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.