Last month, I wrote a story that covered several ways employees have used their office or home computers and wound up getting fired. Blogger Barry Leiba took me to task for a story that he says is made up of obvious points and ignores "the real problem of unreasonable employers and irrational disciplinary action." Leiba wants to know: "Where's the advice about dealing with the boss who's afraid of those blog things, and is willing to sack people prophylactically, even when they maintain appropriate work/life boundaries?"
Of course, for a person who is actually called in to the boss's office to be fired, it's a bit late to wonder how to delicately manage the unreasonable employer.
But I asked Alexandra Levit, author of How'd You Score That Gig? and They Don't Teach Corporate in College: A Twenty-Something's Guide to the Business World, for her advice to those working for managers who seem threatened by an online universe they don't understand. Levit's response, via E-mail:
Social networks and blogs are not the private havens for friends that they used to be. You can pretty much count on the fact that your boss, senior managers, colleagues, and even potential employers are looking at your online sites. For this reason, you must be careful to present a mature and professional persona. That's not to say that you can't have a little fun—including content and applications that demonstrate you're a human being—but beware of getting too personal. My rule of thumb is, if you wouldn't want your grandmother or religious officiant to see what's on your site, mum's the word. Upload photos of friends, but leave out those of last weekend's drunken soiree; blog about what you learned as a result of your recent volunteer work, but don't slam your ex's family in the middle of your divorce proceedings. Everything in moderation.
If your boss is threatened by the Internet (I think these types are increasingly rare), then you should still, in the interest of full disclosure, let him/her know that you have a blog, social media profile, etc. and assure him/her that you don't intend to discuss the company or work matters on there. Your boss doesn't really have the right to ask you to shut your site down if you keep your word on that.