Imagine that one of your team members posted something on Facebook that was of very poor taste, would you as a company take any action? What if you received many outraged complaints about it? Hmm… That’s a bit more complicated, isn’t it?
A while back someone called my office complaining that they spotted one of my team members tossing out a cigarette out of the company van (“And you claim to be an environmental friendly company?!”). The rules for our behavior are quite clear when we are driving a company van but does a company have the right to intervene when someone posts something offensive in a private Facebook group?
It’s not quite as simple as you might have thought.
An employee has the right to do what they want when off duty (“What I do after 5 PM is not of my Bosses business”). this attitude does not reflect todays expectations (these days, are we ever “off duty”?).
Here are just a few reasons why the “What I do after 5PM is no one’s business” approach no longer works:
1. When we hired you (for a marketing position) we took into account your social clout.
Mike Volpe, HubSpot’s CMO is back in the job market. Mike has an excellent reputation in the industry, and a very strong influence over decision makers. His influence and reputation make him attractive to many companies. No doubt, whoever hires him next, will do so assuming that they can leverage his cloud to better his performance. By extension, If someone was hired because they have clout, their behavior when with this audience becomes the companies business.
2. You benefit from some of the company’s investment in your social assets.
We definitely help our our employer when using our personal networks for work, but we also gain plenty from it: we connect ourselves to the brand and the company may even pay for certain personal tools like LinkedIn Pro. Once we accept these benefits from our employer, we know that something is expected in return. We know that we can’t go promoting our company publicly and then bad-mouthing it at the same time.
3. The line between work/home has blurred long ago.
My employer pays for my phone and I routinely use my company laptop for personal emails. Even if I have legal right for privacy, reason dictates that if I am checking out Facebook at work the company can check me out on Facebook when I’m home. The line between work and home is getting so blurry that we can barely even see it any longer.
CMOconfessions is my private blog, entirely paid for and run by me, but I often talk about my work (currently at roojoom.com) and realize that even though I write these posts while i’m off the clock, I have a responsibility for maintaining Roojoom’s reputation. Even if I had grievances with it (I have none) I would not voice them here.
4. We just expected more from you. Period
I once had an employee who did not agree to share the company updates on her personal social accounts. This was not part of her job description and I had to look beyond it. Beyond the specific case though, one has to realize that such dilemmas are at least a symptom, if not a problem.
In the 90s movie “Office Space” Stan, the manager at “Chotchkies”, has a conversation with Joanna (a waitress played by Jennifer Aniston) because she refuses to ware more “flair” on her uniform:
“You know what Stan, If you want me to ware 37 pieces of flair, why don’t you just make the minimum: 37 pieces of flair”.
Stan: “Well, I thought remembered you saying that you wanted to express yourself”.
The conversation really exemplifies the complex relationship between employer and employee. Stan expects outgoing, energetic employees who go out of their way to promote the brand. Joanna feels that he has no right to expect her to be enthusiastic about the company she works for. He just expected more from her.
Not much has changes in this respect, except that Stan was commenting about Joanna’s attitude AT work towards actual clients. Today, online marketers are at work whenever they logon to a social network. We just expect more flair.
So where does this leave us with social privacy?
Bottom line, it’s fuzzy, and complicated. Personally I feel that I chose to work at Roojoom and I take pride in it. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship where I leverage my personal clout to benefit the company and the company in return is happy to help me boost my social reach. It’s just part of doing the very best I can at my job, and if I ever feel like I don’t want to do it amy longer I can (and should) leave. So I don’t worry so much about counting how many pieces of “flair” my team members ware. I worry if they just have problem with the whole idea. I’d much rather they be happy enough to be proud of our company as I am.