Outside In: When Life Away from Work Affects Your Job

There is a fine line in monitoring an employee’s behavior outside of the office and managers must be careful when treading it. Of course it is a manager’s job to monitor

one’s behavior when at work, but at what point should the monitoring cease?  Everyone has a right to their own privacy. Constructs are in place to ensure patient privacy through HIPAA and tampering with somebody’s mail is a federal offense. That being said, our world is ever-changing and with the increase of social media, our private thoughts are becoming less so, as we now have a multitude of channels to express ourselves publicly.  Depending on the job itself, people may have a responsibility to hold themselves in a certain manner. Politicians and those who work for them, for example, are expected to look, act and speak a certain way. Stepping out of line may cause the public to alter their opinions about them or the party they align with and this can spark a conversation with their opponents.  Lucky for most of us, we are not politicians. We are, however, representing the organizations and practices we work for on and off the clock. It just takes one viral video of you on a tirade to launch a national petition to get you fired. granted, most of the time this is for extreme cases, but in such a polarized society, anyone can find reason to complain about seemingly benign behavior.  The key for management is to figure out where exactly the line of inacceptable behavior begins. This can prove difficult, as the line is more of a spectrum and is can be difficult to define. certain things, like blatant racism, sexism and violence on social media are easy to recognize and take action against, but what about subtle hints of this behavior, like liking an offensive Facebook post or tweet? Disciplining someone for something they’ve said online can turn around and stir a lawsuit, citing an infringement of free speech. At our jobs, we may be encouraged to fit a cookie cutter mold of a model employee, but outside of work we are human. We do stupid things and say stupid things. To err is human. Employers should be upfront with their behavior monitoring policies and have– in writing– their policy on social media. To avoid civil suits employers should be as black and white as possible about their disciplinary and termination policies involving behaviors outside of work in this arena. Equally important, employees should have the common sense to not do or say hateful things. Being negative only hurts yourself. If you cannot be a respectful team player outside of work, how can anyone expect you to be on the job? Be a good person in and outside of work. It really isn’t that difficult.

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