This is a guest post written by Sabrina of

What a person does online makes a digital footprint, like a trail of all their activity that can be lead right back to them. But there’s a lot of debate whether it’s fair for employers to take this into account when evaluating employees.

Sure, if you post negative, inappropriate things about you place of work on a public blog or Facebook, there will probably be consequences. This conversation isn’t about those cases, which a lot of the time, are cut and dry.

This is more about employers looking into people’s digital footprint that is unrelated to work.

This includes any piece of information that is left on social media such as a tweet, a status update, an Instagram post, uploaded pictures, website comments, blog posts, and more. These all contribute to a person’s online presence.

Whether a person’s online presence is positive or negative, most of the time, is determined by that individual. You are not the only one who can alter your online presence, but, unless you’re a celebrity or something along those lines, you will be producing most of your own traceable mentions.

Once something is posted online, it can be there forever. When it is a positive thing, it can be ok, but when it is not, it can be disastrous and have very negative effects on many aspects of your life. That can also include your job.

A person’s online presence is often the first impression that someone will get of you, and that’s what might concern employers.

In the business world, a lot of weight is put into reputation.

Anyone can simply go on Google, type in any name, and learn a lot about a person and his or her life.

Many workplaces use this as a tool in the hiring process. In fact, about 80 percent of job recruiters are required to search candidates. They use this as a determining factor in whether they will hire someone or not.

But what about once you’re already part of the team? Do they still have the right to make decisions about your job over what they can find about you online?

From one side of the debate, it is understandable.

Having employees that work for a company with a bad reputation can be embarrassing for a business if they are posting material publicly that directly counters a company’s values. This can even cause a business to come into legal trouble for their workers’ actions.

The monitoring can be viewed as a way of preemptive protection.

If an employer can find this information about one of its employees, so can a client and so can other business associates. People get curious. They may search the people they interact with professionally to find out more about them.

People may even connect on purpose. It’s not up to an employer to manage a person’s online reputation completely, but it’s definitely a good idea to have guidelines in place and communicate them clearly.

As long as employers don’t overstep this boundary and make big decisions about hirings, layoffs, raises, and the like based on frivolous social media posts, it’s easy to make an argument for monitoring.

But from the other side, employees need to be trusted.

Employees might wonder how monitoring social media really protects a company.

Some argue that illegal things would never be posted by employers on social media to begin with. If they do something illegal or offensive, why would they bring it to social media?

Most people would keep that quiet and to themselves. The people on this side of the debate team also feel that when employees know they are being watched, they will refrain from posting any negative content or stuff that can get them in trouble. This makes social media monitoring for employees an inadequate process and an unnecessary waste of time.

The two different perspectives both have validity.

There is no doubt that businesses have a right to expect positive and appropriate social media etiquette.

But there is a vast difference between trusting and having good judgement and hovering over someone’s social media account, and taking a look into their personal lives. It’s one thing if employees are using social media at work. About 28 percent of employers report firing someone because of using the internet for non-work activity.

But it’s a different beast when employers are monitoring social media at all times.

This can lead to issues, like a sense of mistrust in the employer-employee relationship. Some would argue that people need freedom, and the knowledge that their employers respect them to make responsible decisions with their online presence.

Letting employer’s live their own personal lives without any disruptions can be a smart move for businesses. This will create a good relationship between an employer and employee and develop some trust between the two.

In the long run, it may even help to boost productivity in the workplace and create a better environment for everyone. Employees will feel less of a Big Brother vibe, and more of a normal, appropriate work relationship.

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