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Occasionally I have a quick skim through the comments on a linkedin article. Inbetween all the comments from people with titles such as "Director at MyOwnCompany" and "Visionary at GrowYourBizToday", I see a comment from a regular guy at a well-known company.

Given the nature of any forum or article comments, there are going to be differing opinions and sometimes things get a little bit heated. If this were to happen (that one got into a heated argument online) could one expect one's company to effect some sort of disciplinary action? LinkedIn is supposed to be a personal, private thing I have always assumed, but on the other hand you are tying your employer's name to your actions.

Is it therefore best to avoid passing commenting on any article, unless that comment is a positive one?

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    What happens on the Internet, stays on the Internet. in my company, we have that saying: Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your BOSS, your MOTHER, or the OWNER to see. – David Segonds Aug 19 '14 at 15:07
  • Your company, especially if it's reasonably large, may have rules about what you can say when their name is linked to yours. – PurpleVermont Aug 20 '14 at 4:21
  • @PurpleVermont - You only have to look at one of Microsoft's top Xbox developers to prove that fact. You can also look to what happens in Hollywood on how their behavior in public can effect their career. Yes; These two examples are different; But they prove a point about behavior on the internet. – Ramhound Aug 20 '14 at 12:06
  • Even if you're saying something your company probably agrees with, they may still not want you to say it with their name attached to yours. – PurpleVermont Aug 20 '14 at 18:31
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It really depends on your company's social media policy.

Chances are, if you're on LinkedIn and your profile is linked to your company via title and current employer, then that means anyone also linked with the company can see that. So, if the company feels that an internet argument looks bad on them, and there is something in the social media policy about that sort of thing, then yes, you could see some disciplinary action.

Also, your assumption that LinkedIn is a personal and private thing is a bit off. Anyone with a LinkedIn account can see your profile. Anyone you are linked to can see your feed activity. I'm not 100% sure what can be seen by the groups or if there are any privacy settings you can adjust, but just assume that if you posted it, someone you know will see it.

So, should you only post positive things online? No, I don't think so. You can post constructive feedback, you can enter a conversation, but just don't be a jerk. Name calling, personal attacks, hate speech, religion bashing, racist comments, complaining about your company are all things that will probably get you fired. Look up your company's social media policy. Ask your HR department about it. If there isn't one written, ask for clarification on this case and any others.

At the end of the day, just don't be a jerk. And if you feel that someone at your company might take offence to something you're about to post...then don't post it.

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    "At the end of the day, just don't be a jerk." - advice that applies the world over :) – VictorySaber Aug 19 '14 at 15:55
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The most important point is to never talk on behalf of the company, make sure that opinions that you post on the internet are yours and yours only. Your company does not want to be linked to your opinions. You're pretty safe once you get that.

Neither should you talk about what's happening in your company internally, you'll probably be breaking a law or two by doing that. But that's quite off topic.

Now, however, it varies a lot between companies about how much reaches your upper management. Imagine that everything that you post on the internet will be reviewed by them and discuss accordingly, that way nothing will surprise them or give you future regrets. Management should not suspend you for public inappropriate behavior but you can never be sure.

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Is it therefore best to avoid passing commenting on any article, unless that comment is a positive one?

Well let me think of times when its a good idea not to be postive:

1.

Okay that was hard.

Now its entirely possible you're actually referencing one of my comments, which I often post with a certain well-known company in my job title and quite a bit of fervor, as well as doing so on company time while in between assignments. Regular girls and guys at well-known companies tend to have somewhat different views that people with dubious titles working for even more dubious companies, and this diversity of viewpoints is one of the things that enables great ideas to come out of online debates.

I am not expecting my company to take any disciplinary action for the following reasons:

  1. Dialogue always promotes ideas. If no one brought any ideas into the company that had passed through the toughest environments possible (open posting on the internet), the company would be unable to remain competitive.

  2. Passion is indicative of personal investment. Likewise, if everyone at the company caved immediately on any controversial view, innovation would be stifled, top employees would leave or check out, and mediocrity would set in. This is unacceptable to any competitive company.

  3. I never, ever, under any circumstances engage in pessimism, personal attack, scientifically unvetted viewpoints, or petty criticism. In fact, if I appear to do so, it is a mistake of mis-communication for which I take full responsibility, and would gladly delete my post and issue an apology. Now perhaps not everyone posts under these assumptions, but I don't see a lot of impolite comments on LinkedIn (thank you lack of anonymity). I believe that my employer, were I to come under investigation for actions, would respond positively and reasonably to this stance, and I believe most other posters and most other employers would do so as well.

That said, try to post positively. Even when I see posts completely divorced from reality and selling fire and brimstone I try only to introduce optimism. This is best practice for any forum or discussion, not just one in which your own and your company's name are attached to an idea.

Lastly, if you're working somewhere where you have to fear for your job for engaging in discussion, it may be time to consider other employment. This isn't just a toxic work environment - its an unsustainable one, and you'll have to get out eventually.

If you're interested in seeing some of my comments, I'm fairly active in Pulse under my full name, and I'm sure we're all able to figure out a way to get in touch outside of public forums from there. I'd be happy to address this matter in greater depth over other media.

  • So... you comment positively "That's a great idea, we should look into implementing that at our workplace" on a post. Your boss (or your boss's boss) sees that and they hold the opposite viewpoint, that it's the worst idea since slicing break with a cucumber. Now what? – JohnP Aug 19 '14 at 15:28
  • I have posted in opposition to established practices at my workplace. Of course, I'm also very clear on my viewpoints at the office. If there's a corporate practice I disagree with, I don't keep it a secret. I mentioned in another post on stack exchange about how I did a presentation on how we needed to change policies at my company - people tend to be open to new ideas that aren't forced or hostile. Sure you can get fired for that, and that might not be the funnest thing in the world, but that's a fairly abusive corporate atmosphere to begin with. I doubt your job was safe before either. – Calvin Aug 19 '14 at 15:40
  • @JohnP - I agree if your boss's opinion were made public, I wouldn't attach a disagreement, but you can't go your whole life never having an opinion. – user8365 Aug 19 '14 at 18:28
  • @JeffO - I didn't say that. But the place to disagree with company policy is at the company, not on a social media website. I have a lot of my own opinions, I am just selective about when/where I voice them. I've seen too many people get burned by putting information out there through the wrong channels or in the wrong fashion. – JohnP Aug 19 '14 at 18:32
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    There certainly are and aren't professional places to share opinions. I feel that commenting on articles on LinkedIn is an instance of professional development and, as with all forms of education, unlikely to be a net negative. I don't imagine any circumstance where I would communicate with a superior over social media however - if I can meet someone in person, talk with my hands, draw pictures, etc. that is generally a better way to articulate my beliefs about our company and my passion for its success. – Calvin Aug 19 '14 at 18:49

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