Surveyors be warned: salacious 'selfies' could harm your career

Is it right employers pry into their staff’s online activity? Or should they mind their own business?

I must admit I only recently became aware of the term “selfie” – for the uninitiated, it’s a picture you might take of yourself and post on Twitter or Facebook. I am told that 2014 will be the year of the “selfie” and with people like David Cameron and President Obama self-snapping in places as unlikely as the memorial service for Nelson Mandela late last year, who knows what will happen or what amusement it will provide.

What may seem to be harmless fun in cyber space has been highlighted as a potential career killer by a leading business education charity. It is warning students that employers are increasingly viewing content posted on Facebook and Twitter accounts and urged teenagers to set up professional social profiles on networking sites such as LinkedIn instead. Perhaps more boring but not quite so lethal to one’s promotion prospects, we are told.

The distinction between the term ‘boss’ and the term ‘friend’ had clearly become blurred in her eyes as she wrote ‘OMG I HATE MY JOB’.

I am not so sure of the ethics of this. Had Facebook or Twitter been around during many a student day in the past there would have been sufficient material to threaten the careers of many leading business men and women I am sure. Also if social media had been around during the heady seventies who knows what might have been self-published by leading members of today’s Cabinet during their days as members of the famed Bullingdon Club at Oxford.

This whole topic was raised by the publicity over a woman who launched a Facebook tirade against her boss forgetting that she had included him as one of her “friends”. The problem being that the distinction between the term “boss” and the term “friend” had clearly become blurred in her eyes as she wrote “OMG I HATE MY JOB … my boss is always making me do (expletive) stuff!”

He apparently responded in kind by saying. “That (expletive) stuff is called your job, you know, it’s what I pay you to do!”. He then apparently sacked her. Although allegedly there were some more colourful references she also used.

The head of public policy at Career Academics UK who place disadvantaged students into internships argues that his candidates are encouraged to place more positive material onto professional networking sites so that employers see good things and are not just exposed to the more frivolous or socially challenging aspects of their personality.

Perhaps it is better that we don’t judge people at work by what they do in their own time.

Is this fair? Maybe it’s none of the employers’ business what folk do in their own time, maybe it’s an invasion of privacy to snoop on their social media. Perhaps it is better that we don’t judge people at work by what they do in their own time. After all, those of us who have openly criticised others in the heat of the moment over the kitchen table would be horrified if those conversational nuggets were played back to colleagues and friends by a partner who decided that they needed a wider airing on YouTube.

But be warned, social media does exactly what it says on the tin. It is social, by which I mean it reflects your life both in and out of work and it is media. By which I mean everyone gets to see it if you are not careful.

Next time you look for a job or even want to stay in your current role do not assume that people will not make judgements about you based on what is plastered on your Facebook page. It may not be fair but it is often a reality.

This time last year a leading retailer’s staff were apparently caught branding customers “idiots” and last year we were informed that others in a transport business called passengers “smelly and annoying”. All visible online.This is despite the website warning members of staff to be careful about what they post and who they allow to view their profile.

So, as you proudly review the shots of you photocopying your rear at the works Christmas party on Facebook or tweet how hammered you got on New Year’s Eve be careful out there - you never know who is watching!

Richard Steer is chairman of Gleeds



Richard Steer Chairman Gleeds

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