Privacy: Is it real?
Expanding on the workplace privacy issue: Given most people’s online presence and identity (even identities) these days, is there such a thing as privacy any longer? Organizations are comprised of personnel that have at least two identities: There is the usual professional “company” profile (frequently highlighted by a bio, along with associated expectations for behaviors and activities), and often the allied professional profile(s) as hosted by LinkedIn and other professional forums. There are also the personal “off-duty” personas. An employee’s personal behavior is generally understood to be private – so long as the employee isn’t doing something to put their organization in a bad light. Online identities often blend. A Facebook account may exist for a particular business. Personal Facebook accounts may contain ruminations about “my job”, “my boss”, “my co-worker(s)”… People may be Twittering about all sorts of things that blend business and personal aspects of their lives: “I’d like to come to the party, but I have to work this weekend” – that type of stuff. Personal blogs and comment spaces can accrue over years to contain particular information, opinions and peril. Sometimes online “personal time” identities can pose peril to an organization – and have. What if a client stumbles on a client manager’s personal page and finds pictures of drinking, lewd photos, and perhaps even rambling ruminations on that manager’s workplace – or about the client themselves? Would a relationship of trust between client, manager, and organization survive? How would you feel if a service provider was suddenly thrown into a suspicious light, via something you discovered on the web? It happens… and relationships break and revoke. Most companies are running online checks these days for people as they apply for employment. Many applicants and employees, on the other hand, are “hiding” their identities by using nicknames and filters. There is reason for doing this; surveys have shown that up to 70% of hiring managers and recruiters have passed on an applicant at one time or another, based on online information. Further, roughly 79 percent of U.S. hiring managers use the ‘net to gauge job applicants. Damaging information has ranged from criticism of past employers, co-workers and clients, to the aforementioned lewd photos, references to drinking, and even exposure of crimes! Recognize that anything deemed “inappropriate” as concerns behavior, events, and opinions, is in the judgment of the potential employer. But… what of an organization’s present employees? Surely many, if not most, have an online presence. Do any of them make comment on the organization, its practices, and its personnel? And if they do, what is the modern organization’s prudent activity in protecting its number one asset – its reputation? For that matter, as an employee yourself, what are you doing online? And if nothing inappropriate – would it bother you that HR may check your online presence from time-to-time? You’re entitled to know… and you may wish to query your HR department. For the organization: Consider that many an employee has blasted something straight from the corporate e-mail account, tying a domain “tail” on correspondence that may be wholly inappropriate. If you manage others, now is the time to counsel people – as a group – as concerns their duty to adhere to all relevant guiding policies your organization harbors regarding these matters. For individuals: Guard your reputation in guarding your organization’s reputation, and in maintaining your good name in general. So-called “Privacy” may no longer be much of the actual discretion it once was.