So… you want to blog or post about your employer? You better read this first.
The more I read on social media, the more I see people who regularly discuss work on their social media.
It’s not surprising as our jobs, for better or worse, are an integral part of our life. We work to sustain ourselves and maintain a lifestyle.
“But can talking about it get you into trouble?”
Yes. It can.
Before we continue I do want to leave this with you. A general rule of thumb with anything negative in life – if you think it is a bad idea, it probably is.
There are many ways in which you can get into trouble if you choose to vent about your workplace on social media. Some might have minor(ish) consequences such as pissed-off colleagues or can go right through to termination of employment and even being sued for defamation.
The problem with social media is that once you have posted something on there it is permanent. Even if you think you might have taken it down you have already broadcast your message to people who were watching at the time.
So if you have a fleeting issue, or something that might be resolved or forgotten complaining about it online will leave a permanent record somewhere.
Here are some tips for staying out of trouble from your workplace when you want to vent on social media.
1) Check if you are identifiable.
Sometimes people go by pseudonyms. I’m not suggesting you should try to get away with murder by using another name but the less likely you are to be identified the safer you will be especially if you wish to discuss personal matters.
An important note is that even if you do use a pen-name your work will only be copyrighted for 70 years from the published date under your pen-name – not 70 years after you die.
2) Is the company identifiable?
Sometimes you may be able to get away with a general post on how we become overwhelmed at work. But if you are beginning to get really specific into the details not much will save you from a defamation suit especially if your words cause your workplace to lose money. The exception as always is if you are telling the absolute undeniable truth which is hard especially if you are in an angry mood.
3) Honor your contract
Some workplaces require you to not breach confidentiality as part of your employment contract. Please make sure to look over it and make sure that you are not in breach of any terms. Failing to do so can give your employer every right to terminate your employment.
Sometimes there are provision in place for those who are uncovering a huge problem in the workplace. These are the domain of trade unions and your representative bodies. For example where I’m from we have the Whistleblower Act. which was critical in the ousting of several unqualified doctors from Australian hospitals.
Most of the time online rants are fairly antagonistic for good reason. Maybe you have had a crappy day (we’ve all been there haven’t we?) or your boss wasn’t being fair. But remember, what you post is online forever.
4) “Is it kind, is it true, is it necessary?” – Bernard Meltzer
This is my favourite quote when it comes to dealing with things on social media. Even if the other side is completely out of line (which sticks out like a sore thumb that you don’t need to point out anyway) it is a perfect way to show your gracious side to the world.
Examining whether or not something you are posting is necessary will help you have an outside perspective on the situation.
5) Think of the future
When you post something online make sure it is something that you would be comfortable having brought up in front of your future boss, or to those who you hold nearest and dearest to you. If you think you would be embarrassed by being attributed to it later on down the line then you better think twice about posting it.
I personally like to think of it as ‘would I like my mum reading this?’ She’s a very conservative (and kind) lady, so that usually pulls me up on alot of things.
6) Authenticity can be delivered in a palatable manner
The word ‘authentic’ is being thrown around alot and I really want to investigate deeper into what it might mean for some of us. To be honest, the social media voice seems to equate authenticity with swearing, telling a dark personal story or pictures of what you had for lunch.
And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but no one really cares about what you had for lunch – for the most part anyway.
As for what has happened at work you need to be able to structure your issue in a way that doesn’t make you look bad or cause the employer to lose business (even if that is the intent of the post in the first place). If an employer can directly link your article with a loss in their business, that can mean big trouble for you if it is untrue. And it is even worse if you act in a seemingly irrational manner. The unspoken part of law is usually an examination of your character.
So if you do have a problem with your workplace and you want to talk about it on social media you just need to be as equally careful in the way that you say it.
7) What if I only have nice things to say?
Companies love having good publicity. But you still need to check some things.
For example, is your company responsible for maintaining private information? Industries such as health, law and finance are particularly tricky to talk about as their services generally involve alot of confidentiality agreements.
If you are unsure you can always check with your boss – not only will they be extremely flattered – they might even help you in spreading the word about your awesome company (lucky you!)
There are alot of implications that can arise when you want to talk about your employer or place of employment on social media. If in doubt, take a couple of steps back before you hit publish.
Better to be safe than sorry.
Until next time,
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