How Your Words Can Make or Break Your Personal Brand

Greg Simpson Blog

social media sharing

You would think that few people would still need to be reminded that the attitude they project in emails and social media posts will eventually galvanize the view that peers and superiors have of them at work.

And then, along came James Damore.

The now-former Google engineer sent the tech sector into a tizzy in early August when he circulated a memo accusing his former employer of suppressing conservative political opinions and that biological differences, and not hiring policies, were to blame for the shortage of women in leadership roles in the tech industry.

Damore was fired shortly after he sent his 10-page memo across the company’s vast employee population. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a statement to employees that Damore’s self-described “manifesto” violated the company’s Code of Conduct by advancing “harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”The debate over what Damore said, and whether he had a right or an obligation to say it to thousands of his co-workers and managers, will continue for some time to come. And while there will always be pro and anti-Damore sides to this argument, one thing is certain: we all live and die by the words we choose to broadcast on digital platforms.

Beware: if you’re using Facebook, Twitter or the company intranet as platforms to complain about something, you may be branding yourself as someone with a negative attitude.

Greg SimpsonSVP, Career Transition Practice Leader
Damore isn’t the first person to lose a job after misinterpreting the easy access we all have to digital communication as an invitation to say whatever comes into our minds, whenever it comes into our minds.

And it’s not just in the workplace. From Facebook pages to the comments section in online news sites, and online reviews of restaurants and hotels, it seems increasingly that the moaners, whiners and self-appointed critics of everyone and everything often eclipse people seeking basic information or looking for a legitimate debate.

But beware: if you’re using Facebook, Twitter or the company intranet as platforms to complain about something, you may be branding yourself as someone with a negative attitude. And increasingly, employers are not interested in recruiting or retaining someone who is predominantly negative in their digital profile.

Snarky postings or unbridled criticism online may make even friends and family think twice about referring you to a networking contact. Potential employers now routinely scour candidates’ social media profiles for red flags prior to scheduling interviews.

The truth of the matter is that employers are reluctant to hire someone sharing negative or controversial comments. Numerous studies of the impact of overly critical social media posts and negative attitudes in the workplace have confirmed that they are needless distractions that can sap an organization of productivity and that all-important sense of common purpose that often drives innovation and creativity.

Remember, when it comes to social media or company email, the whole world is watching. If you have a customer service or product issue, go directly to the company using a discreet channel; don’t vent on Facebook for everyone – including a current or potential future employer – to see. And be careful of what you say in internal emails. Once they are written and sent, they can be forwarded to just about anyone outside the company.

Using your personal Facebook and Twitter channels to complain, rather than using an organization’s customer service channel, could be perceived as an inability to resolve problems in a professional manner. And unless you’re a professional comedian, venting in public is no laughing matter.

The controversy over James Damore’s memo isn’t going to die down anytime soon. And while it involves many complex issues, the one clear takeaway is the potential cost that comes with negativity.

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