Be Careful About What You Say Online!

What you say online can and will get you fired and injure personal and business relationships.

Jeb Blount
4-minute read

Like many Americans I watched NBC’s recent late night talk show drama with amusement. The cable news outlets relished the fight and played clip after clip of Conan O’Brien viciously attacking his employer. I’m sure it was cathartic for him to get his anger and frustration with NBC off of his chest. How many people haven’t, at one time or another, wanted to tell their employer or boss to "take this job and shove it?"  Millions of people watched in vicarious delight as he one-upped “The Man.” Of course, most people keep those sentiments to themselves because they don’t have a $45 million contract buy-out to fall back on.

Be Careful of What You Say Online

Increasingly though, as social networking becomes mainstream, people are finding it easy to peel off a one liner against their boss or company. It is just so easy to tweet something negative when you are emotionally charged. And with the advent of the smart phone you can get what’s bugging you off your chest anywhere, anytime, at any place. 

Unfortunately, this is how you get fired in 140 characters or less. Over the last two weeks I’ve heard three sob stories from people who have lost their jobs because of the negative things they had written about their employers online. Their companies took a dim view of these negative comments. What is sad is these poor people who lost their jobs were clueless. They mistakenly thought that only their friends could see what they had written.

Anything You Put Online is Public

Today you must assume that anything you write online is public because it is. Google and the other search engines are indexing your social networking feeds in real time. All anyone needs to do is set up a simple Google alert and your comments will be conveniently delivered directly to their inbox. You must also assume that anyone you sell to, work with, work for, meet, or are scheduled to meet will research you online. They will find the negative comments you have written about other people, organizations, your company, or them. These negative comments will impact their view of you as a businessperson and influence their desire to work with you. They’ll be thinking, “If he is willing to write this stuff about others, will he do the same to me?”

Should You Stop Posting Comments Online?

Does this mean that you shouldn’t post comments online or engage in discussions? Absolutely not. Writing and engaging online is an important part of building your personal brand. It is because people are going to search for you online that you write. You want them to find content that puts you in a positive light as a business and sales professional. However,  Murphy’s Law of the Internet states that negative things you say online about people, organizations, and companies (especially your own) can and will be found by the wrong people at the wrong time. The key is to think about what you write before you even start typing.

Quick and Dirty Tips for Staying Positive Online

Remain neutral when it comes to your current employer. Your best bet, when it comes to your current employers is to stick with “Name – Rank – Serial Number” - just state where you work and your title. Because you never know how even positive comments may be interpreted it is best to stay clear of any discussion around your current employer unless of course you are prospecting for business.

Never, ever write anything negative about a past employer. Sooner or later you will be looking for a job. If your potential boss looks you up online and finds the nasty things you said about one of your old employers, your resume will go right into the waste basket. They will not want to be treated in the same manner should you have to part ways with them in the future.

Never get into an online discussion about your company with another employee. Misery loves company and sooner or later a peer will make an attempt to engage you in a conversation about your employer. Ignore these attempts. Do not even respond to or acknowledge their question or comment.

Avoid negative comments about other organizations and people. Because you are in sales you never know who may be your next prospect, customer, or employer. A company you have problem with as a consumer, could be a top prospect in the future. A person you “dis” today, might be your boss tomorrow. It is bad enough to burn bridges behind you but burning them in front of you is self-destructive.

Pause before clicking the send, update, or submit button. Once you click the button you cannot get your message back. Few of us have not experienced regret over a message we sent in haste. Before you send a message check the tone and consider how you would feel if you were on the receiving end of the message. NEVER, ever, ever post a message when you are angry or frustrated. When in this state resist the temptation to post a comment and come back to it at another time. You’ll be amazed at how different things look when you pause.

Two More Tips

There are two maxims that will help you decide what is and is not appropriate to write online. The first is the Golden Rule, “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.” The second is something my mother said to me a million times while I was growing up, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”