October 28, 2013

Workers Shouldn’t be Punished for Personal Social Media Activity: A Valid Claim?

Computer keyboard keys with no social media sticky noteBack in August, I wrote a story about a law school graduate who was struggling to find work. Brian Zulberti sent a ton of emails to law firms that included a photo of himself “in a T-shirt with the sleeves rolled up, showing off his sculpted arms.”

The instance caused him to become somewhat of an internet sensation on what not to do when looking for a job. A law blog took things a step further by reporting on the seemingly inappropriate photos Zulberti had on his Facebook. To remind readers, one picture was of his naked torso in front of mirror. The mirror had a sign taped to it that read, ““Hire me!!! no … as a Lawyer, … NOT A ESCORT… wait is it something I’m wearing.”

Because of all the attention Zulberti was receiving, I’d wondered if his seemingly inappropriate actions actually benefited him by offering the exposure he was lacking.

Well, to my surprise, it looks like this story isn’t over. And this latest addition has assured me that unlike my confusion on the first article, Zulberti’s actions are far from beneficial for his future.

According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, Zulberti is back in the spotlight with a new “movement.”

What’s the movement?

Zulberti says he is speaking out against the “tidal wave of social media firings that is unjustly obliterating competent and driven employees from coast to coast.” He says professionals are being fired for posting things on social media sites.

“The result has been the rise of the nonsensical belief that employers have the right to deem all of their employees as the ‘face of the company’ during every waking moment of their lives,” Zulberti said. “The further result is that each and every one of us, as attorneys, is faced with the decision to either fit into the expectations of how we behave in our private lives, or face the very real specter of devastating workplace consequences.”

And just how is he tackling this “issue”?

Zulberti is now apparently on a speaking tour around the country and has started a website to expand on his message — and show pictures of his private parts. He says the point of the posing nude was to prove that such postings are not illegal and have nothing to do with one’s work performance.

Okay, where do I begin?

This guy is upset and trying to make a movement out of workers being fired for posting “inappropriate” things on social media sites. He said employers now believe they can make employees be the face of their companies “during every waking moment of their lives.”

If a company has a standard for professionalism and what is and is not acceptable behavior in its workplace and an employee doesn’t adhere to it, he or she will face the consequences. It’s called company policy.

Companies are all about promoting their brands, and they hire people to do just that. As an employee, in a sense, you are the “face” of that organization because you represent the company wherever you go and whatever you do….publicly (I’ll get back to this). So, if a company has standards and policies for how it is to be represented, when you sign on with that company you’re accepting that responsibility.

Zulberti is now posing nude on social media saying 1) nude photos aren’t illegal and 2) they don’t affect one’s performance. Nude photos are not illegal, unless the social networking site (and an employee’s company) has rules against them. And posting these types of pictures doesn’t directly affect one’s performance at work, but they do misrepresent the company.

His flawed notion is that it’s wrong for employers to punish workers for what they do privately on social media. I have a news flash for Zulberti and anyone else who agrees with him: Social media is not private. Zulberti is trying to parallel one’s personal life with one’s private life, when the two don’t always go hand-in-hand. Your family, friends, relationships, etc., are all a part of your personal life. And they can all be private if you choose to keep them that way. Yet, the minute you decide to share any of these things on social media (even if you have private settings) it becomes public.

In a perfect world, everything you do outside of work would truly not affect your professional life—but this is the real world. Just because social media’s content is typically personal and done outside of work doesn’t mean anything. It is still on the worldwide web for millions to see—and those millions include your co-workers, managers and anyone else related to you professionally. And after witnessing the type of personal content you chose to share publicly, a company can reprimand an employee if this public display doesn’t fall in line with policy, standards or harms the employer brand.

I assume Zulberti thinks he’s helping himself and his future by advocating for such a “cause,” but he isn’t. Posting nude photos in the name of “freedom” and “rights” will not land him in a respectable law firm. And being known as the “selfie job seeker” won’t help much either.

Read more in Social Network

Marks’ stories have also been published in a variety of newspaper, magazine and online formats including The Arizona Republic, The Daily Herald, Arizona Foothills Magazine and various classroom magazines of Scholastic Inc. Service is her passion, writing is her platform and uplifting and inspiring the community is her purpose. Marks received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication from Arizona State University.
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