Today more than ever, companies are including online reputation and content in their evaluation of potential new hires. Information like photos, texts from tweets, and various miscellaneous comments are stored publicly in places throughout the internet. If you are applying for a job, the minimum a potential employer will do is to Google your name—but expect the actual depth of a “digital background check” to be much deeper.
In addition to checking into new hires, organizations are also looking at their employees. It is important for companies to protect their brand, prevent lawsuits, and prevent the dissemination of privileged company information. If you are reading this, you probably have a good head on your shoulders and do not need to worry about discipline from your employer. However, content that you would never expect is resulting in the dismissal of employees. We offer you 5 quick tips for avoiding dismissal in your office:
1. Do not “friend” your boss on Facebook.
Facebook is a social network. Even if your boss is the best guy or gal in the world, at some point they probably will upset you—and that night, you just might take to Facebook to talk about how poorly your life has been progressing as of late. The potential problem is this: your boss may think (correctly too) that your post is from work, and probably become a little ticked off that you are venting on the internet. Instead, add your boss as a contact on LinkedIn. If your boss friend requests you, tell them that you appreciate the offer, but would value them more as a LinkedIn contact—and that as the work relationship develops into a personal relationship organically, you will be comfortable becoming Facebook friends. We recommend the same course of action for co-workers.
2. Never turn over your personal social media passwords.
Recently, more and more companies have been asking employees for their personal passwords. Do not do this. While this practice is still legal in some states, the legality of this is quickly changing state by state. (California, Illinois, Maryland, and Michigan adopted social-media privacy laws in 2012, and a new law in Utah takes effect in May of this year. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, social-media privacy legislation has been introduced or is underway in 35 states so far in 2013.) When asked for your passwords, politely tell your superior that you have nothing to hide, but feel that handing over a password is an invasion of your privacy. In addition, it is a good idea to consult an attorney if this ever arises.
3. Limit profile visibility.
Are you going to tweet after you’ve painted the town? Post pictures on Instagram during perhaps less than responsible moments? Would you, in all your excitement, accidently talk about how awesome it was to skip out of work early on a Friday? If any of these is even remotely a possibility, then your profiles should not be public (for all of those that can be set to complete privacy). In addition, profiles that do not allow full privacy settings should not contain your name. Of course, this will not matter if you are friends with or are followed by any of your co-workers or your boss. Just be sure no one who matters can see that you used your “sick day” to fly to Vegas.
4. Do not access social media on company equipment.
Do not, do not, do not, access social media on company phones and computers. When you do this, you are essentially granting permission to the company to look at everything in your browser history and everything that has appeared on your screen. Do you know how many background programs run on a company computer? No? Quite a few. Typically, a superior can pull reports of how long you’ve spent on sites, including Facebook, and sometimes even view your screen if they want, without your knowledge. This applies to the use of cell phones as well—your browser history and GPS coordinates are probably being logged by the IT department.
5. Stay positive.
Most of the problems employees encounter online are based on negativity. If something less than ideal happens do not whine. Do not post something to Twitter or Instagram if something refuses to break your way. If a co-worker is really driving you crazy, get coffee with a friend and vent to them. If you do absolutely have to vent to the internet, do not include names, titles, projects, or anything that would allow someone to figure out that you might just be talking about them or something they are involved with.
If you are a conscientious employee that respects your company and boss, you likely will never have to worry about these things. The company pays you to complete your tasks in a timely manner—not to gossip. Your boss might not be the best, but making the best out of a situation is something that you can control every day.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.com