No 'Personal' Opinions About Work

Author: John Honovich, Published on Jun 26, 2017

One rising trend is the tendency for people to disclaim their statements on work related topics as their own 'opinions' or 'personal opinions'.

This is silly.

Obviously, one's work influences one's opinions (via paycheck, culture and experience). Likewise, one's opinions about work (good or bad) reflects on one's company (whether one likes it or not). Understandably, this is a response to company social media policies that frequently do not allow employees to post on behalf of their company so employees disclaim their work related statements as opinions.

Here is a fairly benign example of this approach:

Is this person 'all protected'? Hardly. However, in this case, the likelihood of problems is quite low because as this person declares:

Assa Abbloy management is probably not going to criticize an employee saying positive things about their company (after all, they are not UTC).

But how about a statement like?

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Do employees need to be concerned about such statements? Should they be restricted?

The fundamental challenge is that anyone in a company now can effectively (for better or worse) act as a spokesperson (authorized or not) for a company. Even more challenging, a post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. can gain wide coverage, often far more than a company's own press release.

People can certainly try to magically waive away such concerns by disclaiming statements as 'personal' or 'opinions' but this will not change the reality that these statements are published on public platforms that the world can see and share.

Some companies have moved to a strict no social media policy where employees are prohibited from saying anything work related (personal opinions or not). While that blocks potential positives, it is a simple to understand approach that prevents problems.

Then you have more complex issues. How do employee's opinions online reflect on one's company? Take this manufacturer's head of marketing:

Are these righteous complaints of a 'Globalist' or arrogant humblebrags? Should employees or employers care what impact or perception one's public posts have?

[Update: those tweets have since been deleted by the manufacturer head of marketing.]

As a general rule, I think that one should (1) be quiet, (2) make posts private or (3) carefully consider the impact one's public statements have before making them.

Update September 2017

Another controversial example: Tyco Specifier Defends Dahua And Hikvision Backdoors

Comments (31)

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Like any Job , Profession out there , there is good and bad in every position.

There has to be a proper way to vent , let off your frustration, get things changed for the good of all involved.

Complaint lines ( anonymous )

Suggestion cards

proper frustration channels to help deal with lifes problems in job situations or public frustrations.

Never just venting up the chain or spewing out hurts, disappointments or other ideals at the boss.

Proper chains of command that protect the employee from retribution or retaliation

That being said , that is why you have to create cultures of Teamwork, Family, loyalty.

Common Cause or Common Bond for working together or getting along with each other.

As a general rule, I think that one should (1) be quiet, (2) make posts private or (3) carefully consider the impact one's public statements have before making them.

I think "3" is the only practical option here. "Be quiet" would also work, but that just seems a bit draconian, and impractical with the prevalence of social media these days.

In some ways, disclaiming your association with your employer almost reinforces it, but either way, if you post on social media about topics directly related to the industry you work in, your comments reflect on your employer.

Just as company culture/ethics/etc influence employees, companies are not independent entities, they are the sum of their employees. If employees are showing through their posts that they hold extreme positions, or have an odd outlook on something, their opinions and attitudes are surely reflecting on the company as a whole, particularly if they are in a position to directly influence company policy or product.

Who pay your subsription?

You or your employer?

Any opinion bases on my background Is by my own .

Did you earn the money to the buy the subscription through side jobs?

That is not a serious question, but still, it is hard to truly distance yourself from your employer when it comes right down to it.

But that's one of the benefits about allowing undisclosed posting. Requiring people disclosing their names would motivate them to post positively about one's company and company's themes because otherwise they would risk issues / complaints from the company.

It's not possible to completely detach people from their relationships but things can be done to help minimize the effects of those, undisclosed posting is one of those.

As undisclosed you have the ability to post anonymously

But when you let other s see who you are , You become subject to all kinds of bias opinions that usually attach individuals , not issues.

Subject to direct and indirect criticism from other s who see competition

No neutrality

Keeping Your ability to complain neutral to your piers with out retaliation

I like the ability to post either way.

I do notice that when I disclose who I am , I get more Linked in offers and more people want to suddenly be friends .

If you have same kind of company restrictions, you can use "nono disclousing post option".

I bilieve This is not related to who make the comments or opinions, this is related the market, players, integrator, and technology point of view.

I allway respect the non-diclousure contract and all related to classified inside information, but this is different.

