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On my Facebook wall, as does everyone else, I post stuff that reflects my opinion about many things, including jokes, videos, posts, etc. They simply represent my thoughts and who I am. Sometimes I write about some things that happen at work but I do so in an indirect way, without mentioning the name of the company or people involved. The problem is that some people at work disagree with some of the things I post, and some of the employees at work (including seniors and managers) even hate those posts on my own personal wall. I got a few comments lately from them in person; some of them took it too far and give me some kind of a hidden threat like mentioning how this might affect my future promotions.

Now I can simply unfriend these people in Facebook, possibly causing awkwardness, or I can restrict them from seeing some of my posts which means I am a coward. I did not violate any company or government rules by what I said and I am free to express my opinion about anything. So far, I have told these people, "This is my private wall and it has nothing to do with work," but they feel it is their right to discuss this matter! I was a bit aggressive with one senior at work and I told him if he doesn't like my Facebook posts then he can unfriend me there or go "F himself". I know this is not the best reaction but I was mad.

By the way, I never view or use Facebook from work.

Is it their right to tell me what to post in my wall about my personal beliefs, just because we work at the same company and they are either managers or seniors?

If it isn't their right, what is the best way to stop them from doing this? Should I be aggressive or what?

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    I have a very simple rule about Facebook and work. Never add anybody from work you would not invite for supper at your place. If someone sends you an invite and you would rather not see them your profile / your posts, just tell them that you prefer not to include work colleagues in your Facebook friends. I've found that generally, people understand this. Of course, if you have many colleagues in your list and refuse only a few you risk burning bridges with them as they will probably take it personnally. – ApplePie Sep 20 '14 at 19:41

12 Answers 12

223

Keep work and Facebook separate. Realize everything you post on Facebook will be part of your work interactions and relationships when those people see it. This is just asking for trouble if you post anything even remotely controversial.

It just will be. This might seem unfair or wrong. But that's how people work. You can either deny it or deal with it. Denying it will not solve the problem, however.

People don't compartmentalize their impressions of people. If you post on Facebook how you hate your boss or job, do you really expect all your coworkers to act as if this was never posted?

I did not violate any company or government rules by what I said and I am free to express my opinion about anything.

They are probably free to fire you about anything too. Keep this in mind... just because you are "free to express yourself" doesn't necessarily free you from consequences of those actions, even something seemingly as trivial as Facebook. It affects your interactions with coworkers.

They can also consider you a complete jerk and not promote you.

Or anything else that people normally do when they form negative opinions of other people.

This just is how the world and people work.


To answer your specific questions:

Q: Is it their right to do that? just because we work at the same company and they are either managers or seniors?

Well... you did allow them to see your profile, which means you either have friended them or have a public profile. You are allowing them to see the content, posting knowing they are able to see it, and wondering if it's their "right." Of course it is - you are willingly letting them view your profile!

If you don't want them to try to judge your posts or tell you what to post, don't let them have such easy access (OR accept they will do so).

Q: If it isn't their right, what is the best way to stop them from this? should I be aggressive or what?

Start with not telling a senior employee to go F themselves. You have put yourself into the difficult situation where unfortunately you have basically told your coworkers (including managers/senior employees it seems) that:

  1. You are immature
  2. You have no problems posting material to Facebook they disagree with
  3. You have allowed them to view this
  4. You have openly challenged them and said "I don't care if you judge me"

You have to realize that when you let coworkers see a "private wall" it's no longer private. This is human nature. Your options basically are to continue giving them reasons to dislike you (I'd stop with responding so hostile to them...) until you get fired or defriend/limit their access to your profile.

Your resolution here is basically minimizing damage at this point.

  • Apologize to those you reacted to
  • Defriend, restrict their access, or somehow otherwise stop them from viewing these posts

I can restrict them from seeing some of my posts which means I am coward.

Oh, come on, grow up.

