Given numerous high profile instances of celebrities putting themselves in embarrassing or compromising situations through their use of social media, you might think preaching caution to business people would be unnecessary. Yet, on a regular basis I still see emails, Facebook posts, Twitter messages, and video files that range from inappropriate to politically damaging to downright incendiary.
In one instance, I ended up firing an employee because he had downloaded gigabytes of porn onto his work laptop. The situation was discovered when he complained about the slow speed of his computer, and asked someone on the IT staff to take a look at it (there might have been a few viruses mixed in with all that porn). His explanation? He "...only looked at it on his own time." Can you say misuse of company assets and a potential sexual harassment claim? There was no way he could continue on at the company.
In another incident, an email "argument" became highly emotional, involving the trading of threats and insults. One of the participants (the least politically adept) copied half of management after a particularly offensive response from his opponent. While that incident didn't lead to a firing, it damaged the reputations of both participants to the point that their careers stalled.
While I personally haven't been involved situations where materials published on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media led directly to discipline, I have seen it become the subject matter of workplace gossip and speculation. At best, this is an unwelcome distraction, and at worst it can result in turmoil, anger, and even later retribution. The idea that there is a line between your work life and your private life is a myth that you can't afford to believe.
All of these accessible communications can be tossed into the political arena, to be held and used. I've seen threats, blackmail, and even violence result from them. Just recently, I reviewed an email which was uses opportunistically by an employee (out of context, I might add) to try to damage a political rival.
My advise on this subject? Apply the time-tested newspaper rule. If you wouldn't be comfortable seeing what you are writing on the front page of the local newspaper, then don't write it. Same rule goes for posting it, photographing it or videotaping it.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't address issues, handle emotional situations, or even blow off some steam. Just do it in a way that doesn't create potential problems. Written communications, photos, videos, etc, are all easily replicated and copied, and can easily be taken out of context. It is much better to keep such things direct, private, and anonymous.
Exercise caution and mature judgment anytime you create a permanent record of your words or deeds, trying to think through the political implications and how such material could potentially be used against you. 19.3
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If you are intrigued by the ideas presented in my blog posts, check out some of my other writing. Novels: LEVERAGE, INCENTIVIZE, DELIVERABLES and now HEIR APPARENT (published 3/2/2013) -- note, the Kindle version of DELIVERABLES (a prequel to HEIR APPARENT) is on sale for a limited time for $2.99.
This is the cover of the Audiobook version of LEVERAGE, which I narrated. The story revolves around an offbeat engineer working for Global Guidance Corporation who shows up one night at Mark Carson's house shot and bleeding out. Mark decides to investigate the crime himself, and plenty of complications ensue as he uncovers a wild conspiracy.
My novels are based on extensions of my 27 years of personal experience as a senior manager in public corporations. Most were inspired by real events.