Career Killers: Five Things to Avoid on Social Media



Social media has changed the face of our culture…for better or worse. While most use Facebook and Twitter to stay connected to friends, others have risked their livelihood by taking status updates too far. A former communications director recently learned this lesson the hard way. Elizabeth Lauten, aide to Congressman Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, resigned after criticizing Sasha and Malia Obama’s attire and “class” during the White House’s annual turkey pardoning. Lauten’s Facebook status sparked public and professional outcry, citing her comments as inappropriate and unnecessary.

So, how should you avoid making a similar mistake? Don’t:

1. Friend every coworker. Friendliness is important in the workplace, but that doesn’t necessarily extend to social media. Adding coworkers on Facebook and Twitter can be problematic, especially if you use accounts to share personal information with close friends. When in doubt, deny friend requests by saying, “Sorry, I only use Facebook and Twitter for family,” and move on.

2. Recap your workday. Innocent conversations can spiral out of control on social media. Consider the following Facebook exchange:

Carrie (status): Such a tough day at work…
Stella (friend): Oh no, what’s wrong?
Carrie: Just unrealistic deadlines, same old story.
Stella: Ugh, what now?
Carrie: That manufacturer I told you about wants to move up their ship dates to December 30 to beat the competition. That means some serious overtime for me for the rest of the year. Too bad I don’t want to work overtime!

In three sentences, Carrie has expressed her job frustrations and, more seriously, exposed internal information about a client. What was once a simple status update could now cost Carrie her job and result in a lawsuit. Sure, we all talk to friends about our jobs, but it’s important to establish boundaries. Respect your employer by keeping your workday recaps off the internet.

3. Complain about your boss. You might have the boss from hell, but if you value your job, you won’t air public grievances. “The devil boss was at it again” might gain a few likes or retweets, but what’s the point? Will it mend the rift in your workplace or change your boss’s behavior? No. At worst, it’ll give your boss cause to reprimand or fire you. Don’t become part of the problem. Take your legitimate claims to human resources and aim for a positive solution. When all else fails, talk to a close friend in a private setting.

4. Trash your peers. Negativity is a powerful force, one that can overwhelm the work environment. If you catch yourself gossiping or trashing friends on social media, you’re probably guilty of the same transgressions in the workplace. Consider the following example:

Michael is a marketing associate for a PR firm. He is friends with several coworkers on Facebook and eats lunch with them regularly. When Michael is denied for a management position, he is shocked to learn that his coworkers did not recommend him for the job. Michael’s tendency to post negative stories and comments on social media has led others to question his leadership skills.

No one wants to work with a litigious person. The bottom line: If you can’t say something nice…well, you know the rest.

5. Overshare your private life. So, you’re wild on the weekends. You like to party, drink and generally have fun with your friends. There’s nothing wrong with blowing off steam in your off hours, but there is something wrong with sharing it on social media. Posting and tagging explicit photos is tacky and irresponsible, leaving your contacts to wonder about your character. While you may be a superstar employee, don’t expect your boss to promote you on Monday if you post drunken photos on Sunday night. A professional image is necessary for continued success. A good rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t share it with your boss at work, don’t post it on social media.

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