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    @flyer - Generally, they have just as much freedom as expression as you do. If you think you're free to post whatever you like, they're just as free to tell you to post what they like. (Just as you're free to post that or not, and they [usually] are free to employ you [or not]) – Telastyn May 9 '13 at 2:31
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    @Flyer of course they can. If you act obnoxious and immature towards them, whether it's over a personal interaction on Facebook or in person at work, people are going to think less of you. That's how it works. – enderland May 9 '13 at 2:39
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    @Flyer ask the person you told to go "F himself" if your posts on Facebook and their consequences affected your working relationship with him/her. – enderland May 9 '13 at 2:47
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    @Flyer your personal beliefs may be your personal life, but by posting them on Facebook where you've "friended" your co-workers and superiors, you're broadcasting directly to them. In some areas, it's possible that even though the activity happens outside the office, it could be construed as creating a "hostile work environment" if people are seriously offended by what you post. Remove everyone from work from your Facebook. If they ask, simply tell them "I have decided that I need to keep my personal and professional lives separate" and leave it at that. – alroc May 9 '13 at 11:19
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    +1 for "Oh, come on, grow up." - agree with the rest of the answer as well - this isn't worth being difficult over or blowing it out of proportion. – Michael May 9 '13 at 12:06
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Free speech does not mean speech has no consequences. It means the government can't jail you for what you said. It doesn't mean that companies can't fire you. I know of at least one person who was fired because she posted racist comments about her coworkers on Facebook. Yes her co-workers, even those who were not the ones being insulted, complained to management.

The first rule of Facebook use should be never bite the hand that feeds you by complaining in any way, shape, or form about your job, your boss or your co-workers. If you feel the need to vent, do so in private messages.

The next rule is be careful what you post, you never know who is going to ultimately see it. Companies use Facebook to see what your character is like in hiring too. (I may not agree with the practice but it does exist and posting things that employers won't like is limiting your future as well as current job prospects.)

However, if a company doesn't like the person I am, then I probably won't be happy working there either. So you don't have to be too restrictive, just use good sense. For instance I would not want to work somewhere that could not respect my religious beliefs or somewhere that fires you for supporting the wrong political party (Yes these kinds of companies exist), so I will post things related to that and not worry about it. But no company wants to hire a drunk or drug user, so be careful of the content of photos you post.

Now on to your current problem. First, there is no circumstance where it is appropriate to tell someone at work to go F#$k himself. You made a major, firing error right there. Immediately go apologize in person and never let it happen again. You behaved badly, you owe the apology even if they fire you. Being mad does not justify such behavior. If your first thought is to get more aggressive, you need to learn not to do that or you will have a very hard time. You may need to take a class in anger management if that is the way you typically react to things.

Incidentally, by telling you that what you were posting would limit your future promotions, they were trying to do you a favor, so you could correct the problem. You took it as an insult and then proceeded to escalate the situation, showing them that you have poor judgement and probably making sure you will never be promoted and may very well get fired or at least first on the list if they have a layoff. It may not be possible at this point to salvage your reputation at this place. I certainly would at a minimum start looking for other work and use this as a learning experience to make sure you don't make the same fatal mistakes at another employer.

You know what they hate, so either stop posting such things, post them only to private groups or unfriend the co-workers. These people have control of your continued employment, they control what types of tasks you will be given, what your performance appraisal and salary increases will be and they decide on promotions and bonuses. In what fantasy world is it the smart move to make them angry at you? So stop making them angry. Their opinion of you is critically important to your future job success and ability to put food on the table.

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    One of the best answers here. – Beska May 9 '13 at 15:05
  • The problem with free speech still allowing for non-government caused consequences is that it imbalances the power of speech towards the wealthy. Most people are fine with a company saying racist language won't be tolerated, but what about firing someone for speaking about the salaries or talking about unions? – Lawtonfogle Jun 15 '15 at 13:42
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    How did I know that as soon as someone uttered the term free speech, someone would go with @Lawtonfogle's argument? – NZKshatriya Dec 4 '16 at 8:37
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    Obligatory xkcd.com/1357 – mustaccio Jan 10 '17 at 16:25
  • @Lawtonfogle FYI discussing pay is protected by law in many states within the US, see: dol.gov/wb/media/pay_secrecy.pdf i.e. They cannot legally fire you for discussing pay. It may happen but it is not legal, at least not in the states in that PDF. – TangoFoxtrot Jun 13 '17 at 1:01
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Freedom of Personal Expression

In just about any form, you are free (in most western countries, anyway) to speak your mind. Even if your beliefs are offensive to others, as long as they are not obscene, dangerous or provoking violence or crime.

In all of these countries - everyone else is also free to draw an opinion about you based on what you say, and express that opinion. And they are free to make other decisions about you based on that opinion. It's just as much their right as yours.

Facebook and most other forms of social media are the equivalent of shouting in a crowded pub - it may not be the town square, but it sure isn't private. Certainly you can limit your voice in choosing who you friend and what opinions you share with what groups - but also realize that even when you limit the audience, your words and opinions can go far without you - be particularly eloquent or interesting or funny, and you'll get re-quoted, moving your sphere beyond your personal choice.

