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How NOT to Build a Reputation at Work

What would the world be like without social media? How did we ever survive without an itchy trigger finger on Facebook?

Nevertheless, social media is here…at least for now. While it is exceedingly more popular than, say, a boombox you can carry on your shoulder or a fire-engine red pager, it is still a foreseeable force to be reckoned with when not used appropriately. Take this for example: a good friend posted a secretly taken photo of her boss using her cell phone during work hours, contrary to a policy she frequently enforced with staff. The comment was something along the lines of "practice what you preach" only more snarky and explicit.

These 5 tips are sure to help you avoid even the most “obvi” (obvious, for those of us who are less accustomed to truncating all of our words) social media and email missteps:

  1. Do not post pictorial references or evidence of your supervisor’s poor work habits. Bear in mind, that although your observation may be rooted in truth, it is not your responsibility to call foul unless your supervisor is doing something unethical. Should that be case, posting a picture on Facebook is still not the most appropriate next step.

  2. Be careful of your digital tone. This is challenging. Most times, the words sound much better in your head than they might in black and white with a thumbs up and a comment box beneath it. For example, a coworker had sent an email message to another department’s vice president requesting follow up on a pending action item. The vice president replied that one of her staff would take care of the action item upon his return from vacation in a few days. The coworker’s response? “It doesn’t need to wait for him. You can do. Please call me if you need assistance with how.” Surely, the intended tone from the coworker was meant to sound like, “I have an important deadline to meet regarding this action item. How could I possibly help you accomplish this sooner?” Instead it sounded slightly more insubordinate as, “Do it now!” Aggression may seem to get a lot of *stuff* done, while quickly undoing your professional relationships.

  3. Please refrain from airing your angry laundry on social media. Everyone is watching. Contrary to your followers being categorized as “friends”, how do you know that they will hold your grievances in confidence? Yes, it feels good to vent your frustrations publicly, but you wouldn’t stand on a table in the company cafeteria and read your posts aloud, would you? If the answer is “no”, you need to immediately rethink that next post…and possibly scrub your newsfeed for older posts that you might want your future friends not to know about.

  4. Never post or tweet while ______... Angry. Drunk. Depressed. Fill in the blank as you wish, but whenever you are feeling most hurt or vulnerable is probably not the best time to pick up your phone and fire off a lengthy post on any social media sites. Actually, even the short posts under these circumstances can be dangerous. Expressive internet memes are also not advised.

  5. Reconsider if that cat video is really funny, or just really offensive. Okay, so even when we’re happy we have to be careful what we post?? Yes! Content, language, or imagery that is politically charged, socially polarizing, or potentially questionable if your boss should happen to get wind of it is probably best avoided.

BONUS: What about your friends? Friend today, foe tomorrow. Don’t entrust your professional future to 412 individuals who could potentially expose you! If you really need an audience to vent your frustrations, consider speaking confidentially with a trusted friend, family member, mentor, or professional coach for guidance.

Once it is all said and done on social media, you really cannot take it back. Remember that even deleted content can still potentially be viewed o

nce it has been seen and your privacy settings on your social media accounts can only protect you from those you have not friended yet. So, choose your words carefully, because the old adage of “if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all” still applies [thanks, Dad].

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