Monday, January 6, 2014

With social media, the job you save may be your own

Holiday season is officially over!  That’s right -- for at least another 11 months, there are no holiday-themed company parties, open houses or gatherings with friends and family.

Looking back at your holiday season, how did it go? Did you celebrate throughout the season?  Did you take pictures? Maybe even post them on Facebook, Google Plus or Twitter? Now that you are back in the swing of things, has that impacted your job or business relationships?

You think to yourself, “Well no, and it shouldn’t; it’s what I did after hours.” But you might be surprised to know what we do after hours is starting to affect what, how and who we interact with during business hours -- from co-workers and bosses, to clients, vendors, suppliers and others you may have business relationships with.

Think about it this way: Facebook has more than 500 million users and LinkedIn has over 70 million users worldwide. This means there is access to public information about you worldwide and round the clock.

I understand there are privacy settings and different ways to try to block that information, but keep in mind that anything on the Internet can become public at any time in many various ways.

Again, the argument you hear is, “Well it’s my private profile; it doesn’t matter.” Actually, it does. There is a growing number of court cases involving employees terminated due to their social networking. For example, a flight attendant lost her job for posting a picture of herself online in her uniform. A producer for CNN was fired for blogging about work, even though he didn’t identify himself as a CNN employee. In a nationwide survey of human resources professionals it was found that 43 percent of respondents reported using social networking sites to gain information about job applicants. In turn, only 5 percent had a policy against allowing that practice.
You might ask, aren’t there any federal or state rules or regulations prohibiting the use of this information against individuals by employers or businesses? Not at this time. It has been recognized that action needs to be taken. In Congress and at the White House the topic has emerged as a leading technology issue. Bills have been introduced in Congressional committees, but are still in limbo.

Social media is becoming more of a driving force in business, especially when it comes to employment.  While your employer and those with whom you do business cannot control what you do or do not post on social media, it is best to keep in mind that someone may be always watching. Your personal actions in social media can have a profound professional impact on your career.
Monica Bitrick is CEO of Bitrick Consulting Group, a small business offering customized business and management solutions. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (208) 932-8436.