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.  

Oscar Pistorius: What his words reveal – Part III

In Part I and II, we looked at the statement given by Oscar Pistorius at his bail hearing.  We examined his language describing the beginning of events on February 14, 2013.  The way a subject describes events assists the interviewer in formulating questions to establish truthful, deceptive and sensitive parts of the statement.  We cannot judge a person’s words by our own sense of logic, we must adapt to that of the subject. Let’s continue with another portion of his story.

I fired shots at the toilet door and shouted to Reeva to phone the police. She did not respond and I moved backwards out of the bathroom, keeping my eyes on the bathroom entrance. Everything was pitch dark in the bedroom and I was still too scared to switch on a light. Reeva was not responding.

He already told us that he “told Reeva to call the police, why is he asking her to do it again? He doesn’t know if Reeva already called them.  He continues to say that “Reeva did not respond”. He didn’t tell us the first time he mentioned it that Reeva didn’t respond then.

We also have Pistorius tell us that he “fired shots” at the toilet door. So, the intruders know he has a gun but he is too scared to turn on a light still.  He also mentions being scared and we discussed in a previous post that emotions at the peak of the story are associated with deceptive statements.

When I reached the bed, I realised that Reeva was not in bed. That is when it dawned on me that it could have been Reeva who was in the toilet. I returned to the bathroom calling her name. I tried to open the toilet door but it was locked. I rushed back into the bedroom and opened the sliding door exiting onto the balcony and screamed for help.

 

This is an interesting paragraph. He “reached the bed” in a room where he was still too scared to turn on the light.    He then goes on to state that it “dawned on him” that Reeva could be in the bathroom.  This is a very nonchalant way to realize you might have shot your own girlfriend. The other thing to take into consideration is why Reeva may have locked the bathroom door.  Is it because she was afraid of Pistorius and trying to get away from him?

Remember Pistorius telling us previously he had limited mobility on his stumps?  Now he is telling us he rushed back to the bedroom, opened the balcony door and screamed for help. He had told Reeva to call the police…why did he scream on the balcony?

I put on my prosthetic legs, ran back to the bathroom and tried to kick the toilet door open. I think I must then have turned on the lights. I went back into the bedroom and grabbed my cricket bat to bash open the toilet door. A panel or panels broke off and I found the key on the floor and unlocked and opened the door.

This is also very interesting.  He does a fair amount of running back and forth in this segment.  He also tells us he “thinks” he turned on the light at this point.  People would remember if they did something in the dark or in the light.  It would have made running back and forth easier if he could see.  These become classic examples in statements where a person is making up the sequence of events.

In the interview it is also important to ask him about the sequence of events when he says that some panels broke off on the door and that he found the key on the floor. Where exactly was that key?

 Reeva was slumped over but alive. I battled to get her out of the toilet and pulled her into the bathroom. I phoned Johan Stander who was involved in the administration of the estate and asked him to phone the ambulance. I phoned Netcare and asked for help. I went downstairs to open the front door. I returned to the bathroom and picked Reeva up as I had been told not to wait for the paramedics, but to take her to hospital. I carried her downstairs in order to take her to the hospital. On my way down Stander arrived. A doctor who lives in the complex also arrived. Downstairs, I tried to render the assistance to Reeva that I could, but she died in my arms.

Let’s look closely at what Pistorius is telling us happened here. Remember how he kept telling Reeva to call police? He tells us he “battled” (what does that mean?) to get Reeva out of the toilet. Then all of a sudden he calls Johan Stander to call the ambulance.  Why didn’t he just call the ambulance himself? Then he has time to make another call to Netcare. He says that he “tried” to render assistance.   Why did he use the word tried? Either he did or he didn’t render assistance.  Which is it?

It would be interesting to note what height the bullet holes were.  Pistorius said that he fired the shots before he put his prosthetic legs on.  One of the things to do is look at the height of the bullet holes to see if that part of what he claims is true.

