afraid of using Facebook at work?

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I have a great colleague who works very hard.  We're friends on Facebook and I'm concerned because she always makes fun of other colleagues or office occurrences on her profile.  I have tried telling her to be careful of what she writes on Facebook but she claims she has a "freedom of speech." Is she right? Can't she get fired for writing unfavorable things about our workplace online?

- Fearful of Facebook

Freedom of speech is thankfully a right in this great country.  However, when it comes to publicly discussing the workplace, I’ve known employers to terminate employees for sharing what the company considered confidential information.  If your friend is using her real name and mentions where she works in her profile or in her posts, these comments are traceable and taint her otherwise hardworking, professional image. As for you, it’s best if you don’t comment or “like” her politically incorrect posts.

There are better uses for social networking.  I use Facebook to share both professional and personal information with friends, family, colleagues, radio listeners and clients.  Please feel free to “friend” me on Facebook.  Here are the guidelines I use to maintain a positive online image:

--Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t want your coworkers, boss or HR to hear. In the heat of the moment, we often say things we regret.  On social networking sites, our spur of the moment comments can be immediately shared with a large audience.  These can then be taken out of context (now or in the future) and misinterpreted for the worst, even if we don’t intend it.  Before you post anything seemingly negative about others, think about whether that comment reflects negatively on you.

--Maintain your privacy. Facebook has privacy settings – use them. Comments can be specified to share with Everyone, Only Friends, Friends of Friends, or even custom settings you specify.  If you must vent, then do so only to close friends whom you can trust to keep your comments confidential. You might also want to hide your profile from public view and control who can contact you and search for you. Get familiar with the privacy options listed under “Account” on Facebook.

--Don’t name names. If you’re not looking to promote your work or employer online, it’s best to leave their name out of your profile and your comments altogether.  You might also want to consider using an alias rather than your real name.  This way your comments won’t be as traceable to you should current or future employers search your online presence as part of their hiring process.

Rather than use this tool for venting or making fun of others, there are other more productive methods for dealing with workplace frustration.  (Read more on dealing with a difficult boss.)  As a fan of social media, I see a lot of positive workplace uses for this technology not the least of which is sharing ideas.  And I’m not alone.  I’ll leave you with this recent Economist article on ways companies and employees can both benefit from social networking!

Photo courtesy of The Economist.

Comments (6)

  • Some great guidelines here; if (or perhaps when) I join FB, I'll be sure to keep them in mind.

    stay adventurous,

  • I totally agree--either "keep it clean" when it comes to talking about your workplace online or really, avoid the topic altogether. Better safe than sorry.

    I recently gave up Facebook for 40 days and 40 nights and, in addition to having more free time, having no status updates to compose nor friends to "approve" let me be more in the moment and more effective at work and in life. Something to think about.

  • Thanks for the comments:

    Craig - there's no pressure but I think joining FB gives you a chance to reconnect with people you knew in school or at past jobs. From a career standpoint, I've also made some interesting connections and learned more about the people who I'm friends and colleagues with (but not too much info!) You might want to consider a two week trial of FB just to see if it might work for you.

    Olivia - Glad to see you've reset your boundaries when it comes to your online v. your real life. Moderation is key!

  • I would also add that people should not expect privacy from places such as Facebook. Your privacy is not guaranteed and is at the mercy of all sorts of factors.

    First, you do not own your posts - Facebook does. That means they can chose to change privacy settings at will, release information to interested parties, etc. The only thing that stops them from doing it is business strategy and at some point, that may change.

    Second, people who are friends with you, or those who follow you, may not exercise the same discretion you might, and they might be followed, or friended, by someone whom you definitely do not want to see your naughty post. They may retweet, repost, or re-use your stuff because it is funny to them, and you'll be stuck with cleaning up the mess.

    In other words, you are using SOCIAL networks (with social being the key), not private networks, so if you wish for something to remain private, best not to post at all.

  • I agree with Vadim

  • This is the right Career Advice with Maggie: Should I be afraid of using Facebook at work? - Martha Stewart Living Radio: The Radio Blog diary for anyone who wants to seek out out nearly this message. You respond so more its near wearying to reason with you (not that I real would want…HaHa). You definitely put a new aerobatics on a topic thats been written roughly for years. Nice meaninglessness, simply large!

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