If you don't like it, don't express yourself that way.

Next Step

You've caused awkwardness. At this point, I really wouldn't worry about causing more by unfriending - if you don't feel that these are people you want to communicate with on Facebook, unfriend them. If there is other value to your online connection, consider whether or not your behavior online jeopardizes that value.

I see the following options:

  1. Continue doing what you're doing - you've gotten the hint, it'll probably mean that you won't get a lot of good opportunities in your current position. If this company's values are wildly different than your own to the point where this is causing such serious issues - perhaps it's time to look for a job that fits you better?
  2. Limit your audience - unfriend the folks at work that are offended by you. If asked, say that clearly they didn't enjoy your postings, and you've chosen to limit who you share your facebook posts with. Realize that this isn't a perfect solution - you can't rewind the story - they will know your opinion and they have no reason to believe it's changed. Also - if you continually voice criticism of your company, expect that it'll get back to key company stakeholders regardless of your privacy settings. The internet is far better at sharing information than keeping it secret.
  3. Consider your online voice. I don't know about you, but when I read frequent posts from others complaining about their jobs, corporate values, or other aspects of work, I get a negative impression. They don't sound to me like someone I'd like to work with in the future. I'm not advocating putting a fake gloss of sunshine on every thread, I'm saying that before you complain online, think about ways to change the things you would complain about, and work towards making the situation better. If you hate it, and don't see a way to change it, find a new job. If you can't find a job as good - is this one really so awful? And once and a while, my mother's advice rings true "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all"

Either way

Make a choice about what you want your Facebook to be. Is it a fun way to stay in touch with social connections? Is it a representation of yourself as a whole person? As a working professional? Is about your hobbies? Your politics, religion or personal beliefs?

Some of these things fit great with work - using it to share technical info and professional connections is a fine connection to work colleagues.

Others don't - most offices discourage strong expressions of religions or politics, some jokes that are great in a social setting are a problem at the office. If you primarily use Facebook this way - consider whether it's appropriate to friend any colleagues, and whether you'd ever make an exception (we all have coworkers who transcend to trusted friend).

It sounds to me like you haven't thought much about this thus far and that making a conscious choice about how Facebook and your professional life do or don't work well together is a good idea. My rule of thumb - if I use the account for something I wouldn't shout out loud in the office - then I don't friend coworkers unless I know them very well.

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    I like this answer because it is both realistic and doesn't involve "pleasing superiors at all costs" - which is also wrong for many reasons. – MrFox Jun 6 '13 at 14:43
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Basically you should assume that - unless your Facebook friends are completely separate from your work environment and you have 100% trust in their discretion - anything you post is potentially public and permanent. Don't forget that people can pass around links and screengrabs to their own circle, who might not be so forgiving. And you may inadvertantly allow someone in who goes through old material you'd forgotten about and finds that offensive.

Seriously, I've seen worse happen than firings over inappropriate Facebook material. If you feel the need to get stuff off your chest that others might not be happy about, phone a friend or meet up in a bar/cafe/whatever and talk.

9

Q: Is it their right to do that (telling me what to post in my wall about my personal beliefs or so)? just because we work at the same company and they are either managers or seniors?

The question of 'rights' is irrelevant. What is relevant is the de-facto situation: They see things they don't like from one of their employees, and you're going to have to deal with the fallout.

"The best way to stop them from this?"

Remove the posts and replace them with an apology. Open a new facebook account (if you feel compelled to 'do facebook') and if you feel you want to vent, make sure it stays PRIVATE.

"should I be aggressive"

This depends on which is more important to you: Your job, or your 'right to vent' on facebook...

8

While I'm not a lawyer, here are a few points to ponder:

You do realize that if you are viewing your Facebook wall on a company computer that you could be contributing to a "hostile work environment" that could be grounds for various legal action, right? I mean you wouldn't put up a Playboy calendar in your cubicle and this is possibly in the same ballpark if you are posting what could be construed as hate speech. Thus, be careful what kind of battleground you want to start here.

The point here is the question of do you know what the bounds of the office are, what may or may not be seen as crossing the line though if your computer at work is what you are using to post from that is dangerous territory as the company may monitor what you post.

Edit: There is also something to be said for what constitutes the office as I remember at one workplace they would say that even if you were on your personal cellphone, if it was at a company event, that could still be considered the workplace even if the event was at a bar or other public venue. Thus, you may be under a false sense of what is private and what isn't. That workplace was in Alberta, Canada which may or may not be your jurisdiction.