The verdict given by Judge Masipa was that Pistorius was not guilty of premeditated murder but that of culpable homicide.  The sentencing trial of Oscar Pistorius continued today.

For more information and training please go to http://www.interveritas.com

The SCAN technique (Scientific Content Analysis) is a methodology used to examine truthful and deceptive points in language.  The technique uses a consistent formula in the analysis of linguistic patterns in individuals.  Therefore, regardless of the subject’s education, profession or cultural background, the same consistent measures are used to measure the subjects’ words.  SCAN is used in the analysis of statements written by the subject, interview transcripts, and oral interviews

Oscar Pistorius: What His Words Reveal – Part II

In Part I, we looked at the statement given by Oscar Pistorius at his bail hearing.  We examined his language describing the beginning of events on February 14, 2013.  The way a subject describes events assists the interviewer in formulating questions to establish truthful, deceptive and sensitive parts of the statement.  We cannot judge a person’s words by our own sense of logic, we must adapt to that of the subject. Let’s continue with another portion of his story.

During the early morning hours of 14 February 2013, I woke up, went onto the balcony to bring the fan in and closed the sliding doors, the blinds and the curtains. I heard a noise in the bathroom and realised that someone was in the bathroom. I felt a sense of terror rushing over me. There are no burglar bars across the bathroom window and I knew that contractors who worked at my house had left the ladders outside. Although I did not have my prosthetic legs on I have mobility on my stumps. I believed that someone had entered my house. I was too scared to switch a light on.

Let’s first examine the emotions Pistorius claims to have by looking at how we react in situations. Which is the most realistic scenario?

Scenario I

A car has gone through a red light and is coming straight at you.  You swerve, you concentrate on averting an accident. 10 blocks later you start to shake realizing how close you had come to being hit.

Scenario II  

A car has gone through a red light and is coming straight at you. You stop and say to yourself. “I’m so scared”, then you swerve to avert a collision.

The events in scenario I are more realistic.  Adrenaline and survival instincts kick in and people concentrate on that rather than thinking about what their emotions are at the time. Pistorius said “I felt a sense of terror washing over me.” Emotions in a truthful statement do not occur at the peak of the story, they occur after the incident.  The incident itself is so overwhelming that the subject immediately goes into survival mode.  When a deceptive subject inserts emotions at the peak of the incident  it is an indicator that they are deceptive and are bolstering their story.

Then he states “I was too scared to turn the light on”. This also occurs at the peak of the incident and unreliable. What is even more interesting to observe is that darkness usually adds to the stress of the incident & most people would turn the light on.

Pistorius also interrupts the flow of the story to announce his prosthetics were off. People will interrupt the flow of their statement prop up their story with unnecessary information. Whether his prosthetics were on or off at this time is immaterial to the events occurring in his statement at this very time.

On my way to the bathroom I screamed words to the effect for him/them to get out of my house and for Reeva to phone the police. It was pitch dark in the bedroom and I thought Reeva was in bed.

The words ” on my way” indicate more of a casual movement rather than the sense of urgency where he had stated he “felt a sense of terror” earlier. He also goes on to talk about the dark again. He also says “words to the effect” which means that he is not citing what he actually said he is rephrasing.

He then continues that it was dark & he thought Reeva was in bed. What he is doing is using the darkness and linking to the earlier words “I was too scared to turn on the light” to justify why he didn’t know where Reeva was.

Also, if he was on the balcony closing things up and heard something in the bathroom why didn’t he check first if Reeva was in there?  Automatically he went into “feeling as sense of terror”.

It filled me with horror and fear of an intruder or intruders being inside the toilet. I thought he or they must have entered through the unprotected window. As I did not have my prosthetic legs on and felt extremely vulnerable, I knew I had to protect Reeva and myself. I believed that when the intruder/s came out of the toilet we would be in grave danger. I felt trapped as my bedroom door was locked and I have limited mobility on my stumps.

