There was a time when it was undisputed that the personal life of an employee did not affect his chances of employment, or career progression in any way. Perhaps this may still be largely true today, but it is on the wane. Social media has exposed the ‘private’ life of the employees, causing the boundary between the ‘public’ and the ‘private’ to become more blurred than ever before.
You may be a model employee on the fast track to success, and then your boss views photographs of you getting intoxicated in bars every weekend – this is the milder end of the spectrum. The question I am raising, and I do not have the answer yet, is how long can your employer turn a blind eye towards the life that you are hiding from the company? Will ‘morality’ and ‘professionalism’ become intertwined at the workplace?
Today, there exists a multitude of ways to check the credibility of a résumé. All you have to do is spend some time searching online. If an employee states that he went to the UK for a graduate degree, when he or she actually went to a small town university, it will be found out, not only by the employee but by anyone who wants to find out. The world of secrecy and deceit is a thing of the past. So then, as an employee, one has to think of the information that one is sharing with the world at large - including future employers. Unless one is adept at controlling various levels of privacy settings, and controlling friends who also post various revealing things about your life, the chances are that your employer knows what you did last summer, last weekend and what you will be doing in your next compliance leave, even before you know it.
Does it affect your career if your boss knows you that well?
Does ‘morality’ become a part of evaluating your performance in an organization? When your peer review is taking place, will the judgement of your colleagues affect your review? When it is time for your promotion, will it have mattered that you have exposed your life and your beliefs on social media? Perhaps we should pay more attention and be more mindful to everything we share on the world wide web.
Increasingly, companies are formulating detailed social media policies, which document what is acceptable social media behavior from employees. Ultimately, the employee is the representative of the company and therefore anything that he or she posts on any social media platform is considered to reflect the company’s ethos. The integrity of each employee is also a major contributor to a positive and safe company culture.
Employees are urged to post disclaimers that the views expressed on the online platforms are their own, and do not reflect the views of the company they are employed with. Doctors are ethically meant to refrain from ‘friending’ patients, and teachers from students. Medical practitioners such as nurses are warned to maintain patient privacy and confidentiality, and to refrain from giving medical advice on online forums. Similarly, employees working for retail companies are expected to maintain secrecy about information such as new products, marketing strategies, or potential brand ambassadors. And since the employee is a representative of the company, he or she has to maintain political, religious and racial sensitivity. A number of multinational corporations do not allow employees to exhibit the logo of the company or the brand in their online photographs. As the avenues of self-expression have proliferated in this world, so have the controls on human freedom.
In my humble opinion, in the future, Human Resources departments will conduct an evaluation of the ‘virtual’ lives of potential employees, along with the ‘professional’ life that is stated on their résumé. With thousands of educated, skilled and competent professionals competing for the same jobs, the ‘virtual’ existence of a candidate may become the deciding factor for employee selection.
I hope time proves me wrong.
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