It’s fairly common practice to put a disclaimer in your personal profile on Twitter, Facebook, personal blog, etc. explaining that all of your opinions “are your own”. This is basically another way of saying “I wanted to publicly state that these opinons don’t reflect on my employer, and therefore I cannot and should be penalized at work for having these opinions”. I was a victim of falling under this assumption as well. After awhile I began to think about the ramifications of our public opinions on our professional lives.
Let’s set up an example to illustrate my point.
Example – Jim is in the marketing department of a large ad agency. He’s never been accused of badgering other employees for their ignorance in the office, but generally he gets frustrated from time to time because they don’t get work done on time for him. Most of his co-workers don’t know this because Jim is generally pretty good about not showing his frustration. After a bad playoff loss he bad mouths a member of his favorite professional basketball team’s lead player on twitter telling him “You’re the worst shooting guard in the league. I hope you die”.
Let’s take some perspective on this. Let’s say this person had an excellent resume. Would you hire this person? If he was your employee, would you fire this person?
When I’m hiring someone, a big factor in analyzing someone’s character traits is how they handle situations where problems occur. In this case, our friend ‘Jim’ has displayed two sets of characteristics both inside and outside of work. So, the question I would have in the back of my mind for Jim is – if the pressure is on, is Jim going to blow up like he did with the professional basketball player?
Let’s take this a step further to the real root of the problem. Many employees of large (and small) businesses, who disagree with their employers actions, tend to use the public domain as a soapbox for venting their frustrations of their employers decisions, whether deliberately or subtly. This is largely due to the fact that there is no medium or forum for said employees to express their frustrations within their work space.
Contradictory to my sensationalized headline, tweets are in fact “your own”, but only in the sense that you are the one that created them. Hence why I put large quotations around “your own”. Once you have unleashed an opinion into the public domain, it becomes property of the public domain. This is powerful. Many people (including myself) have used the public domain as a means to bolster your status positively, but conversely it also means there can be equally negative consequence. Putting a disclaimer up doesn’t negate this.
What this is ultimately doing is forcing businesses to be much more transparent with their employees with strategies like the use of open-door policies and internal social networks. In other words, don’t piss of your employers, and don’t piss off your customers, and everyone will be happy.