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Cut the snark and save your job: How not to gripe online

Laura Blackwell | Oct. 11, 2013
The technology you use every day could be telegraphing your dissatisfaction to your employer and jeopardizing your current job—and your next one.

Admit it: You watched Marina Shifrin's "I Quit" video with giddy delight. You mentally pumped your fist in solidarity, maybe even fantasized about your own choreographed kiss-off to your employer. Based on the 15-million-and-counting views Shifrin's video has received, many people have dreamed about leaving a job and publicly slamming the door on the way out. Still, most of us know better than to burn bridges with such a foolhardy stunt. But even if you're not making viral videos, the technology you use every day could be telegraphing your dissatisfaction to your employer and jeopardizing your current job—and your next one.

Loose lips sink careers
It's natural to notice a coworker's questionable attire or a VP's tendency to arrive late to work. Kept to yourself or voiced through proper channels, it's also harmless. But sharing bons mots about ugly shoes or poorly divided workloads through the tools you use every day—email, instant messaging, texting, social networks—can quickly undermine your job.

"I have seen a lot of employees misusing technology and limiting their careers," says Aileen Kelly Schwab, director of human resources at UniversityParent, a website that provides on- and off-campus resources to parents of college students. "Their casual conversations used to stay in the break room. Now they're on Facebook."

When you're communicating through tools that connect you with hundreds of people inside and outside the office, one errant mouse click can put your thoughts in front of a very unappreciative audience. Wrong chat window, wrong email recipient, email innocently forwarded beyond your target reader—you might as well queue up outside the HR office.

"We have the idea of chatting with people throughout the workday," Schwab says "I've seen employees who have too many windows open and send disparaging comments about their boss to their boss."

Communication gaffes aren't the only way to end up on your employer's radar, though. Much more common is the seemingly innocuous venting many of us do through our social media accounts. Pouring out your woes about your company's bad coffee or stingy work-at-home policy makes you look like a malcontent. Complaining about shouldering too much of a project due to a coworker's ineptitude? You'd better make sure that your Facebook friends don't know someone in your workplace—and never will.

"It's better to call your sister and tell her about your bad week at work than to post it on Facebook," Schwab says. "People seem to treat a private phone call and a social media post as the same, but that's not how employers see it."

Fantastic employees may not have to clean out their desks because of one snide tweet (though you still may want to delete it). But for employees with less-than-glowing performance reviews, such slip-ups are likelier to be the straw that breaks the camel's back.


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