25 Facebook Posts That Have Gotten People Fired lists various stories that you may be next as there is also that question of whether or not you are at an "at-will" employer where they may not need to have grounds to terminate you.

Lastly, on the point of free speech, consider how you don't have the right to go into a crowded movie theater and yell, "Fire!" without consequences. Similarly, if you yell "Rape!" there is a good chance people may expect you to be in a special kind of situation and that could lead to stuff so the freedom of speech doesn't mean you can say anything, anywhere, anytime.


Edited to add: It isn't necessarily that there is an extension of the workplace just by befriending a co-worker. I'd like to think it isn't always the case that I'm an ambassador of the company and thus there may be those off times though this is where one has to be very careful with privacy. Publicly posting things on Facebook that could be led back to the company can be tricky territory. While you may not state your employer in the post, if someone looks at your profile and can find the employer easily enough, this could be seen as defaming the employer though I'd imagine lawyers could determine to what financial damage this could be. If one is using company equipment for social media posts, these could be recorded and one may be questioned about how loyal is one to the company that could lead to various punishments I'd think. Other examples of an extension of the workplace would include:

  1. If one attends trade shows or conferences, you are representing the company on the whole trip. Thus, if one is bad mouthing an employer this could reflect quite poorly on the company which may give the company cause to sue the person for ruining future business prospects. This would include the hotel, transportation to the event, and meals that may be done while one is known for being from "that company".

  2. If there is a group from the office that goes out for lunch together, this could also be a workplace situation as business may be discussed or the group could be known as coming from a specific workplace.

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    I did not mention I was viewing facebook from work. I never do. – user8959 May 9 '13 at 2:20
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    Hey JB, would you say it's safe to say that the fact that the op friended people at work constitutes an "extension of the workplace"? If so, I was thinking of adding that as an edit to your answer. It seems like the fact that Flyer wasn't viewing Facebook from work doesn't really matter when it comes to management's evaluation of the content, but I think that if you could clarify that point, it would help make it clear that what you're saying about being careful on Facebook is the same whether you post using company equipment or your own. Hope this helps! – jmort253 May 12 '13 at 4:49
7

Depending on which state your place of employment resides in and when its "right to worK" you can be fired for any reason except for bias (race, gender, age, etc...) but proving bias is difficult and statistically employee lawsuits fail without extremely compelling evidence.

Your question is interchangeable with a high schooler insisting the principal and teachers shouldn't be allowed to complain the same way you're encountering now because you're terribly young and you're still afflicted with an adolescent sense and expectation of fair play.

That's my observation, if you feel criticized by it, very likely your reaction underscores your broader characteristics that got you into this situation and the sooner you determine which battles are worth fighting is the sooner you stop wasting time on at best, a Pyrrhic victory.

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    Hi Karen, welcome to the Workplace, a Stack Exchange Q&A site. Because of our Q&A format, we ask that answers posted definitively answer the question: "Is it their right to do that (telling me what to post in my wall about my personal beliefs or so)? just because we work at the same company and they are either managers or seniors?" You've addressed termination, which sort of implies that, yes, managers can tell you what to post on Facebook. But it's best to be explicit in making such a statement so it's clear. I suggest an edit to clarify that point. Hope this helps, and welcome! :) – jmort253 May 9 '13 at 6:47
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Now I can simply unfriend these people in facebook, but this may build some ice or cause awkwardness, or I can restrict them from seeing some of my posts which means I am coward.

If I read you correctly, then basically what you are saying is that you are looking for a way out of your coworkers having access to your personal thoughts on Facebook.

I must admit I'm a little surprised by the barrage of "keep an airtight hatchway between work and personal life" responses. There is nothing wrong with having colleagues as "friends" on Facebook. I have, too (including the company CEO; it's a pretty small company, and was even smaller when I started working there). But it does take a certain amount of discretion.

Yes, you can unfriend your colleagues. That will probably lead to a bunch of questions about what you are posting on Facebook and why suddenly you don't want your colleagues as Facebook friends, but if you feel you can field that, it's an option worth considering. Who you choose to list as a friend is up to you, not someone else.

Another alternative is to simply block them from viewing anything you do not feel is "safe" for them to see. Either add them to the "restricted" list, or create a list of your colleagues and use it to exclude them by default from seeing what you are posting. That way, unless someone talks elsewhere about what you have posted, they won't ever know.

