I Just Work Here
Got an office gripe? Get it off your chest
You asked, we answered: A good social media policy, an out-of-office message that isn't lame and more
How do you get your slobby co-worker to clean up his or her desk? (Tribune file photo)
Certainly there are good jobs and there are even enjoyable workdays, but rare are the times when a working person can say they wouldn't rather be doing something else. Like watching satellite television.
Alas, we are doomed to earn our keep, so consider it my job from now on to help improve your workplace experience. Send me questions about office issues big and small: job-search problems, irritating co-workers, when it's appropriate to challenge your boss or subordinate to a fistfight.
I'll find answers, empathize with your workaday woes and poke fun at the inevitable failings of any office inhabited by human beings.
And I'll offer advice of my own, which you would be wise to ignore.
After all, what do I know? I just work here.
Q: I am currently writing a social media policy that would pretty much make it impossible for me to continue tweeting the kind of things I do. I have worked diligently to build the number of followers I have. I do not want to start a new Twitter account, but I want to write a decent social media policy for the health care company for which I work. How should I proceed?
— Dave in Alaska, via email
A: Well, Dave, I'm of the mind that people should be allowed to do as they please on their social media sites, providing, of course, that they don't do anything stupid. And there's the rub.
We tend to be wildly fallible creatures, and sites like Twitter and Facebook are like mythological sirens, seducing us to type things we'll later regret. Companies have to find ways to balance employees' free speech rights with concerns over their own reputations or brand names.
But Michael Zimmer, a law professor at Loyola University Chicago and an expert on employment law, said that's no easy trick.
"Companies are in a tough squeeze at the moment," Zimmer said. "Everything is moving so fast and the law isn't clear."
A Connecticut woman fired from her job as an ambulance driver after calling her boss a "scumbag" on Facebook recently had her federal labor lawsuit settled before it went to a hearing. The ambulance company wound up agreeing to change its policy, which restricted employees from discussing work when they're not on the clock.
That was a high-profile case, one that will make it hard for companies to specifically outlaw work chatter on social media. So Dave, you have your work cut out for you.
Zimmer suggested keeping the policy positive: "You want to say to people, 'Remember, you're an employee of company X and we want the best possible public image that we can have. So when you're engaging in social media that could be attributable to our company, just remember that we're all on the same team.'"
Zimmer added: "If you start cracking back on them, some people will just say, 'Well, to hell with you.'"
And they could well get away with saying that, since the law remains so unclear.
The takeaway here is that whatever social media policy you write shouldn't hamper the work you've done building up a Twitter following. Just try to avoid tweeting when angry. Or drunk. Or tired. Or … well, let's just be careful out there, OK?
Q: How much detail should my out-of-office reply have? Somewhere between "kiss off" and "investing retirement fund on red 3"?