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Rules of Engagement

Navigating the minefield of social media in the workplace

Are you on social media? If so, human resources consultant Morgan Kemick cautions, “There’s no online privacy. Someone at work — your boss, your colleagues — is reading your posts.”

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Social media gives credit unions a powerful platform to engage with members in real-time, whether sharing community successes, promoting a new product, or advising members of holiday closures. But these instant online channels can also be a mine-field where missteps can damage an organization’s reputation, lead to firings, or even worse: criminal or civil litigation. If you’re savvy enough to keep up with social media, you’re savvy enough to keep up with the always evolving rules of engagement.

“Someone at work…is reading your posts” – Morgan Kemick

But this is a very tricky area, Kemick acknowledges. Social media has made the line between professional and personal realms blurrier than ever, especially since we’re connected to our devices 24/7. “As a starting point,” advises Kemick, “refer to the fact sheet from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.” Entitled Privacy and Social Networking in the Workplace, it offers some common sense reminders and basic legal parameters.

Beyond that, “most companies will have a specific social media policy now. If you’re able to, access it as soon as possible during orientation,” says Kemick. The in-house policy will clarify where your credit union stands on everything from whether or not social networking is even permissible during office hours to language and tone (“branding”) required for posts, and progressive disciplinary repercussions for infractions.

Kemick’s bottom-line advice: “If you’re not sure, ask. Staying up to date [with changing policies] is HR’s role.” ◊

5 rules to keep your social networking from becoming a workplace liability:

1. DRAW A CLEAR LINE: Don’t assume blanket waivers like “Posts are my own and do not reflect XYZ,” will protect you. If your account promotes anything work-related, you’ve voluntarily eradicated the boundaries. Best to set up accounts that are entirely separate from work.

2. KEEP COMMUNICATION PROFESSIONAL: Never use social networking to advance workplace gossip or grievances. Even whistle-blowers have their own specific channels for redress.

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3. PLAN FOR THE FUTURE: Social media is all about instant gratification but your digital footprint is forever. “Assume your current employer and coworkers, and future employers and coworkers will see all your social media posts. Use common sense,” says Kemick.

4. DON’T GET TOO PERSONAL: Beware of what personal information you post on your channels. “What you put out there is easy to retrieve — stealing IDs is easy,” says Kemick. The inherently casual nature of social networking can lend a false sense of familiarity in the workplace, which should always remain professional. Take care not to share private information about colleagues or third parties either.

5. REVIEW PRIVACY SETTINGS: Social networking platforms often update their internal privacy policies. When this happens, your custom privacy settings may revert to a new default that could potentially expose your posts to a wider audience than you intended. It’s best to check each social networking platform regularly to ensure that what you intend to keep to yourself remains (relatively) private.