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Do Social Networkers have a Right to Privacy in the Workplace?

Guidelines for Responsible Behavior on Social Media

Millennials and Generation Xers don’t respond very well to a strict set of rules such as what is and is not appropriate behavior when using social media. For all too many it seems like social media is their lifeline to communicate with others; but too many use it to post inappropriate pictures, make inappropriate, often off-colored remarks, criticize others, and, in extreme cases, engage in cyberbullying. In this blog I strive to identify some of the most potentially harmful behaviors when using social media in the workplace.

Be skeptical of privacy settings

Although most major social networks update you with privacy improvements, the changes are often too frequent to follow and can get complicated. However diligently you may protect your social media identity, it's best to assume anything you post is fair game — potentially seen by potential and current employers.

Post Confidential Information

Young people are too trusting when it comes to online postings and are especially vulnerable to online predators and identity thieves. Think about how easy it is to share content on Facebook; if a single person shared that photo to her public profile that sensitive information would be accessible by anyone, no hacking required. Identity stolen — just like that. It may affect your performance in the workplace so take extra care about what you share online.

Inappropriate public profiles

Your social media presence should strengthen the view that you are a responsible person. Companies can look at these sites, such as Facebook, and glean whether you seem mature and responsible enough to handle a job. If you act like a jerk on social media, the employer may assume you will similarly acte in an immature way in the workplace. This won't go over well with clients and others that do business with the employer.

Post Objectionable Content

Assume that your employer prohibits the use of social media for non-job-related matters. Don’t ever post photos or other items that may be deemed objectionable to some; racist to others; or engage in cyberbullying. Remember, your character defines who you are and engaging in such behavior can quickly destroy one's reputation for being a responsible person.

Post Emotionally

We've all said and done things we regret. It's human nature to react without thinking through the consequences. However, whenever possible, take a moment to imagine how your social media posts affect the feelings, safety and well-being of those around you — even your worst enemies. Posting an angry tweet in the heat of the moment may feel cathartic, but the momentary pleasure you get from writing it isn't worth the potential harm it could create. Take a moment to breathe, think and reboot.

Do social networkers have a right to privacy? More and more users of Facebook and other social networking sites are finding that prospective employers are perusing their sites, despite the fact that they may conceive of their online presence as personal space. From an employer’s point of view, the company has a right to know in advance whether a potential employee has engaged in objectionable personal behavior, posted inappropriate pictures and videos, used social media to trash previous employers or co-workers, and simply acted in an irresponsible manner.

Ethics is all about how we treat others. The careful perusal of social media postings enables a prospective employer to judge whether it should hire a prospective employee. I believe the employer has a right to use social media as one tool in deciding on the best fit between employer and employee.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on February 4, 2014

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