I Hate My Job

Despite the efforts of Quit Facebook Day, social networking sites are wildly popular. Sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace are increasingly utilized by twenty-somethings that are now entering the workforce. Unfortunately, a large portion of these users are unaware that they are one “I Hate My Job” post away from becoming unemployed. Moreover, if employers are not careful, these websites can also end up causing liability for them as well.

So, what should employees (or job hunters) know about social media postings? I personally enjoy my time on these sites and believe they are valuable for professional networking. The best advice I have heard regarding these sites is to assume that the CEO of your company will be reading everything you post. I know some of you are probably saying, “But wait! What about my privacy settings? Only my friends can see my profile/posts.” Although this may very well be true (assuming you trust those settings), you cannot control what the people who can view your post do with it. It is a very easy process to hit “PrintScreen” and forward an anonymous email or print out to the boss. This also applies to job-seekers. One Tweeter became an Internet sensation after her Tweet, “Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work,” was intercepted by a Cisco employee. Not surprisingly, her offer was rescinded.

In fact, these firings are so common that a word has been developed to describe them. The term “dooced” was coined in 2006 when a Los Angeles web designer got fired for complaining about her unnamed boss on her blog. The word originally referred to being fired for writing a particular blog post, but it is now also used to refer to firings related to any form of social media faux pas.

Employers also should be aware of several issues that may arise in this area, including confidentiality concerns, but one in particular is easily overlooked: the social media policy. Without a social media policy, companies could be liable under the FTC Guidelines for the various activities of their employees. Many employers are attempting to use social media to connect with consumers, and a problem may arise if an employee decides to praise the company on its public page. For example, if Employee goes to Company X’s Facebook page, “likes” it, and then writes a comment describing how wonderful Product Y is, both Employee and Company X could be liable if Employee does not disclose his/her employment relationship with the company. In this example, if Company X has a social media policy that clearly explains every employee’s legal duty to disclose his/her relationship when talking about the company (or other companies) online, FTC officials are less likely to pursue any claims.

The moral of the story: if you are an employer, be sure to have a social media policy in place to deal with the various issues that arise. If you are an employee, to quote The Coca-Cola Company, “Have fun, but be smart.”

Josh Lee

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