When oversharing can cost you your job

We all know that Gen Y is prone to oversharing on social media. A quick search brings up all sorts of interesting situations that weren’t even conceivable just a few years ago and point out the pitfalls of moving things that were previously private communications into the public purview. As a few examples, here is a quick history of oversharing disasters from across the pond.

Then there is this little gem. In 2011, Patrick Snay reached an age-discrimination settlement with his former employer, Gulliver Preparatory School. (He was their former principal.) Attached to the settlement was a confidentiality agreement. However, the school rescinded the $80,000 settlement after Snay’s college-age daughter bragged about the deal to her more than 1,200 Facebook friends. In February, a Florida appellate court sided with the school.

And to top things off, the National Labor Relations Board has sued employers for firing employees who’ve taken to social media to complain about poor working conditions, and has this fact sheet for employers.

Back in the day (say a few years ago), the term we used when someone lost their job over a posting was that they were dooced. The origin comes from a blog that Heather Armstrong started and then lost her job over a post. She is still blogging, although now she is one of the old Wise Ones who can say stuff like this:

Living online for us means something different than it does for young college kids…. For us it means inviting a virtual audience into our home—our very distinctly messy home that has not been styled for an Instagram photo—and offering them an honest look at our spaces, our relationships, our victories as well as our wounds knowing that in the process of doing so we help each other to feel less alone.”

So can you be dooced if you haven’t even started working at a company? That is the latest in Internet manner issues we address. Last week there was an interesting dust-up when this question was posted on Quora from a newly minted engineer considering two first job offers, one from Uber and another from Zenefits.

The quick summary: basically the engineer listed pros and cons for both companies and asked the Hive Mind what to do. The CEO of Zenefits (which ironically had the lower salary offer) rescinded their offer, so the decision became moot. Then the web weighed in, with various people claiming Zenefits or the poster was acting badly. My reaction is that this will be a case study for future generations, where we can learn several lessons.

First, if you get job offers from more than one company, keep them offline and if you have to seek advice, definitely keep it to a phone call or two to a trusted mentor or advisor. No need to get the entire webverse engaged. This doesn’t have to be a public spectacle. Or really anyone else’s business but your own.

Second, if you are a corporate executive and going to rescind an offer, make it for a better reason that your feelings were hurt by some post. You don’t want to set an example for future job candidates to avoid even applying to your company. While I doubt in this specific circumstance that either Uber or Zenefits would be adversely hurt – after all, both are up for $50 billion funding rounds – still, you don’t want to become a part of thousands of blog posts, such as this one.

Third, if you are graduating college, it is time to become more professional with using your social media accounts. I wrote about this a long time ago but it deserves repeating: keep politics, sex, and religion out of your posts, remove those party pix with all the red cups, and remember that your friends might not appreciate being tagged in compromising or inebriated conditions.

Finally, if you really want to figure out which startup to work for, take some real advice from this well thought out TechCrunch piece.

The Uber/Zenefits query has so many delicious ironies it is hard to list them all: Uber has been known for acting badly with its employees for its brogramming culture, Armstrong weighing in with the advice of more than a decade as a mommy blogger now going out on her own as a media consultant, or just the notion of how two pre-IPO Silicon Valley titans compete for talent. I’ll let you pick. Just be careful of what you share and where, please.

One thought on “When oversharing can cost you your job

  1. I would certainly think twice about a candidate who broadcast what might be confidential or sensitive information over the Internet before I even hired them. Employees and candidates need to think about their employers. They have a reputation to uphold. They have dirty laundry they may not want aired. Besides, if someone has an issue with my offer and another one they have, talking with those who *made* those offers is the most likely to garner useful information and replies.

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