2010 Career Challenge: S = Social Media

By Skip Lineberg

The following were actually posted by employees on social media sites from their workstations, during business hours:

“Staff meeting is over. Thanks for sucking the life out of me–again.” [Brandon]

Ummm, hello, Brandon. Are you really that unhappy? Are you aware that your message can be read as: Brandon is a reactive, whiny drama-king who lacks the gumption to leave a job that sucks?

“Just hanging out here on Facebook – waiting for them to give me something to work on.” [Allison]

Really, Allison? Did you leave your brain at home this morning? I’d suggest you will find it hidden underneath that sack of ambition, which you also forgot to bring to work today.

And this now-infamous example from NextWeb.com of a young woman who was fired by her Facebook-friend-boss:

OMG I HATE MY JOB!!! My boss is a total pervvy wanker always making me do shit stuff just to piss me off!! WANKER!!

Obviously, she forgot that she had Friend’d her boss. Do take a moment and click over to read the boss’ response, which is classic!

The stories of young professionals getting fired, suspended, or disciplined as a result of what they posted, Tweeted, updated, chatted, or shared on social media sites are becoming more frequent and more outrageous. An article last Fall on Mashable, citing stats from a Proofpoint study, indicate that roughly 1 out of every 8 companies (12%) have fired an employee for reasons related to social networking. The incidence has doubled in a year’s time.

This is only going to worsen as GPS/location-based apps (like Foursquare and Brightkite) that run on our iPhones and Blackberries tell the world (and our employer) where we are.

Remember: In many cases, your phones are paid for by your company so it’s not hard to imagine the following exchange in the all-too-near future:

Boss: Dave, you weren’t really attending your aunt’s funeral yesterday, now were you?

Dave: What do you mean?

Boss: Well, unless they had the funeral at Wrigley Field, it looks like you enjoyed a Cubs double-header.

Dave (now perspiring): No way. I swear.

Boss (tossing a screen print at his soon-to-be fired employee): Dave, it’s all right here on the GPS report that we get from your Blackberry. And you might want to think about turning off Foursquare when you’re playing hooky – from your next job.

So…do you know your company’s social media policy? Are employees allowed to spend time on sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or YouTube while at work? Or are such practices forbidden?

Companies are becoming more vigilant and smarter about monitoring what we put out on social media sites and tools like this one help employers keep tabs on it. And there’s a good chance that anything you send or receive through the office network (i.e., on your work computer) is (or easily can be) being logged and reviewed.

We can complain about “Big Brother” policies by employers. We can cry about how it’s wrong for management to “spy” on us. But here’s what it all boils down to: when you are on company time, you are on the company dime. Your employer is paying you for your time, and in turn, you are expected to work and to be productive–all day. Not just some of the time … or most of the time —always productive.

With few exceptions, mostly in the media and marketing-related industries, when you are social networking you are not productively engaged with respect to your job. They make the rules and, when you accept a job, you accept their rules. So don’t allow your social media activities to undermine your success. Be smart and be informed – or your next Tweet may be in search of a job!

Note: This is Part 19 in a series called the “2010 Career Challenge: Becoming a Rock Star from A to Z” by Emily Bennington and Skip Lineberg, co-authors of Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job.

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