Your Employer Likes This – How Social Media Can Affect Employment

I originally posted this on my academic blog, but I think it is relevant to this blog too.

It is arguable that Facebook has changed our everyday lives, it allows us to share news with all our friends at once and we can in turn see what everyone else is up to, but just how much sharing is too much? Who do you share all your updates with? Would you tell your boss that you were so drunk that you were pushed home in a trolley in the office on a Monday? So why would you allow them to see it on Facebook including pictures?

According to a survey by The Ponemon Institute 76% of managers look up their interviewees on social networking sites before hiring them. This is especially common with college and university graduate, as the most social networking active age group, Sue Murphy from the US National Human Resources Association sheds light on this “For people new to a field, companies just don’t have a lot to look back on. They can’t call up your former boss. They look you up on Facebook.” The survey shows that Health care professionals and those working in financial and legal services are the highest group of employers to search for their prospective employees, this is thought to be due to the fact that they are representing their company and any online activity reflects on the company if they are known to be affiliated with them.

Because of often-unclear privacy settings on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, prospective employees are largely unaware that this happens. They therefore think it is wrong that employers look them up on their own “personal space”; these are the people that don’t understand how big and open anything you put in the public domain is.  It is important to update your privacy settings on Facebook regularly and if you’re prone to ranting on Twitter, private your tweets.

According to a survey by Reppler the following percentage of prospective employees have been rejected from a job opportunity for the following:

  • Inappropriate photos- 11%
  • Content relating to drug use- 10%
  • Negative comments about employer/ company- 11%
  • Lied about qualifications- 13%

In more recent years Twitter has been a breeding ground for offensive tweets which have led to disciplinary action, with those in employment sending tweets from their professional accounts and members of marketing and PR teams tweeting personal views from the main company account. In a lot of cases this has meant severe apologies and investigations as well as having a negative affect on the company. Below is a tweet sent by Gloria Huang, an employee of The American Red Cross on the wrong account. There were no grounds for dismissal prior to this tweet as it was recognised as simply a mistake. The beer company Dogfish Head retweeted it and encouraged their followers to donate to the Red Cross.

The next hurdle if you are employed is whether or not you add your work colleagues on social media sites, it is generally regarded as a courtesy that if you are friends with someone you should add/ accept their friend requests on Facebook, but this needn’t be the case in employment. The important thing to remember is that if you do add your colleagues or even your boss that this is no longer just a social space, you could potentially be judged on your behaviour on nights out, what you wear and your attitudes. Facebook however allows you to hide each individual post and photo or group of photos from certain people, meaning you can still maintain your social space and it won impact negatively on your employment. In order to prohibit employees from posting opinions about aspects and the company, their colleagues and its clients, many bigger companies now have a social media policy, it is down to the employee to read and review their behaviour in accordance to this.

The one solution to avoid termination or rejection of employment is simple; if its not something you would be happy with your grandma knowing – don’t post it.

Rachel Charlton-Dailey

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