4 Tips on How to Use Facebook at Work and Not Get Fired

This post was first published over on SmartBrief’s Social Media blog where I am a regular contributor. They happen to be pretty awesome with over 4 million email subscribers. Be sure to check them out.

4 Ways to Avoid Getting Fired for Facebook Use

Social media has arrived and has seeped into every facet of our lives — including our work. A week doesn’t go by where the news isn’t filled with an employee, celebrity or professional athlete losing endorsements or their job as a result of their activities on social media. Americans are spending nearly 16 hours a month on Facebook, with 50% of users logging into the world’s most popular social network every single day. Your corporate HR team, senior leaders and employment law attorneys are struggling to find a balance between employees work and personal lives when it comes to monitoring their employee’s online activities, the use of Facebook is included.

Don’t Lose Your Job Over Facebook Use

Social media at work presents a particular predicament, as employment law remains murky while adoption by corporate decision-makers also lags. A recent global study by DLA Piper Shift provided solid insights into social media in the workplace. The study, released in October 2011, found that 30% of companies admitted to disciplining their employees on their social media activities.

This phenomenon shouldn’t come as a surprise. A growing percentage of companies are integrating social media into their marketing and customer engagement strategies — and most recently their candidate recruitment and employee engagement efforts.

4 Tips on How to Use Facebook and Not Lose your Job

For employees, who are concerned about being fired for Facebook, consider the following tips and suggestions to avoid disciplinary action altogether:

  • Lock down your Facebook profiles. Obviously for the same reasons you don’t want to be friends with your mom one Facebook, the safe choice is to avoiding friending anyone from work, including your co-workers or boss — but most people do it anyway. A survey of young professionals as part of a 2011 Cisco Technology report found 70% admitted to friending their boss or co-worker. Take advantage of the privacy features within Facebook and create lists, keeping unwanted visitors away from private photos, tagged posts and information. But keep in mind that even deleted or private messages can live on with a quick screenshot e-mailed to your supervisor.
  •  Facebook Private messages are not private. When it comes to the workplace and the world of employment law, private messages on social networking sites are discoverable in court. This means that messages between friends and colleagues on social networks can be used as part of the legal investigation process. These messages are electronic conversations similar to e-mail and are being treated as such.
  • Don’t trust Facebook. Facebook has been known for their privacy issues in the past, and yet we, as individuals, place blind faith in a company who often holds the very key to our digital life. Avoid providing very personal information including your date of birth, religious information, or other protected topics that companies can use when making employment decision like hiring, promotions or salary increases in the United States. This information, known as protected classes (e.g. age, sex, religion, disability, pregnancy, race/color, and nation origin), is protected by employee discrimination laws and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. While the personal information is not to be used by employers to make employment decisions, this information is easily accessible via personal social media profiles like Facebook. Keep in mind that companies are increasingly using social media as a form of an online background check. Keep your protected information protected.
  • Read your employer’s social media policy. A growing number of companies are adding social media policies to their employee policy manuals, as they should. Take the time to read your organization’s policy and understand the guidelines they have put in place. Depending on your position within your organization, consider sitting down with your senior leaders, particularly your human resource teams, to discuss with them about how you are using Facebook to communicate both personally and professionally. Work to educate and open the eyes of those keepers of policy and procedure.

Facebook and other social networks are a cultural shift in the making. Remember that for many, social networking is a foreign and frivolous phenomenon with many legal and workplace risks. Keep yourself out of the headlines and avoid being fired for Facebook.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. An even safer way to view your Facebook page at work is via email with an app called ControlByMail (google it). This is safer because you’re only using email, and therefore not actively trying to bypass the company firewall or proxy servers and therefore being classed as a “hacker” employee.

  2. Google+ privacy settings are so much easier to figure out than Facebook. Basically, I assume anything I post on Facebook will be seen by my professional contacts. On Google+ I can be a little more expressive.

    This might be slightly off topic, but had you heard about the Claremore school board outlawing teachers/faculty from connecting with any current students on social networking sites?

    • Anna,

      There’s quite a few schools who have banned teachers connecting with students on social networking sites. In fact, Missouri just reversed a decision in 2011 about this. Social media is collaborative and facilitates learning but I understand how connecting with your teacher on social networks could be in bad taste especially if the teacher doesn’t use good judgement and adjust their settings appropriately to account for the students that view their profile or are their friends.

      Thank you again for the comments.

      JMM

  3. These are really great tips on using social media and not getting into trouble at work. I especially appreciate the reminders about privacy (or lack thereof) on Facebook. It is a new technology that needs to be addressed. Companies are wise to keep up with the times by developing policies to guide employees’ behavior. The policy should fit in with the company’s overall culture and is best when it is permissive rather than restrictive. Most importantly, it needs to be communicated clearly to all employees. I offer more about Facebook and social media in my recent blog: “Social Media in the Workplace: Do you have a Facebook Policy?” (http://springboard.resourcefulhr.com/?p=1712)

  4. Great post! So true about there being no such thing as “private” on the public internet. People should be wary. And while it’s definitely important to use caution when you have a job, take heed of this even if you’re unemployed. You never know how far back a potential employer might look once you start job hunting.

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