It's not uncommon to see stories in the news about employees who were fired because of their online posts. While social media can help you boost your career, connect with recruiters, and power a job search, it can also cause harm to your reputation.
Posting company business (good or bad) or that you hate your employer are definite no-nos. It's also a bad idea to share on social media that you have a job offer before telling your boss and colleagues at your current position. And, posting some personal opinions can also get you in trouble, or even cost you your job, depending on the code of conduct at your company.
Read on for specifics about situations where what you post may result in you getting fired, along with some simple, straightforward guidelines for how to conduct yourself online.
Violating Company Policy
Many companies have a policy in place about what types of post are not allowed. Even if your company does not have one, a good rule of thumb is to avoid sharing anything about your job on social media that would make you cringe if you said it aloud to your company's CEO or your manager.
Here are a few examples of posts that can be a problem:
- Sharing warnings or personal company information — We've all heard the stories, like that one person who was fired ahead of schedule when he shared the news that he had received a warning with all his contacts on LinkedIn. That news got relayed to his boss, and he was out of a job immediately. Posting about staffing decisions, new products, or any private or proprietary information is usually not a good idea. A good rule of thumb: If your company hasn't shared the information online, hold off on your own post.
- Providing references/endorsements on LinkedIn: Does your company have a policy prohibiting references? You may wind up getting a warning from your Human Resources department if you write a personalized plug of a former colleague at the company on their LinkedIn page.
- Negative comments about your job or clients: Most social media platforms have privacy settings. Still, even with those in place, the world can be very small. If you are friends with a co-worker and post something, details on your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter post can spread through your whole office, including to your manager or HR department. It's very easy for anyone to take a screenshot of your post, too. So think twice before posting how boring your job is, or how much you hate it.
- Deceptive posts: Did you take a sick day, then go to the beach? Probably everyone plays hooky at least once in their life, but do yourself a favor and do not post the evidence online.
- Off-color, racist, sexist, or inappropriate comments: This is particularly problematic if the comments are about your co-workers or clients. But, any very offensive comment could potentially be an issue if it goes viral, and is associated with your company. No business wants the bad PR that comes along with an employee's poorly worded or offensive tweet or Facebook post.
It's a good idea to ask your HR department if they have any social media policy. And even if they do not, avoid sharing proprietary details about the company.
Job Searching (or Working) From Work
Job searching from work is an issue as well. In addition to the ethical issue of job hunting on your employer's dime, using your office computer is problematic if your company has guidelines on computer use on the job.
It's the same scenario if you have a side hustle that you end up spending work time on. Many companies prohibit using work computers for personal business.
Dan Prywes, an expert in labor and employment law, says "Employers are within their rights to limit social networking site access and resume posting, and you need to be prepared for the consequences when you post online."
Employers have the right to check what's on your computer because it's not really yours — it belongs to the company. Make sure you understand when you can get fired for job searching.
In addition, most states are "employment at will," meaning that the company doesn't need a reason to terminate your employment. Employment at will means that an employee can be terminated at any time without any reason (unless there is a prohibited form of discrimination).
Employers are not required to provide a reason or explanation when terminating an at-will employee. If you have an employment contract with your employer or are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, you have more rights, but the company still has the right to fire you for cause, and violation of company policy is cause. Otherwise, you can be terminated for a reason or for no reason at all.
Public posting of your resume or posting the "wrong" information online can cost you your job, and getting fired can make it harder to get another position.
How to Be Smart About Social Media
Rather than setting yourself up for possibly losing your job, be careful about what and how you post information online. Here's what to think about before you click to post.
- Post smart. Think before you post and don't take a chance on jeopardizing your job. If you have any doubts, don't post it.
- Keep it confidential. Don't disclose proprietary information about your employer online — either good or bad news. If it's good news, you may want to ask permission to see if you can post it.
- Be intelligent. Don't post or send your resume around from work. Use your personal email account, your own devices, and job search carefully if you're currently employed.
- Be prepared. Be prepared for the consequences if you post something inappropriate. The chances are that someone will see it and you may be in trouble. It's easier not to post in the first place, so you don't have to worry about it getting noticed.
Think Before You Post
Thinking before you post is really good advice. That's because once you post it's hard, if not impossible, to take it back. (Even a deleted Twitter or Facebook post, for instance, may be preserved through screenshots.)
If there is any doubt in your mind about what you can, or can't, say, keep it to yourself. Also, ask yourself whether you really need to say that and what you'll gain from it. The answer is probably not enough to take a chance on losing your job.