Experts say organisations are wary of aggressive behaviour that can cause discord among people. If a company conducting social media checks as part of background verification finds ‘negative’ posts, HR may reconsider the offer.

Undoubtedly social media is a great tool to keep your company vibrant. However, a slight error in judgement on a topic can cost you your job. A third of employers (34 percent) reprimanded or fired an employee in 2018 based on content found online, per a survey by employment firm CareerBuilder.

Experts say organisations are wary of aggressive behaviour that can cause discord among people. “If a company conducts social media checks as part of background verifications (BGV), ‘negative’ posts may cause HRs to reconsider the offer,” says Paritosh Desai, Chief Product Officer, IDfy, an identity verification and background checks firm.

So, how does one stay away from the pitfalls of sharing your views online?

Always look for a social media policy

In case you’re wondering, the answer is YES, you can be fired for a social media post. The Internet has myriad examples.

Explaining the law side of the issue, Suyash Srivastava, Partner at DSK Legal, says that in case there exists any discrepancy between information available on an employee’s social media profile and what has been provided to the employer, the employer may decide not to hire the employee or terminate his/her contract, following the law.

“In today’s time and age, the appointment of an employee is contingent upon receipt of a clear BGV report,” he adds.

Secondly, if a social media post by an employee, while in employment, is in breach of the employer’s ‘social media policy’ or any other applicable policy, Srivastava says the employer may choose to initiate appropriate disciplinary action against such an employee.

Never get personal

Sometimes peer pressure to get likes may land social media users in trouble. Hence, industry experts feel that irrespective of whether a person is a full-time employee or a job seeker, one should never be disrespectful or get personal.

“We can differ in our opinions respectfully and without getting personal. I often find people using offensive language on professional platforms like LinkedIn or attacking the person who has posted. This is a red flag,” says Sonica Aron, Founder and Managing Partner at HR advisory firm Marching Sheep.

If one cannot agree or disagree respectfully on social media platforms, where others can see posts, then it reflects on their lack of ability to be respectful at work, she says.

“It also reflects a lack of flexibility, or the presence of very strong rigid thoughts that led them to put acerbic comments on social media in response to someone’s comments or posts,” Aron warns.

Having a perspective is justified but over-emphasising or imposing one’s opinion might not be an approach many are comfortable with, suggests Dinakar Menon, Business Head of marketing firm Big Trunk Communications. “Having unbiased views and opinions, especially non-political ones, usually works in favour of the candidates.”

Do not share confidential information

Recently, clean energy company Tesla fired its ADAS Test Operator John Bernal after he shared a review video of the company’s Full Self Driving Beta system because he “broke Tesla policy”. Though Bernal said he never disclosed anything in his videos that Tesla had not released to the public, reports suggest his videos did sometimes show problems with Tesla’s FSD Beta system.

“Employees must refrain from any kind of social media engagement that can lead to the disclosure of any confidential information,” says Rizwan Khan, VP – HR at logistics firm Porter.

He believes employees must avoid sharing insensitive and offensive comments as this might affect the chances of getting shortlisted by the organisations at large. “In particular, there are comments from earlier days that might create a content and context error.”

Additionally, Khan says that users may not receive a fair opportunity to defend themselves, and this could impact their careers substantially.

The social media guidelines usually outline the company’s approach towards confidential data, sensitive content, data compromise and unprofessional content, says Sameer Jain, Managing Partner at law firm PSL Advocates & Solicitors.

“It aims for a self-regulated, ethical and responsible approach for every employee rather than a list of dos and donts,” he says, adding, “During a breach of such guidelines, the employer can either ask the employee to take down the sensitive ‘content’ or they can initiate internal proceedings as prescribed.” Something Tesla may have followed in Bernal’s case.

Think before you post

Racist and unethical comments are simply unacceptable. “It is unacceptable in everyday life, but when it comes to corporate life it is something that can create unmanageable friction and repercussions on the internal and external image,” says Alessandro Giuliani, MD at executive education institute SDA Bocconi Asia Center.

Even a joke can land you in trouble since it’s easy to get misunderstood and misplaced. “Any post that is insensitive to any community, caste, creed, or gender is viewed negatively,” explains IDfy’s Desai.

Further, it is in any case against the diversity and inclusion practice that every company is moving towards, Giuliani adds.