These days there is a rapidly increasing overlap between personal and professional use of social media. Most people still feel they are perfectly entitled to use their personal Facebook, Twitter or other social networking site in exactly the way they choose, perhaps not thinking about the potential overflow into their professional lives. This could include publishing an unsavoury description of their manager on Facebook, posting pictures of yourself at a Waka Ama championship when you are supposed to be in bed sick with the flu, or even leaving your Facebook page open at work, displaying to the entire company your intention to set up in competition (all true stories, and all people who were dismissed after these absentminded blunders).
I was recently involved in a situation with a client where an employee had posted derogatory and confidential comments about their employer on Facebook. The thoughtless employee had neglected to consider the fact that many of his Facebook friends were also colleagues. Luckily this employer had a robust internet policy in place under which they took immediate disciplinary action and were able to limit the damage caused by this incident.
In another example of someone who just didn’t consider the effect their personal social media status could have on their professional prospects, not long ago, I interviewed a candidate (who we will name ‘Boy Racer’) on behalf of a client. ‘Boy Racer’ impressed us at interview and we were keen to shortlist him. The first pre-employment check I undertook was a social media check. Uh oh. ‘Boy Racer’s’ Facebook page proudly described how got away with writing off his car at 100km/hr in a residential area while he was completely ‘wasted’. Needless to say, this wasn’t a good look for a prospective employer with a rigorous Drug and Alcohol policy!
Some US companies are even asking prospective candidates to log in to their private social media sites so that they can have full access to their personal profiles! While I hope that no NZ candidates have been put in this overly intrusive position, it does highlight just how much useful information can be gleaned from social media and the importance of using it as part of the recruitment process.
In addition, companies need to ensure that they have computer, email and internet policies in place, which outline clearly the appropriate and acceptable use of social media. Employees need to be made aware of these policies so that if anything does happen, employers have something to fall back on to guide them through these sticky situations as quickly and smoothly as possible.
by Nicky Dowling