This logic does not stand. Where one earns money from has nothing to do with how one spend the money, let alone one's opinion.

Companies also earn money from other parties, does this "logic" also apply to companies as well? Do their announcements represent their customers?

If apply this "logic" multiple times then all money comes from the governments.

Does that justify state level censorship?

Why is it okay for cooperates to censor its employees? What happened to freedom of speech?

As I said, it was not a serious question. I was merely trying to illustrate that it can be very hard to separate an employee's comments made publicly from being associated with their employer. Even if those comments are made in forums, like IPVM, where the employee feels they are there independently and not influenced by their employer.

Companies also earn money from other parties, does this "logic" also apply to companies as well? Do their announcements represent their customers?

A company is not a being with an independent will and ability to act on its own.

Why is it okay for cooperates to censor its employees? What happened to freedom of speech?

In the US, freedom of speech generally refers to the government's ability (or inability thereof) to punish people for what they say.

It does not restrict corporations from making hiring or firing decisions based on speech. Here's an NPR story, one of many, that discuss that dimension.

Thanks John,

That is something I never thought of. Thanks for the link and article to read.

In the link says:

"What most Americans generally don't know is that the Constitution doesn't apply to private corporations at all."

I am too shock to process this now.

In the link says:

"What most Americans generally don't know is that the Constitution doesn't apply to private corporations at all."

I am too shock to process this now.

Lol, I am not sure what most Americans think but I do think most senior level business people are well aware the 1st Amendment does not protect them from their employers or potential ones.

Good morning John,

I read both articles and the only thing company cannot do is "basically confined to eavesdropping on a personal oral conversation" and the second article states "hidden cameras in restroom is allowed". This contradicts with other sources, z.B. nolo.com and findlaw.com.

Moreover, both articles try to imply that there's next to nothing a company cannot do. However, what about firing employee due to religion, race, gender or age? If Constitutions do not apply, then how come some companies lose cases when being sued for discrimination?

Can you shed more light please?

However, what about firing employee due to religion, race, gender or age? If Constitutions do not apply, then how come some companies lose cases when being sued for discrimination?

I'm not a lawyer, but I did have to receive training from my company's law firm before I was allowed to supervise employees at my last job. I'll answer as best I can.

You cannot discriminate against a member of a protected class on the basis of their class characteristic. In other words, you can fire someone because you don't like the color of their tie or because they chew too loudly, but you cannot fire someone because you don't like their religion or nation of origin or something. In addition, you have to make reasonable accommodations to allow people to do their job despite any limitations they may have based on their age, medical status, and so forth.

Hope this helps.

Thank you Ari,

Your reply is really helpful and now I understand.

z.B, employers can fire someone who is not a Muslim but refuse to eat ribs with them, but cannot if that very person is a Muslim.

employers can fire someone who is not a Muslim but refuse to eat ribs with them, but cannot if that very person is a Muslim.

Wait, what? :)

At-will employment is what is typical in this and many industries today in the US. As the wikipedia article on at-will employment states, there are some exceptions.

That said, whether or not something is legal does not necessarily makes it prudent or productive. For example, if a company fired someone for not eating ribs or not going to a Yankees game or not burping the alphabet, even if it was legal, such trivial reasons for firing people risks causing a social media / public backlash. Net/net, companies, regardless of what they can legally do, still need to factor in the negative consequences of public free speech in America.

I have and have had many confidential contracts which allow, or mandate Terminations base on at will. and that is just the way life is.

No ill will , No personal involvement , Just Business

matter of fact

Religion, race, gender, age, etc. are characteristics of people, not of their speech.

Firing someone because of their race is illegal. Firing someone because they used (spoke / wrote) a racial epithet is perfectly legal.

It really depends on where you are in the chain of command and how damaging your voice is.

There has to be a certain amt of damage control on all levels

YOU don't air your dirty laundry in public and you don't spew out damaging opinions in company's to sour other employees.

Any common sense out there.

Discretion goes a long way in building future positions

I think your summary is exactly correct.

Being in Sales, I am always mindful that what I say or write reflects not only on me, but my employer. I think that everyone owes their current employer at least Public loyalty while you are cashing their paychecks.

And remember that in this brave new world, nothing you type (or say, now - thanks google/amazon) is ever forgotten once its captured by any type of electronic device.

I used to be a big social media fan. Now, I essentially post nothing and just use it as a news feed. I am not comfortable posting my opinions all over the internet from a professional use account. I've always found that baffling.

