During my appearance on The Sound of Ideas to discuss social media in the
workplace, NLRB General Counsel Lafe Solomon made an interesting point
about the accessibility of employees' social media by employers. The question
arose as to whether employees can short-circuit workplace problems by locking
employers out via available privacy settings on sites such as Facebook. Lafe
observed that in every social media case brought to the NLRB, the employer
learned of the offending social media posts not by its own online discovery,
but by a co-worker who narced. Privacy settings on Facebook can keep
non-friends from accessing information, but they cannot prevent someone to whom
you have granted access from turning that information over.
Employees need to disavow themselves of the notion that
there is such a thing as "privacy" in social media. After all, the word
"social" is half of the equation. These are not conversations we are having
with ourselves. People keep diaries for those matters they really want to keep
private; they should not be broadcasting those private thoughts for the world
to see. Once you put information out there, you have to assume that your
employer will discover it.
Using social media is as much an exercise in reputational
management as it is in the sharing of information. Until employees fully
understand and embrace the implications of the sociability of these tools, the
NLRB will remain busy deciding the merits of terminations that result from
social media's irresponsible use by those seeking the NLRB's protection.
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