Social Networking At Work Is Really “Social Not-Working”

Social networking—or perhaps better stated as “social not-working”— is a fact of life in today’s workplace. The National Business Ethics Survey of Social Networkers conducted in 2012 identified that at least 72% of all workers spend at least some time social networking on work time “every day.”

And their social networking isn’t for the company. It’s for themselves: 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, as 72% of the people around you do, consider the following five tips for making your social networking forays successful:

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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 computer(s).

2. It’s not private, again. 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. Your recipients can repost what you post, forward a tweet, tag you in a photo, or the privacy settings can change. Follow The Emily Post Institute 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. The anonymity and protection of the electronic brick wall can bring out the worst in a person. Online postings don’t mean you can be more caustic in your comments. It’s much easier for others to misinterpret your message without having the benefit of facial expressions, body language or the tone of your voice.

4. You will be judged. It’s in the nature of online posts that they are fair game to be judged. And judged they will be. The problem: often someone else’s opinion of your opinion is different than your opinion of your opinion. On the Internet, the electronic brick wall encourages participants to let you (and everyone else) know just what they think of your opinion.

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5. You are responsible for your image. Your comments and online image are your responsibility. But 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 person who has done the posting 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 remove the tag. Finally, consider a regular diet of Googling yourself to see what the world sees when they Google you.

Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers’ questions in The Boston Sunday Globe’s weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business” and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book “Essential Manners For Men” was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of “Essential Manners for Couples,” “Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf,” and co-author of “A Wedding Like No Other.” Post is Emily Post’s great-grandson. His media appearances include “CBS Sunday Morning,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and “Fox News.” Follow Post: @PeterLPost.

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