Reputation Risk and Social Media: Where personal and professional worlds collide

Social media has become the murky water where personal and professional reputations are shared, liked, posted and sometimes annihilated. The ability to share anything on the spot has become the bane of many an organization and the people who work for them.

Just a week ago a young veterinarian Kristen Lindsey was fired for posting and boasting about  a picture of herself with a cat that she had killed with a bow and arrow.  While police couldn’t charge Lindsey until they determined if the picture was real or not, her employer didn’t hesitate to take action. The Washington Animal Clinic issued a statement on their website.  “We are absolutely appalled, shocked, upset, and disgusted by the conduct,” a spokesperson for the clinic wrote in a statement. “We condemn it in the strongest possible manner.”

Does a social media gaff have to have this type of shock factor in order to be noticed? The answer is no.  If your corporation only measures social media violations based on how far reaching they are, then stand by because the shock wave will come.

A couple of years ago, we conducted an exercise where one corporation wanted to measure the online footprint of some of their senior executives.  Everyone of the individuals bought into the exercise and were sure that their online footprints were essentially clean…..but, there’s always that one….  We had a look at some online dating sites and we stumbled upon one where people are looking for affairs.  We  put in a series of search criteria; location, age range (because everybody lies about it), height, hair color, eye color etc. Lo and behold a picture loads and it is the professional picture of one of our executives and it is the same picture used on the corporate website.

As you can imagine, this opened up a huge can of worms. The executive claimed his private life was private. The corporation claimed “not when you use the picture we own of you”.  It is so easy to see how these worlds can collide. I’m not at liberty to say what happened to this executive, but let’s just say the point was made.  Anyone, anywhere can make the connection between an individual and where they work.

When I read posts on social media I always look at who is making them. Especially those that threaten or break ethical boundaries. And each and everyday I am shocked at those who do not have a filter or a thought that what they might be posting is inappropriate for their positions.  But it makes for interesting reading, research and eventually fodder for my classes. When teaching in house sessions on social media risk I am always amused at the participants madly deleting posts and pictures throughout the duration of the class.

Some tips to keep your personal & professional reputations intact:

1)  Distance your personal and professional social media profiles.                                      If you have a professional reputation to protect then maybe don’t mention where                  you work on your personal social media profiles.

2) Think before you post.                                                                                                              If you think that your opinion or actions can come back and bite you professionally –            don’t post them. (And PS how many times have I seen someone make an                            inappropriate post and then claim their accounts were hacked? – nope don’t buy it)

3)  Disclaimers on social media mean nothing.                                                                         Those posts of “views are my own and don’t reflect the view of my employer” mean              absolutely nothing.  This will not prevent people from associating you with your                    employer, in fact, it usually draws people to look into who your employer is.

4)  Understand your social media policy and code of conduct                                               Remember that you only have one reputation.

As long as HR & Ethics departments think that what a person posts on their social media profiles is personal, then they do nothing to mitigate the risks involved for the corporation. There is no such thing as personal or private as long as a person uses social media. Worlds collide and merge as one – either like a good marriage or a bad one.

Nejolla provides training to corporations on social media risk and social engineering.  

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Citi Vice President and Tech Guy from QQ Solutions Post a Bit Too Much on Social Media?

It’s a daily occurrence in social media for people to post, criticize, threaten and conspire.  The sweeping epidemic of negativity still surprises me, even though it shouldn’t and I wonder what motivates people to do it.   Does anyone think about how leaving a permanent legacy of their name, photo and venom for everyone to see will affect their reputation? Last week I was involved in a dispute with a dog rescue in North Carolina. The rescue posted her version of events of course twisting details to garner sympathy.  She then blocked me from posting remarks.  As you can predict, I was barraged with a ton of hater posts.

Looking through a few of them, I was interested some of the more threatening posts. Who were these people who spewed hatred and their willingness to come after me?   Usually the most damning posts come from Trolls, people with fake identities and live for the moment to damn others but not all.  People who didn’t know me, would never meet me and I would never meet them swarming like locusts wanting to cause damage. A couple of guys post caught my eye.  They were conspiring about different ways they could come after me. One suggested legal action initially, then the second started talking about “other ways” to bring me down. They debated a forced take down of my website, threats to my hosting provider, then other ways to take me down nudge, nudge, wink, wink. And one of them said they could help because of the work they do. They reminded me of two  gorillas pounding their chests to assert their position as kings of the jungle.

I wondered who they were and clicked on their profiles.  And what did I find? A Vice President of Citi Bank and a tech guy with insurance software provider QQ Solutions.

Ken Cronin’s FB profile tells me he works for Citi and his LinkedIn Profile lists his title as Vice President, Learning Technology and Architecture. I do a double take. What the heck is this guy doing getting involved and posting where he should not be?  Most financial institutions have really strict social media policies and employee codes of conduct.  In a nutshell they say that regardless of whether an employee is on company time or personal time they always represent the corporation. And nowhere is that more prevalent than with members of senior management.  So here we have a Citi Vice President conspiring with another guy to try and force the take down of my website and implying that there are other ways to get at me.  He is also taking a technology degree at present which may be funded by the bank. So is he using that bank funded education to hack or shame me?  Interesting question on where the ethical boundaries lie in this situation. As I scrolled down the public portion of his Facebook page,  I came across this post of his.

Now I see where Ken Cronin gets it….an inability to keep his comments to himself despite of where he works.   There have been other bad taste social media posts that have cost people their jobs.  The infamous Justine Sacco who tweeted “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding, I’m white!  The PR firm Justine worked for fired her before she landed in Johannesburg.

Earlier this year stockbroker Rayhan Qadar was fired from the firm Hargreaves Lansdown who stated they found his comment unacceptable. Qadar tweeted  ‘Think I just hit a cyclist. But I’m late for work so had to drive off lol’ Qadar was joking but his superiors didn’t find it funny at all.

Austin Rodden is much lower hanging fruit on his corporate family tree.   The company he works for provides software for the insurance industry…hmmm a big portion of my clientele as well.  What would they think about an employee of QQ Solutions thinking of taking tech revenge against a party they don’t know?  In most cases it should raise the hackles of any client.  If this is something he might do to a person he doesn’t know, how do we know a guy like him wouldn’t try to cause a client harm if his mood struck him that way?

When are we going to find our filters on social media? To think before we post, to mind our own business…or is that just not the nature of the beast? In so many ways it is great to that everybody has a voice. It serves to break down barriers, conquer geography and create communities.  And then there is the sheer idiocy of the endless hatred and rants that never seem to end.  As a friend of mine says “The Internet is like a woman, she never forgets and she never forgives”.

Tips:

Think before you post: you may think you are clever but your company might not.