Social media

Angelina had everything she’d ever wanted. She worked hard as a dedicated prosecuting attorney, and was up for a promotion to partner in her law firm. She had high-profile cases and a 95% conviction rate. She had just purchased a new condo in a high-rise apartment building in Manhattan, and was a rising star with the world in her hands.

Then she sat down in a meeting with her boss.

“I’m afraid we’re going to have to let you go,” he said.

In an instant, the bright, shiny future she had envisioned for herself fell apart. Her boss continued to talk, but she didn’t remember anything else he said, and the rest of the day was like a very bad dream.

What just happened? One moment she was flying high, with a dream job in a dream location. The next moment, she was sitting in an empty condo (which now required a high monthly mortgage without the income), gulping down a bottle of wine in between hysterical crying.

None of this made sense until she opened up her Facebook page, and saw what she had posted two days before—numerous pictures of her in a bar, partying hard, looking drunk, and totally out of control. Even she was embarrassed by them. And now her career and reputation as a confident, competent, tough attorney had been flushed down the toilet. All because of social media.

Although the story above is fictional, it demonstrates a great point—the risks people take whenever they post something to social media. There have been numerous people who, after posting something controversial or damaging on Facebook, have been terminated from their jobs. Why? Because by doing that, they also damage the company’s reputation in the process.

When you work for someone else, you serve as a representative for the company. So it is important to maintain a professional image at all times. Does this mean you can’t have an opinion or post selfies all over social media? No, you can still do that if you want. That’s a guaranteed right.

But beware—that right you’re intent on exercising can come back to bite you. It has happened before to many people—some in very high-profile positions. No one is immune.

Companies wanting to manage their public reputation have an obligation to ensure their employees are supporting their vision and mission. It is never wise to post something on your personal social media channels that you’d be ashamed to have your boss learn about (and that includes all possible social media channels – Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.).

So, it’s best to avoid the risk altogether. I understand that today’s technology allows for a wider-reaching audience, and, when used properly, it’s a great way to connect and network with others. I get it. This isn’t about not being on social media. But if you are on social media, you just need to manage your personal accounts responsibly.

Here are some tips for how to navigate and use social media while reducing the risk for retribution and other damaging forms of fallout:

  • Make your profile private. If you don’t want others to see what you do in your private life, off hours, then set your profile to private, and post away. If you have to have a public profile because you want to build your network and connect with others who might be of help to you in job searches or promotions, then keep your personal business off there and ONLY post things that are relevant to your working profile. Find somewhere else to vent about your life. No employer wants to see that.
  • Establish and keep boundaries. I can’t stress this enough. The company you work for is NOT your best friend, and they don’t need to hear about your life. They have a business to attend to, and it isn’t yours. Establish solid boundaries and make it a point not to cross them.
  • Don’t get caught up in heated debates about hot-button topics. Keep your opinions about hot topics to yourself. Why? Because you might be stirring the pot at work. Imagine how awkward it would be to work next to someone who is devoutly religious, while you are always posting anti-religious content on social media sites. (Even worse, imagine this same colleague is one of your friends or followers and sees everything you post!) This also ties into boundaries. Set limits on topics and boundaries on who you want involved in your discussions.
  • Avoid oversharing information. Nobody but you and your doctor need to know the results of your recent colonoscopy. Or your really bad hangover. Be selective. Share only what resonates with others.

The information highway can be a marvelous thing. It can bring strangers together, ignite new relationships, and launch amazing careers. That’s the benefit of being plugged in. But, as with every good thing, too much can end up backfiring. Don’t risk your job or your reputation because of your social media website content. People have lost their careers over their reckless postings.