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Protecting your personal brand: 9 in 10 hiring managers would fire workers for content in personal social posts

by | Jan 19, 2023 | Public Relations

We all know that many hiring managers check the social media habits of job candidates, and personal social media posts are not off limits to employers when considering whether to fire established workers—new research from Express Employment Professionals finds that nearly 9 in 10 (88 percent) U.S. hiring managers say they would consider firing employees for content found in workers’ posts.

According to the findings, based on a survey from The Harris Poll, fireable offenses certainly includes publishing content damaging the company’s reputation (59 percent), revealing confidential company information (58 percent) and violating the company’s social media use policy or contract (45 percent, but also non-work-related topics like mentioning illegal drug use (50 percent), and/or underage drinking (38 percent). Only 12 percent say there is nothing a company could fire an employee for based on their social media posts.

When asked the same question, the majority of job seekers (86 percent) agree companies can fire employees based on their social media posts that reveal confidential company information (64 percent), violate the company’s social media use policy or contract (58 percent) or damage the company’s reputation (57 percent). Further scrutiny extends to content mentioning illegal drug use (50 percent) or underage drinking (43 percent), or mentioning beliefs different than those held by the company (21 percent).

Social media use on the clock

Many employers (40 percent) discourage the use of social media during work hours, while 30 percent provide resources and information on professional social media etiquette. Twenty-six percent of companies have a social media use policy/contract that employees must sign, and 25 percent encourage their workers to build their personal brand on social media.

Leadership blocks social media sites on company property at 19 percent of businesses, 17 percent view or monitor employees’ social media accounts and 13 percent have access to employees’ social media accounts.

Access to workers’ accounts

“Employees should limit social media use to only breaks and lunchtime,” said Mike Brady, a Florida Express franchise owner, in a news release. “Without a doubt, social media consumption eats into productive time in the workplace, so personal social media should be conducted on personal time.”

Despite the distinction between personal social media and company-driven usage, Brady believes employers should only actively monitor online accounts used for business. But Reggie Kaji, an Express franchise owner in Michigan says that due to the potential negative impacts on the company’s reputation, even the personal social media accounts of workers are fair game.

“If a potential customer or a current one follows an employee on social media and doesn’t agree with their content, it can harm the relationship,” Kaji said, in the release. “Especially with politics and today’s polarizing environment, I prefer not to follow coworkers and customers on most social media other than LinkedIn.”

Regardless of privacy beliefs, both Kaji and Brady say certain content posted online would constitute termination, including anything racist, raunchy, and/or calling out of anyone affiliated with a company in an unprofessional manner and threats or threatening comments.

Professional online presence

One tactic to help mitigate inappropriate posts by employees is to have them commit to a company social media use policy.

“We have a policy in place, and it’s in our handbook,” Kaji said. “I think it’s important to set expectations so if employees violate the policy, it’s not a surprise.”

Brady is a little more hesitant to encourage a policy for what he calls a complicated situation.

“I think employers walk a very fine line here,” he said. “On one side is the right to privacy and free speech and on the other is the employer’s image. Especially in this day and age when accessibility is through the click of a button, the court of public opinion will almost automatically point the finger at the employer for ‘why’ they didn’t know something was good, bad, right or wrong, even if it’s on the employee’s social media account.”

Overall, according to Kaji, employers should remind workers of the importance of maintaining a professional image on social media and how it could impact their careers since a lot of hiring managers look at social media as part of the hiring decision.

“Social media is a powerful tool for expression and connection, but a poor decision in content posting can haunt individuals the rest of their careers,” Express Employment International CEO Bill Stoller said, in the release. “The best advice is to refrain from publishing anything you wouldn’t want your boss to see or think you may regret in the future.”

The Job Insights survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Express Employment Professionals between Dec. 1 and Dec. 15, 2022, among 1,002 U.S. hiring decision-makers. The omnibus survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Express Employment Professionals from Dec. 13-15, 2022, among 2,041 adults ages 18 and older.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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