Again we have emotions occurring at the peak of the story and now he is filled with “terror and fear” Also why would Pistorius feel trapped if his bedroom door was locked? For most people the locked door would be a sense of comfort creating a bigger barrier between himself and the alleged intruders.

Now he is also stating that he has “limited mobility on his stumps” where earlier he had told us he had mobility on his stumps.  Which is it?  Either you do or you don’t.

In Part III we will explore the language surround the firing of the gun.

For more information and training please go to http://www.interveritas.com

The SCAN technique (Scientific Content Analysis) is a methodology used to examine truthful and deceptive points in language.  The technique uses a consistent formula in the analysis of linguistic patterns in individuals.  Therefore, regardless of the subject’s education, profession or cultural background, the same consistent measures are used to measure the subjects’ words.  SCAN is used in the analysis of statements written by the subject, interview transcripts, and oral interviews

Oscar Pistorius: What his words reveal – Part I

On Friday September 12, Oscar Pistorius was charged with negligent homicide in the death of his girlfriend Reena Steenkamp. Judge Thokozile Masipa said prosecutors did not show beyond a reasonable doubt that Pistorius was guilty of premeditated murder but she stated that culpable homicide was a reasonable conclusion to the events of Feb. 14, 2013.

I received a transcript of the statement given by Pistorius at his bail hearing on 19 February 2013. We will explore the language in his statement using the SCAN methodology to further explore how words define truthful, deceptive and sensitive responses.

When we ask the subject for a statement, the only thing we ask is what happened? Any deviation or embellishment from what happened is what is assessed by the interviewer. It is generally stated that when recalling events people respond using the most efficient language possible. Any embellishments give us indicators of what types of questions to ask in order to establish what really happened.

“On the 13th of February 2013 Reeva would have gone out with her friends and I with my friends. Reeva then called me and asked that we rather spend the evening at home.”

The use of “would have” vs. “Reeva went out with her friends” calls into question if this is what actually happened that night. “Would have” is often used when the event didn’t happen as the subject reports it. The interviewer should ask at this point “what did Reeva actually do that night?”

Here is one scenario. Reeva was supposed to go out with her friends but didn’t which would explain the “would have” Pistorius went out with his friends and “then” Reeva called him and asked him to come back home for a quiet dinner. The interviewer must ask the question to gain clarification of what the subject stated.

“I agreed and we were content to havhe a quiet dinner together at home.”

When someone states that they agreed – it means that they initially disagreed or weighed the two options. In this case words like “agreed” and “decided” indicate to us that the  subject contemplated two options. Agreed also means that the subject could have initially disagreed.  The interviewer should ask “I understand that and Reeva discussed whether or not to have dinner at home that night, please tell me more about that discussion.

“By about 22h00 on 13 February 2013 we were in our bedroom. She was doing her yoga exercises and I was in bed watching television. My prosthetic legs were off. We were deeply in love and I could not be happier. I know she felt the same way. She had given me a present for Valentine’s Day but asked me only to open it the next day.”

This segment is loaded with linguistic triggers. He goes from telling us they are going to have a quiet dinner at home and now tells us it is about 22h00. This indicates that there is information missing from his statement between the time of dinner and being in the bedroom.

He then tells us his prosthetic legs are off. Why? It interrupts the flow of the question “what happened?” We see traits like this happening when someone is setting up to bolster the story later on and that the prosthetic legs are going to have something to do with it.

Then he goes on to state that “we were deeply in love”. Again, we consider that to be an interruption to the question “what happened”. It is out of context to add that detail at this point in the statement. We are not asking the subject to prove how he felt about her – only what happened that night.

The SCAN technique (Scientific Content Analysis) is a methodology used to examine truthful and deceptive points in language.  The technique uses a consistent formula in the analysis of linguistic patterns in individuals.  Therefore, regardless of the subject’s education, profession or cultural background, the same consistent measures are used to measure the subjects’ words.  SCAN is used in the analysis of statements written by the subject, interview transcripts, and oral interviews