And of course, that said, as someone else pointed out you should consider anything you post essentially public and permanent. So don't post anything you really don't want your boss to find out about (badmouthing the company, for example). It's one thing to be selective about who you share posts with to maintain a good professional relationship with others; it's quite another to go out of your way to hide talking badly about the company or specific coworkers.

Plus there's nothing wrong with creating e.g. a LinkedIn account to maintain a professional-only online presence as well. But again, doing so does not preclude the possibility of keeping an online relationship to your colleagues on Facebook as well.

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    When your personal feelings get in the way of your lively hood it is a good time to either change your lively hood or put a wall up between them. Usually the best short term solution is the one that puts the wall up to keep your current life as uncomplicated, then see about making the bigger change. – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 9 '13 at 19:26
  • @Chad There are more ways to put up a wall between the two than unfriending the people in question, and if it was that simple I don't think the OP would have asked the question in the first place. Facebook provides two excellent alternatives right out of the box. (And if a colleague finds out about what you post on FB even if you block their access to that post, they are going to find out just the same if you unfriend them, so unfriending does not solve the underlying issue.) – a CVn May 9 '13 at 20:09
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    The op seems to want to be able to say what ever they want with no consequences and have the people at work just ignore it when they read it. The question basically asks that and if she can do anything about the people who do not like what she say. – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 9 '13 at 20:25
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    People advocate keeping home and work separate because when things go bad, its usually in a spectacular way. The benefit is not worth the risk. – Andy May 12 '13 at 20:43
  • @Andy So set a default policy that excludes your colleagues from seeing what you post. Or add them to the "Restricted" list. The point is, you don't have to make visible to a particular (group of) person(s) anything you post just because you have added them to your friends list. – a CVn May 13 '13 at 7:21
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It's best practice to keep your personal and professional life separate from each other. Allowing the two to mix together can result in many unwanted results. Such as the tarnishment of your professional image due to public knowledge of your personal life.

Mixing the two can have the unwanted result of making your peers view you as unprofessional/unreliable and can provide a reason for you to get passed up for a promotion, a pay raise, or worst case scenario: can become ammunition for termination; all because someone didn't agree with your personal, religious or political opinion.

TLDR; Keep your personal and professional life separate!

4

Try to avoid mixing Facebook with work. Everyone has an opinion, and either they can't learn to cope with that, or you're finding it hard to cope. Another thing to be careful of is hidden messages in your speech (in other words, saying something that sounds like a general comment but is actually intended as a specific message to someone else, contradicting their ideas). When you speak to someone about your own opinions, don't impose your opinions: learn to bring them across "as an idea". When you do that, all of a sudden people think you're an amazing person because you seem more "open minded". Last point, make use of the Facebook privacy settings: you don't need to remove anyone from your account, just restrict who views what into groups.

In a weird way, managers do have a right over their employees, depending on what you're posting. If it's religious beliefs then of course they have no right. But if you were to post an image of yourself nude or something inappropriate then you might just get the sack. This happened to a lad in ASDA; admittedly he was wearing the ASDA logo, showing his crack and he posted it to Facebook. They sacked him straight away.

The reason they may have this right is simple. When a company hires you, you automatically become a representative of that company. They're looking out for the company's reputation.

3

Defending free speech is one thing. The business world equivalency of yelling fire in a crowded building is another.

Facebook provides little annonymity. What's next? Are you going to friend customers and business partners? I may agree with everything you post, but would be very worried you don't care who you offend. Right or wrong, people form opinions and possibly even prejudices based on your behavior and may be in a position to render some consequences you're not going to like.

The idea of an employee who excersises no discretion and feels they are always justified by free speech is a reason for concern. Check your local labor laws, but most things outside of race, gender or religion are rarely protected. Forget it if you're in a right-to-work state in the US. People have been fired for a lot less and telling your boss to f-off should have been the final straw.

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    How does this answer differ in a meaningful way from other answers already posted? – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 9 '13 at 19:27
0

You have to think about:

  1. what you're going to share
  2. what your workplace is like

If you’re going to write stuff like “my job sucks”, don't friend your co-workers. If you’re going to post pictures of yourself getting plastered, your company had better be a super-chill place where everyone is doing that. Otherwise, don’t friend your co-workers.

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    this doesn't seem to offer anything substantial over points made and explained in prior 11 answers – gnat Jun 3 '14 at 15:45
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    BUT, it is worded plainly and uses as few words as possible, which is a plus for some people on the interwebs :P – NZKshatriya Dec 4 '16 at 8:40

protected by Jim G. Dec 2 '13 at 12:10

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