Post, Like, Comment, Share – But Check Your Guidelines Every Year

We all like our social media, but is it worth losing your job over?   In just a few short years, social media has become a ubiquitous commodity in the workplace. It allows for employees to make and support professional connections, to collaborate easily and effectively, and to share necessary information in real time. Many agencies have embraced the technology in recent years and use it quite effectively to raise awareness about important public issues, as a crisis communication tool during emergencies, and to build public trust by offering authenticity and transparency.

After news broke about border patrol agents posting offensive material in a Facebook group, people in the public and private sectors couldn’t help but think about their own groups, their own posts, their own likes and comments, and the security of their own platforms. Your individual reputation is often defined by the way you engage in public environments. Likewise, your agency’s reputation is often defined by the way its employees engage – with rules in place to protect them:

  1. Know your agency’s social media policy. And check it regularly. These policies change almost as quickly as technology evolves – and it is your responsibility to know your agency’s policies and the parameters in which you are allowed to engage both on and off duty.
  1. Know what restrictions apply to you under the Hatch Act which regulates what federal employees can and cannot share or promote regarding political views. The 2020 campaign is already in full swing. For additional information regarding The Hatch Act, click here. For specific information on social media, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the federal agency responsible for enforcing the Hatch Act, has issued this guidance on Social Media. A Hatch Act violation can result in a range of disciplinary actions, including removal from service, reduction in grade, removal of clearance, suspension, letter of reprimand or a financial penalty.

Social media is an effective and powerful communications tool. Disengaging is not the answer (for most of us). But if you aren’t careful, your inactions on social media platforms can adversely affect your reputation and career. Take some time today to read your agency’s policies – it’s important. While you might believe you are being thoughtful in your posts, you must be actively aware of and engaged with your likes, your groups, your shares, and the security of your information/account.

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