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Radhika Panjwani is a freelance writer from Toronto.

  • While it’s important for employees to exhibit their authentic voice on their social media, they also need to be aware of the consequences of going public
  • Crafting newsletters, writing for industry publications, being a panelist and podcaster are some alternate avenues professionals can use to showcase their expertise
  • Companies should ensure they have a “digital behaviour” policy. This policy must include best practices for social media and generative AI

Earlier this year, U.S. resident Brittany Pietsch, a former employee at IT company Cloudflare, was fired over Zoom. She secretly filmed the exchange and posted the video on her TikTok, LinkedIn, X and Facebook accounts.

In the video, human resources tells Ms. Pietsch she did not meet the company’s expectations, but Ms. Pietsch confronts them. The posts went viral.

“I’ve [also] read some comments about how I’ll never be able to find a job now because I’m a ‘loose-cannon employee,’ Ms. Pietsch wrote in a LinkedIn post in the aftermath of her notoriety. “I’ll tell you what, any company that wouldn’t want to hire me because I shared a video of how a company fired me or because I asked questions as to why I was being let go is not a company I would ever want to work for anyway. If I don’t stand up for myself … who will?

More recently, Ms. Pietsch admitted she has severe anxiety and mental health issues as a result of the attention her video garnered.

At what cost?

Last year, recruitment firm Express Employment Professionals found 86 per cent of Canadian employers said they would consider firing employees for inappropriate social media posts. Fireable violations included posting content that damages the company’s reputation, divulging confidential information and mentioning illegal drug use.

The report suggested job seekers be wary of what they post as 65 per cent of companies said they use social media to screen job applicants. Of those, 41 per cent of companies say they have found content on social media accounts that caused them not to hire the candidate.

However, only 18 per cent of Canadian companies have a formal social media policy for employees.

Social media has erased the line that existed between people’s personal and professional lives, said Martin Waxman, an adjunct professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University and an associate director at the Future of Marketing Institute. But, he added, it’s important to ask yourself, how prepared are you for a public fight where the chance of persuading the opposing side is practically non-existent?

“I believe it’s important to stick to your values, but you also have to figure how ‘public’ you want your opinions to be and be prepared for the fallout if you voice an opinion about a particularly polarizing topic,” Mr. Waxman said. “If you’re using social media to find a job, you may want to focus on how you can present yourself for a potential employer.”

He advises young professionals to think about what they want to achieve on social media and create content that adds value. He warns, when using generative AI to write content for social media, people will need to edit the post and add their personality instead of blindly copying and pasting.

Lisa Bragg, author of Bragging Rights: How to Talk about Your Work Using Purposeful Self-Promotion, recalled a valuable lesson she learned some three decades ago when she inadvertently wrote “effect” instead of “affect” in an online comment. The trolls descended and attacked her.

“This incident made me realize people often focus on minor errors to undermine the messenger if they disagree with the message,” Ms. Bragg said. “It underscored the importance of precision in communication and prepared me for the challenges of engaging thoughtfully on digital platforms. But it also made me more of a perfectionist, which I think hindered me from producing even more content through the years.”

Not everyone’s comfortable with putting themselves out on social media and that’s okay, she says. Professionals can express themselves through a host of other avenues such as newsletters, penning articles for industry-specific publications, participating in podcasts and being on panels.

“You want to make sure whatever way you contribute shows your expertise and professional ethos,” Ms. Bragg said. “As you share more of your own thinking, you’ll stand out as a leader. Ultimately, it’s about strategic, value-driven communication that enhances visibility without compromising personal or professional integrity.”

Executives on X

Today, employees expect their leaders to take a stance on emerging issues and have a presence on social media, but this can be tricky on several accounts, Ms. Bragg said. For starters, some platforms don’t provide enough room to articulate a nuanced viewpoint thus leading to potential misinterpretations. Also, endorsing one position doesn’t inherently mean opposing another, but without adequate context, it’s easy to be misunderstood.

“Moral outrage is the most powerful form of social media,” Ms. Bragg said. “We’re going from crisis to crisis, which one will you respond to? Leaders have to be incredibly thoughtful about public stances and must work from a place that keeps their professional integrity intact and ensures their advocacy is meaningful rather than just performative.”

Her advice to executives:

  • Posting [on social media] requires a delicate balance between personal belief and the values of the organization
  • A post should be consistent and carefully calibrated to avoid alienating segments of the workforce
  • Consider asking yourself: what do you truly believe? Are you already walking the talk? Does the world really need your voice on this or are you just adding to the noise?
  • What’s the company policy? Is it really your place to say something or is it your place to make sure the right people have the microphone. Is it an opportunity to encourage communication as a facilitator?
  • Be willing to listen and hold space, but understand that can be hard when others don’t.

Social and generative AI policy

Mr. Waxman, a digital and social media strategist, said it might be a good idea for organizations to have a clear and transparent policy for all “digital behaviour” including social media and use of generative artificial intelligence. For example, in case of gen AI, the policy should spell out how employees must only use company sanctioned proprietary gen AI tools with built-in data protection features as opposed to their personal ChatGPT account.

“I think a company’s social media or really digital policy should be written in plain English; be as succinct as possible and should be communicated to employees on a regular basis,” Mr. Waxman said. “[The policy] should be part of your culture. These days, that should also include when or where it’s acceptable to use generative AI tools in the workplace.”

What I’m reading around the web

  • This blog by Trung Phan explains why several high-profile YouTube creators are quitting the platform.
  • Victoria Medvec, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, helps chart the journey to the boardroom in this blog.
  • How to acknowledge your weakness during a job interview? Organizational psychologist Adam Grant has the answer in his blog.

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