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Bosses who check your Facebook postings

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The proposed cyber crime bill here in St Vincent and the Grenadines has caused an international firestorm of reaction because of the severe punishments that will be levied against offenders. The bill carries jail time of two years and fines of $50,000 for persons who post threatening, menacing or obscene information. With this much at stake, it’s critical that companies and citizens pay attention to how this will impact the workplace and how business is conducted.{{more}} Can bosses check your social media updates and reprimand you for what is written?

There is no arguing that social media platforms, particularly Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, have transformed the way we live and interact with each other. If I need to know what is happening in SVG, I log onto Facebook and read the posts of my Facebook friends. As I scan status updates, I usually get a lot more than SVG updates. I am no longer amazed at what I see and read on Facebook: from politics to pictures, social happenings, personal drama, too many young girls posting soft pornographic pictures of themselves, and young men glorifying the thug life.

This explosion of activity has caused many companies to create social media policies to protect the interest of their business. Colleges and universities have done the same and often rescind academic scholarships to students when that social media policy is violated, but where should the line be drawn and how do you as an employee protect yourself? Here are a few tips to navigate the murky rules of social media life.

Nothing is private. Absolutely nothing is private online, even when we think it is. If hackers can break into global banks, your little social media account is a cakewalk. Therefore, whether it’s pictures or documents, think twice before posting.

There is no erase button. Although we erase content that we post, the Internet does not have a way to permanently delete anything. Even when we delete an item, it is still stored and with a little diligence anything can be retrieved. If you are not sure, do not post.

Check the law and the company policy. Before you decide if your boss has that right, check your country’s laws. The current bill before Parliament is a prime example: even if this bill is not passed into law, the company you work for may have a written social media policy that you may have agreed to when you were hired. In the USA, it is now common practice for employers to visit your social media pages during the interview process, and what they see does influence their hiring decisions. In some states, it’s legal for those companies to ask for passwords to your accounts or ask you to view the pages in their presence. Will you be embarrassed at what they find?

You represent the company. If your pictures, discussions and other postings shed a negative light on you as an employee of a particular company, then the company can decide how to handle that. Do a quick Google search and you will find quite a few individuals who even lost their jobs because of online postings. One TV anchor lost her job because of an old YouTube video where she made derogatory comments. Even though the video was made when she was a teen, she was still fired.

Craft your words carefully. If you use any social media platform to expose company secrets or unjustly attack another employee, then your supervisor could decide to step in. In fact, there are global court cases already decided that clearly send a message for people to refrain from taking work matters and discussing them in online forums, especially when it’s done in a negative way. Don’t friend your supervisor. Even if you have a good relationship with your supervisor, don’t friend them on your social media accounts. Although difficult, try to leave a clear line between your personal and professional life but, most importantly, keep your postings clean and drama free.

Get involved. If your company is designing a social media policy, offer your input. It’s important to be able to balance the protection of a company’s best interest without stifling employees’ rights to express themselves within certain parameters.

Karen Hinds is the author of five books and CEO of Workplace Success Group, an international training consulting firm. Her company works with organizations that are ready to develop their future business leaders: www.workplacesuccess.com

Karen Hinds is “The Workplace Success Expert.” For a FREE SPECIAL REPORT on Avoiding Career Killers in the Workplace, send an email to info@workplacesuccess.com

Visit online at www.workplacesuccess.com

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