What You Say Can Be Held Against You: How Social Media Can Leave You Jobless

With the start of social media over a decade ago, the world as we know it has been turned upside down.  There is a new batch of employees entering the workforce who have never known life without some form of social media like Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter. These employees believe that the ability to use social media any way they want is almost a constitutional privilege. I have often heard my interns and new hires say, “What happened to my freedom of speech?” or “You don’t own my thoughts!” Although that may be true, what you say can be held against you. 

I have often told students fresh out of college that they do have the right to say whatever they want; however, they also have the right to face the repercussions from what they say. I recommend that every new graduate or person who is unsure of the effects of posting on social media read the book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson.  In this book, Ronson tells 15 different stories of people who posted a joke on social media that came out badly or made a mistake while at work. It's a good reminder that we are always being watched online and, like in a text message, it is hard to read intent online

Steer Clear of Danger:
Posting grievances
: You can be well within your rights as an employee to use social networking sites, emails or other forms of social media to air your grievances. For example, an employee may complain about how they are being treated by their manager at work. 

However, first, ask yourself "What is this post going to accomplish?" Is your goal to get your manager in trouble or have a better relationship with that manager? Either one of these goals would be achieved more efficiently by taking a more direct approach. For example, try reading your employee handbook to see what steps you can take to approach your issue head on. 

Consider Occam's Razor: Sometimes the simplest approach is the most effective. Try talking to your manager and start by saying, “I have gotten the feeling that I have been not handling my work the way you would like it to be done. Is it okay if we talk about how I can change my work style?” This will open a dialog that can clear up any miscommunication and begin a road to a better working relationship. 

Posting outside of work: When drawing a line between work and home life, it can be difficult to know where to that line lies. For example, whether you think it is fair or not, odds are your employer views you as a representative of the company. Although they may not be able to fire you over a post, judgment can be assigned to your character. 
A quick Google search can find over ten pages of posts about people losing their jobs for what they have said online.

One-on-one communication: Social networking can be an excuse for avoiding face-to-face conversations. Many of the issues that lead to disciplinary and grievance problems at work can often be dealt with by a manager having a quiet word with an employee, which can prove to be difficult if line managers have become over-reliant on communicating electronically.