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Social Media and the Workplace

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: 

  1. Never mention the company you work for on any social media forum.
  2. Don’t air your complaints about the company on any social media outlet.
  3.  Never post on social media during work hours.  
  4. Never post content where you are wearing company uniforms or in the  process of conducting company services. 
  5. 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-

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