Doing so is bound to change someone's opinion of you at some point, whether that's a coworker, a customer, a superior, a subscriber, whatever. It could be for the better, sure, but it's also pretty likely to make not want to do business with you or your organization.

I know that that has 100% been the case for me, in the past couple years in our, uh, "volatile" political/social environment.

As far as what employees should be able to say, it's a trickier question. In a perfect world, I'd say they can say anything. They should just be prepared to face consequences if said statements don't match up to the company line or culture. However, off-brand messages from individual employees can pretty quickly impact public perception if you aren't careful. So I get why any company would want to limit what employees post.

I tend to ignore these kinds of disclaimers on social media posts. Companies are composed of a number of individual people, working within a legal corporate framework. So any opinion you express is a window into the opinions/culture of your employer, regardless of how you decorate your message.

If more than one employee of a company had posts like that "work is crazy, can't wait for vacation" message, it tells me that maybe working for that employer is chaotic and stressful, and that maybe people don't love working there.

I'm not a fan of being muzzled by social media policy, and fortunately Milestone has been very generous in that regard. I haven't been asked to represent my employer here, and I pay my own membership fee. I do it because I see it as an opportunity to increase my personal equity, and I get some satisfaction from being helpful/informative. While it isn't necessarily a deal breaker, I consider this an important factor in my job satisfaction and would be discouraged by a restrictive social media policy.

I voted 'Anything" because the question says "What should employees..". I think they should be free to say whatever they want, but we all know that is not the case. Meaning technically you can say what you want, but you may also lose your job because of what you say.

Employee's can post whatever they like. However, employees should never confuse the freedom to post whatever their opinion of the day is with "protection from consequence" as a result of a public post.

That seems to be where many employees get confused. Yes, you can post whatever you like. Yes, there could be consequences as a result of your post (either positive or negative). Yes, you choose whether you keep your job or if your actions dictate your termination.

Likewise, you impact your future employ-ability based on the general public's / hire manager's perception of your social presence. Much deeper than most realize.

Note, the manufacturer head of manufacturing, Alex Asnovich, cited in the post, has now removed all his tweets but one.

This will be a common approach going forward. Mark Cuban backs Xpire, which essentially deletes your posts automatically. What's the point in leaving a long digital trail anyway?

Jesse, good feedback. Thanks. I was not aware of Xpire.

Related, this NY Times video embedded below explains how to use that app as well as other options:

Undisclosed is the only option. It would be interesting to see who is actually saying what for comedic purposes only.

When hiring talent, I make sure I do my own due diligence, and this includes everything I can find on line that the candidate put their name to. In the end, I will hire the best qualified candidate - who scares me the least.

I had a big argument about this with a much younger/mpore-hip-than-I employee, who felt this was "prying into the candidate's personal life."

Yep. That's exactly it.

If I find nothing but helpful well-reasoned comments on a site such as IPVM? Awesome for them - they're proving that they know their stuff and are willing to share it: I value this sort of interaction very highly.

If instead I find a lot of vitriol, trash-talking of customers, fellow employees, and/or former employers? My decision becomes easy.

If it's on line, it's fair game.

I saw this string months ago and haven't commented prior to this post.

Disclaimer; RE: Disclaimer: My twitter account contains the very same one that is mentioned in the OP.

With that said, I don't use this disclaimer as some kind of shield from being fired by my employer for uttering potentially offensive things... instead, I use the small amount of common sense that I possess to not post offensive things that would lead someone above me in the corporate food chain to consider firing me - if only to protect the brand/company from potential damage which could ensue based on my public words.

The primary position driver here, imo, is whether or not you are a sole operator vs being part of a team. Sole operators can say whatever they want to say and the fallout falls entirely on them and theirs. When you are a part of a team, the dynamic is - and should be recognized as - different.

I am a US citizen protected by the Constitution. But I am also an employee of a company - and a part of a team. When I engage publicly - on any topic - I understand that even though I have a constitutional right to free speech, this right does not shield me from the responsibility I possess to protect my employer (team) from any fallout caused by the words I utter publicly.

Finally, I want to thank John (and his team) for allowing us all to utilize the Undisclosed posting function. As an IPVM OG who has an opinion on lots of things, I take liberal use of this feature that allows me to engage constructively without having to worry about the need to protect from the above-mentioned potential dangers to my team.

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