Do you have a LinkedIn profile? If so, do you update it regularly? Do you participate in LinkedIn Group discussions and publish posts on LinkedIn? Do you perform these activities because YOU want to, or because your employer wants you to?
If you are an active user of LinkedIn because your employer requires, or highly recommends it, your employer has likely (hopefully) provided you with guidelines of how best to use LinkedIn and social media in accordance with your employer’s expectations. Those guidelines should explain what the employer considers to be proper LinkedIn use and participation, and should also identify types of activity that are prohibited. Failure to follow such employer-set guidelines could lead to discipline, including termination. And, there may be other legal issues should the employment relationship sour, including ownership of LinkedIn contacts and accounts.
If your company does not yet have a social media policy, and does not require you to use LinkedIn, you can still run afoul of employer expectations and face disciplinary action, or worse (legal action). Below are a three easy things you can do on LinkedIn to get disciplined by your employer, and turn-off any prospective employers.
Reveal Confidential/Proprietary Information
All too often, LinkedIn users reveal information that their current (or former) employer likely considers to be confidential or proprietary. Depending on how sensitive the information is, employers can, and have, discharged employees for publishing this type of information on their LinkedIn profiles.
One misconception is that “confidential” and/or “proprietary information” only consists of highly sensitive information, like a highly secured secret formula, or computer code, or recipe. Instead, confidential and/or proprietary information can consist of other less sensitive details that an employer does not want getting out into the public. So, for example, a LinkedIn user may want to put “increased revenue from $650k to $5million in 2 years” on his/her profile. An employer, however may prohibit that information from going public. Thus, before posting anything that involves specific data or confidential information on your profile or status updates, employees should check with a manager or Human Resources. Otherwise, if things are not resolved amicably, your employer is on firm legal footing to discipline and even terminate your employment for revealing such information.
And, another item to consider is that any potential prospective employers (and clients and customers) may also be turned off by seeing specific/sensitive information on your profile. Simply, you do not want to give others any reason to doubt your ability to be trusted with confidential information.
This seems obvious, right? First, your employer likely has policies regarding harassment, bullying, non-disparagement and the like. Second, a LinkedIn profile is a very public representation of the professionalism of the user. Negativity is often equated with unprofessionalism. Third, like the above, users should consider the definition of “negative information” to be very broad. Certainly, complaining about co-workers, clients, customers and your employer are the obvious “negative” comments that should be avoided. However, there are less obvious negative comments that often get employees into trouble.
For example, instead of posting that you increased sales by 500% in two years, a negative post may be something like: “took over a dysfunctional and poorly managed sales team to increase profits…” Employers, even if they agree with you, will not want a negative statement like this on LinkedIn. And, again, prospective employers may not like the way this is presented on your public profile.
Raise Doubts Of Your Loyalty To Your Employer
One of the primary reasons to use LinkedIn is to promote yourself and also to promote your current employer, if you have one. In addition to the two areas above, employers are also wary of employees who use their social media accounts to raise doubts of those employees’ duty of loyalty to their employer.
Endorsing and/or Recommending Former Co-workers: Many companies have a policy of only providing neutral reference information (dates of employment, job title) for former employees. As a result, current employees should check with their Human Resources department before providing a former co-worker with a LinkedIn recommendation. For example, if the company recently terminated an employee for poor performance, it would be contradictory (and somewhat foolish) for a former manager or co-worker to post a LinkedIn recommendation stressing how the terminated employee was an excellent performer. And, if the former employee is suing your employer for wrongful termination, your LinkedIn recommendation may undermine the company’s defense.
Openly Job Hunting: It is true that one primary aspect of LinkedIn is the resume-like function. However, employees who openly express interest in changing employers, and/or at least openly express their willingness to listen to better offers, are shooting themselves in the foot. They will likely anger their current employer and lose the confidence of any prospective employers by their showing of open disloyalty.
Abusing Company Information for Personal Gain: This can come about when an employee gains contacts and connections via work, and then diverts business or otherwise misuses these professional connections to the detriment of the employer. Soliciting contacts for business unrelated to your employer’s business is certainly grounds for termination.
Most employees are at-will employees and can be terminated at any time for no reason, or for any (lawful) reason. When creating or updating LinkedIn profile information, however, employees should think twice about how their posts may come across to their current and prospective employers.
Information provided on this website is not legal advice, nor should you act on anything stated in this article without conferring with the Author or other legal counsel regarding your specific situation. No attorney-client relationship is created via this website.
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