I get it, we love the limelight. In one form or another, we all seem to crave the attention that social media provides. There’s nothing wrong with it, but to what extent will we allow it to affect our lives? All too often, I have read the stories about people who have posted something or another, only to have their employers take issue with their content, then act upon it by terminating the employee. This is when I believe, we have taken our social media activities a tad bit too far.
In today’s work environment, employers have taken measures to address the social media aspect of our lives. Many have included wording in their hiring contracts to make the employee aware that their social media interactions could have the potential of directly affecting their employment. While an employer cannot directly prohibit an employee from using social media on their own time, they can limit the employee’s representation of the company from being the subject of any of their posts.
We have freedom of speech, and other freedoms that should not be infringed upon. This, however, is exactly why companies have spent countless hours addressing these personal freedoms in the wording of their employer/employee contracts. Here is one example, taken from a handbook of one of my former employers:
“Social networking: (Company name withheld) respects the individual’s right to free speech and freedom to express one’s opinion. However, only employees expressly designated to do so are authorized to make public statements on behalf of the company. Employees and business partners who engage in activities in social media that show an association with or refer to (Company) must behave in ways that are consistent with ‘the company’s’ values and policies.”
On the surface, the policy seems straight forward, so why are so many employees given their walking papers after violating said policy?
Let’s break down the policy:
“Social networking: (Company name withheld) respects the individual’s right to free speech and freedom to express one’s opinion.” This is pretty straight forward. The company respects their employees as individuals and further, respects the rights given to them under the Constitution.
“However, only employees expressly designated to do so are authorized to make public statements on behalf of the company.” Plainly put, the employee is not allowed to post anything related to the company, as the company has already designated someone to do so. The company most likely has a Public Relations department, and they are the only ones authorized to make announcements to the public about company matters. If you were not hired in this capacity, you should not be making any announcements on behalf of the employer.
“Employees and business partners who engage in activities in social media that show an association with or refer to (Company) must behave in ways that are consistent with ‘the company’s’ values and policies.” This is where it get tricky. In this portion of the policy, the company is not completely prohibiting an employee from posting company related content. But, what it doesn’t say is that, the company would PREFER that the employee not use company related information in any of their social media posts. If an employee posts something that paints the company in a bad light, they will take issue with it and the employee will find themselves in a Human Resource office faster than a tweet can go viral.
If we are to err on the side of caution, it is best to use social media only as a personal outlet and never make mention of the company you represent during work hours. In some cases, employers feel employees represent them even on their off duty hours, so discretion when posting should always be a top priority. Follow these guidelines and you’ll be fine:
- Never mention the company you work for on any social media forum.
- Don’t air your complaints about the company on any social media outlet.
- Never post on social media during work hours.
- Never post content where you are wearing company uniforms or in the process of conducting company services.
- Be modest in what you post. Content that is questionably racists, overtly sexual, mean, of a bullying nature, or any content that displays you in a negative way should be avoided at all costs.
-Omar Tarango is a Freelance Blogger and Social Media Manager-