Career-limiting moves in social media

3 06 2012

We all know (or hopefully we know by now) about the dangers of posting inappropriate material on social media. Drunken pictures of yourself partying when you are off work sick. Abusive rants about coworkers, clients and bosses. Confidential work information. Plans to apply for other jobs or debriefs on interviews attended. Not good career moves.

Some high achievers take it to the next level however. Herewith, a celebration of the high points of career-limiting moves in social media.

Former American Airlines Employee Gailen David posted a series of videos on his blog mocking his (at the time, current) employer and in particular executives. After a disciplinary process, American Airlines terminated his employment. His blog seems to indicate that he saw himself in some sort of whistle-blowing role, saving the airline from its executives. Unsurprisingly, they saw it differently and commenced court proceedings against him for a number of issues including breach of their trademark. The latest can be found at his blog The Sky Steward. One wonders if, had he done it anonymously and without naming specific airlines, he could have been an internet comedic sensation and indeed found a new career for himself.

Rhode Island Prison Guard Matthew Lacroix created a Facebook page in his boss’ name. And you know that can’t be a good thing. As anyone who has watched CSI or any other crime show can predict, the IP address used to create the profile was quickly tracked back and once the nice people whose internet had been used to create the profile mentioned that coincidentally there was in fact a prison guard living next door….well it didn’t take long for the dots to be connected. Can’t imagine relations between Lacroix and his boss were any improved by the incident, and in fact, he was arrested. (No news on his fate as yet)

Earlier this year, a political staffer in Alberta Canada resigned after a tweeting a personal comment about an electoral opponent of her employer. The tweet in question read:

“If @ElectDanielle likes young and growing families so much, why doesn’t she have children of her own? #wrp family pack = insincere”

Now you probably know where this is going. “ElectDanielle” is in fact Danielle Smith, leader of the Alberta Wildrose party, and she revealed that she and her husband had struggled with infertility and had accepted that they were not going to be able to have children. The political staffer had gone too far and brought personal information into the public and political domain. And from a political standpoint, may have attracted a sympathy vote for her opponent. The staffer’s employer rapidly released a statement apologising and announcing that the staffer in question had resigned and was sorry for her actions. Which her tweet followers could tell from the follow-up tweet:

“Fine. I apologize”

And this one is quite stunning. A first year graduate is suing his former employer “big-law” firm Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman – for $77m dollars severance claiming he was fired because he exhibited intelligence and creativity. Now, I don’t know the merit of the case – but he must be very hopeful of the large settlement because now that there is so much all over the internet about him, he may find it difficult to get another job in the industry.

And finally – show and tell time! Even quitting via social media can be a career-limiting move. I think of this one as Jenny vs Spencer: no-one wins.


Want more? Have a look at page 2.1.7 onwards in this document, Death by Facebook, for some more salient lessons on how to avoid career-limiting social media moves, or What’s your Social Media Policy? for more ideas on what to avoid.

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What’s your personal social media policy?

24 08 2011

Working through a social media policy for work is a good reminder of the issues social media can have for the individual.

We have all heard the horror stories – career-limiting photographs and postings that last forever. Employees facing disciplinary action, losing jobs or being screened out in interviews because of social media information. People being sued for defamation. Workplace bullying following employees home.

Here are some thoughts on defensive social media management.

1. Be clear about who each social media forum is for. For instance for me, Facebook is for friends, LinkedIn is for current and former work colleagues and Twitter is for anyone. I am very clear about this to avoid giving offense. I do not have work-related people on my Facebook site. It is too easy for an innocent comment to be misconstrued to relate to a specific work-related activity. On the other hand, I know people who do have work colleagues on their Facebook site. That’s fine too, but once you have made the decision you need to post appropriately. Remember who is there.

2. Make sure your privacy settings are high. This is basic common sense, but it never ceases to amaze the number of people who have low or no privacy settings. It’s a big world out there people, not everyone has good intentions!

3. Be aware that no matter what your privacy settings, information gets out. A friend does a screen grab of a funny picture or posting you have put up, shares a comment you have posted, you comment on a friend’s site only to find that some of their friends know you as well.

4. Be careful which Facebook groups you join – despite your privacy settings your comments on someone else’s, or a group’s, page might show up on a google search. Just “liking” a page sometimes shows up.

5. Alcohol and social media do not mix if you want a career!

6. Be careful about what you find humourous, including the postings you repost. Just because it wasn’t your writing or your opinion, having it against your name for reposting may look bad.

7. Google yourself from time to time and see what pops up. Mine generally covers work related activities (quotes in media, reports presented, documents authored and conference presentations, etc) and some recreational activities including notice boards I have left comments on. I did once find an obituary in my name – I have an unusual double barrelled surname so this was slightly alarming. Turns out to be an 82 year old woman who died in Texas. I believe in coincidence!

8. Do you have a common (ie: popular) name? Is there some way you can differentiate yourself from others with similar names – particularly if they are in unsavoury businesses or making ill-advised comments you do not want associated with yourself. You need to be either clearly identified as to which comments are you (if your strategy is to make your profile stand out online), or be anonymous in the crowd of people with the same name.

9. If you find defamatory comments about yourself, request that the user remove them. If that doesn’t work, request that the site owner removes them. And remember, libel is libel, even if it happens in cyber-space.

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