With so many employers scouring social media, how can posting be worth it?

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Radhika Panjwani is a freelance writer based in Toronto.

  • While it is important that employees express their authentic voices on their social media, they should also be aware of the consequences of disclosure.
  • Creating newsletters, writing for industry publications, panelist and podcaster are some alternative avenues that professionals can use to showcase their expertise
  • Companies must ensure they have a ‘digital conduct’ policy in place. These policies should include best practices for social media and generative AI

Earlier this year, US-based Brittany Pietsch, a former employee at IT company Cloudflare, was fired from Zoom. She secretly filmed the exchange and posted the video to her TikTok, LinkedIn, X and Facebook accounts.

In the video, HR tells Ms. Pietsch that she was not meeting the company’s expectations, but she confronts Ms. Pietsch about it. The messages went viral.

“I have (also) read some comments about the fact that I will now never be able to find a job again because I am a ‘casual gun worker,’” Ms. Pietsch wrote in a LinkedIn post in the wake of her fame. “I’ll tell you what: any company that won’t hire me because I shared a video of how a company fired me or because I asked questions about why I was fired is not a company I would ever want to have. to work for anyway. If I don’t stand up for myself… who will?

More recently, Ms. Pietsch admitted that she has serious anxiety and mental health issues as a result of the attention her video attracted.

At what price?

Last year, recruitment firm Express Employment Professionals found that 86 percent of Canadian employers said they would consider firing employees over inappropriate social media posts. Flammable violations include posting content that harms the company’s reputation, disclosing confidential information, and mentioning illegal drug use.

The report suggested that job seekers should be wary of what they post, as 65 percent of companies say they use social media to screen applicants. Of those, 41 percent of companies say they found content on social media accounts that caused them not to hire the candidate.

However, only 18 percent of Canadian companies have a formal social media policy for employees.

Social media has erased the lines between people’s personal and professional lives, says Martin Waxman, an adjunct professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business and associate director at the Future of Marketing Institute. But, he added, it’s important to ask yourself: How prepared are you for a public fight where the chances of convincing the opponent are virtually non-existent?

“I believe it’s important to stick to your values, but you also need to consider how ‘public’ you want your opinions to be and be prepared for the consequences of expressing an opinion on a particularly polarizing topic,” said the Mr Waxman. “If you’re using social media to find a job, you may want to focus on how to present yourself to a potential employer.”

He advises young professionals to think about what they want to achieve on social media and create content that adds value. He warns that when using generative AI to write content for social media, people will have to edit the post and add their personality instead of blindly copying and pasting.

Lisa Bragg, author of Bragging Rights: How to Talk About Your Work Using Purposeful Self-Promotion, recalled a valuable lesson she learned some thirty years ago when she accidentally wrote “effect” instead of “affect” in an online comment. The trolls descended and attacked her.

“This incident made me realize that people often focus on small mistakes to undermine the messenger when they disagree with the message,” Ms Bragg said. “It underscored the importance of precision in communication and prepared me for the challenges of thinking about digital platforms. But it has also made me more of a perfectionist, which I think has hindered my ability to produce more content over the years.”

Not everyone is comfortable putting themselves out there on social media and that’s okay, she says. Professionals can express themselves through many other ways, such as newsletters, writing articles for industry-specific publications, participating in podcasts and participating in panels.

“You want to be sure that whatever way you contribute demonstrates your expertise and professional ethos,” Ms Bragg said. “As you share more of your own ideas, you will stand out as a leader. Ultimately, it is about strategic, value-driven communication that increases visibility without compromising personal or professional integrity.”

Executives on X

Today, employees expect their leaders to take a stand on emerging issues and be present on social media, but this can be difficult in several ways, Ms. Bragg says. For starters, some platforms do not allow enough space to formulate a nuanced position, leading to possible misinterpretations. Furthermore, endorsing one position does not necessarily mean rejecting the other, but without adequate context it is easy to be misunderstood.

“Moral outrage is the most powerful form of social media,” Ms. Bragg said. “We are going from crisis to crisis, which one will you respond to? Leaders must be incredibly attentive to public positions and must work from a place that keeps their professional integrity intact and ensures that their advocacy is meaningful rather than merely performative.”

Her advice to executives:

  • Posting (on social media) requires a delicate balance between personal belief and the values ​​of the organization
  • A role must be consistent and carefully calibrated to avoid alienating parts of the workforce
  • Ask yourself: what do you really believe? Are you talking yet? Does the world really need your voice or are you just adding to the noise?
  • What is the company policy? Is it really your place to say something or is it your place to make sure the right people have the microphone. Is it an opportunity to promote communication as a facilitator?
  • Be willing to listen and hold space, but understand that it can be difficult when others don’t.

Social and generative AI policy

Mr Waxman, a digital and social media strategist, said it could be a good idea for organizations to have clear and transparent policies for all ‘digital behaviour’, including social media and the use of generative artificial intelligence. For example, in the case of gen AI, the policy should specify how employees may use only company-approved proprietary gen AI tools with built-in data protection features, as opposed to their personal ChatGPT account.

“I think a company’s social media or actually digital policy should be written in plain English; should be as concise as possible and communicated to employees on a regular basis,” Mr Waxman said. “(The policy) has to be part of your culture. Today, that should include when and where it is acceptable to use generative AI tools in the workplace.”

What I read on the internet

  • This blog from Trung Phan explains why several high-profile YouTube creators are leaving the platform.
  • Victoria Medvec, professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, helps map the journey to the boardroom in this blog.
  • How do you recognize your weakness during a job interview? Organizational psychologist Adam Grant has the answer in his blog.

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