5 Reasons to Respect Workplace Confidentiality on Social Media

For more than a decade, we’ve been sharing tidbits on social media sites like Facebook. What was once novel is now commonplace, even at work. Thus, employees often have a hard time separating their personal and work activities on social media. Some may even be unaware that their postings can cause harm. Not sure why you need to think twice before posting about work? Below are five reasons to respect workplace confidentiality.

1. Some information may be protected by law,  such as protected health information in the case of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or by contracts like a merger agreement or non-disclosure agreement. While it might seem innocent enough to post an image of a patient’s x-rays, you could be revealing information that’s protected. Likewise, while you may find the details of an upcoming merger or acquisition affecting your workplace newsworthy, those details are likely confidential.

2. The tendency to overshare can have serious consequences. In the examples above, the businesses could be subject to hefty penalties for the disclosure of protected health information. Breaching a confidentiality agreement could jeopardize the deal or place the businesses at risk for a lawsuit. Other potential consequences include bad publicity, lost business, low employee morale, and embarrassment. Businesses can lose their competitive advantage if the wrong information, trade secrets, or news they weren’t yet ready to share with the world at large gets out.

3. Social media posts can spread like wildfire. Even if not technically protected, businesses often have information that they’d rather not share with the general public — and there’s a potential for that information to go viral via social media. While you may only have a handful of followers, once you post something, it’s out of your control. As people click the like button or comment, the post gets seen by a broader audience. Who’s to say a friend of a friend won’t share it with their network of hundreds of followers?

4. On social media, we tend to speak before we think. We’re a little less thoughtful than we might otherwise be in a face-to-face setting. Thus, overcome with excitement or in the heat of the moment, you may fire off a quick status update, tweet, post, or comment that might reflect well on the company or that might disclose confidential information. If it’s juicy enough, people will have already begun sharing it or taking screenshots to preserve it. There’s no going back!

5. Restraint can show respect for others. For example, some information may not be confidential per se, but it might not be your place to share. Perhaps it’s an upcoming marketing campaign that the marketing director is super proud of. Showing off the storyboards before the campaign goes live is disrespectful. Not only are you overstepping your bounds, you’re stealing some of the marketing director’s thunder. Likewise, some posts and comments may be inflammatory, derogative, or even misunderstood. Not only can workplace-related social media posts potentially harm the company’s reputation, they can also harm relationships and employee morale. Ask yourself if your posts are appropriate, respectful, constructive, and non-offensive.

Finally, when it comes to posting anything on social media, it’s smart to step back and give yourself time to think before clicking the submit button.