Don’t be a twit by tweeting yourself out of a job this Christmas!

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Don’t be a twit by tweeting yourself out of a job this Christmas!

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The office Christmas Party is often the talking point of December, but it’s not just through word of mouth – social media is now the way many employees tend to share their Christmas party shenanigans! But how can this impact your business?

It’s common sense that bad mouthing your employer in public or acting inappropriately at work is not a good idea, isn’t it? So why do so many employees fall into the trap of forgetting that this rule applies to social media too.

Most people would confess to making a social networking faux pas at some point in their life, whether it’s posting a risqué photo or a controversial comment, but for an unfortunate few not thinking before tweeting has cost them their job.  But despite living in a media saturated society – where even four-year-olds know what Youtube is – some professionals, from politicians and celebrities to professionals like teachers and nurses have posted things online that have put the profession they represent into disrepute.

Blurred lines between public and private

Politicians are used to having their every word scrutinised by the media, but even former cabinet member Chris Huhne has made the classic social media school boy error of posting a private message to thousands of Twitter followers. Whereas Mr Huhne’s faux pas only led to him being left left red-faced, the consequences have been more drastic for others, such as former Labour front-bencher Emily Thornberry, who was sacked by Ed Milliand after she posted a picture of a house that had been draped in the England flag, which led to her being accused of snobbery.

And it’s not just what’s said on Twitter that has led to people getting into trouble at work, as ill-judged Facebook postings have also landed employees in hot-water.  A nurse at a children’s hospice was struck off earlier this year after mistakenly thinking the foul-mouthed remarks she had made on the site were private.  Similarly, a teacher was asked to resign from her job in 2009 after the principal at her school became aware of photos of her drinking alcohol on Facebook.  This teacher, whose Facebook profile had been set to private so that it could only been seen by friends, rightly sued the school district on the grounds of not being made aware of her rights.

Prospective employees might also want to check their privacy settings before applying for a new job, as you can bet your bottom dollar that potential new employers will have a sneaky peak at the candidate’s social persona, which is usually an edited version of their true self.

Social networking policy at work

In addition to what’s being said on social networking sites being a headache for employers, it is also important to have a social networking use at work policy. Whereas, Facebook and Twitter are unnecessary distractions for most workers, in some professions, such as journalism, social networking sites are a useful tool.

 Contact making  

Even the business-oriented social networking service LinkedIn is causing employers problems due to the fact that employees have access to a range of contacts that they are able to keep hold of even if they leave the business.   The ownership of a worker’s contacts has been the subject of legal debate both in the UK and abroad.  The issue first came to light in the courts in 2013 in the case of Whitmar Publications Limited v Gamage, which saw Whitmar apply for an injunction against former employees who used the company’s LinkedIn group contacts while trying to launch a rival business.   The court granted an interim injunction on the grounds that the former employees were misusing ‘confidential information’.  While the law recognises private contact information gained during employment as confidential information, this does not apply to general contact details available in the public domain.

For more information on social networking and the implications for businesses and their employees, as well as other HR issues, please contact aible on 01656 630 010 or email people@aible.co.uk.

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