Social networking — or perhaps “social not-working” — is a fact of life in today’s workplace. A 2012 survey found that at least 72 percent of employees spend at least some time social networking on work time every day.
It usually has nothing to do with their job. It’s surfing the Web, checking out Facebook, visiting on LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, or whatever.
Unfortunately, when they are online, they make mistakes — and those mistakes can lead to serious consequences at work.
If you social network, consider the following five tips for making your on-the-job forays successful:
1. It’s not private. Employers can monitor what you’re doing and where you’re going. So, be very careful about which sites you choose to visit, and know ahead of time your company’s guidelines for social networking on company time, on the company’s network connection, with the company’s computers.
2. Once more: It’s not private. People think what they post is only for the eyes of their select friends. They trust privacy settings to protect them. That’s a mistake. Privacy settings can change. Your recipients can repost what you post, forward a tweet, tag you in a photo. Follow the Emily Post Institute’s Bulletin Board Rule: If you can’t post it on a bulletin board for anyone to see, don’t post it online.
3. Criticize carefully. Anonymity can bring out the worst in people. Online postings don’t mean you can be more caustic in your comments.
4. You will be judged. It’s the nature of online posts: They are fair game to be judged. And they will be. The problem: often someone else’s opinion of your opinion is different than your opinion of your opinion. On the Internet, people will let you (and everyone else) know just what they think of your opinion.
5. You are responsible for your image. Your comments and online image are your responsibility. You are also responsible for what others might say or what images they might post about you. If you find a post that fosters a negative image of you, ask the poster to remove it. If you see a tagged photo of you in a less than flattering pose (too much Saturday night), ask the person who posted it to remove it — or at least the tag. Finally, consider Googling yourself regularly to see what the world sees when they Google you.
E-mail questions about business etiquette to firstname.lastname@example.org.