A recent article on MSN discussed how twittering can get you fired. Personally, I thought the story exaggerated the risks. The reporter didn’t find anyone that had actually been fired. She did find someone that was applying for a job and said something inappropriate on Twitter, but no one knows if it actually cost that person the job. So we’re left with lots of warnings about the dangers of sharing too much, but no real proof of the consequences.
These types of articles seem to pop up with each new medium. And while it’s true that people have been fired for things they’ve posted online, this is the exception rather than the norm. Yes, there’s a good chance your boss is reading your blog. But it just takes a little common sense to avoid getting fired for what you write.
Be Generic — When you post about your work, don’t use people’s name, and don’t mention your company more often than necessary. Most bosses will let it slide if you grumble about the IT department being slow to fix problems, but if you call out a specific employee for breaking the server, it could create issues.
Be Funny — Try to keep your tweets light-hearted — it’s difficult for someone to take offense if what you write is clearly tongue-in-cheek. As long as the jokes don’t come off as mean-spirited your boss is more likely to roll his eyes than to give you a pink slip.
Be Positive — If you’re going to mention the bad things at work on Twitter, mention the good things, too. And in those cases, be specific and give credit to those that do well. Every workplace has its positive and negative aspects, so it’s only fair to mention both.
Be Useful — If you’re using work to get material for Twitter, how about using Twitter to support your work? I’ve written before about being your company’s microblogging evangelist. That’s a great way to make your time on Twitter seem more like an asset and less like a liability.
Be Anonymous — There’s always the option of setting up an anonymous account for work-related posts. You have to be careful with this, though — people may be able to figure out from your tweets who you are.
Of course, you have to take your own situation into account. Your boss may be totally cool with anything you post, or you might work for a company that is very careful about controlling their message. Overall, the best thing to do is use a little common sense and be accountable for your own words.
Have you ever gotten in trouble at work for something you’ve posted online? Let us know in the comments.