The title to this blog appears, in one way or another, in the bio section of an alarming amount of profiles across the social web. You may have hardly noticed it or possibly just taken it for granted but it’s very illustrative of the current state of play in the relationship between society, work and social media. The times certainly are changing in terms of how people define their selves, in the last few years it has become more acceptable to exist in a more open and consistent way and people also seem to genuinely feel that, whilst their jobs may not define what they are, what they do forms a fairly large chunk of who they are. And, in one sense at least, why shouldn’t people feel like this? They have more than likely got a decent degree in doing what they do and have probably done their time at the whims of a nightmare boss for a few years too, by any measure they have won their stripes.
One of my most popular ‘off the peg’ group sessions is around defining the boundaries between you, that is “you” the person, and the professional you. I use the “These views are my own” line as an example of how one may choose to successfully negotiate this boundary friction but, if I’m really honest, I’m not altogether too sure it does.
I guess the nub of the matter here isn’t the people whose profiles contain this disclaimer text but rather the companies that they work for and just how risk averse they are. I’m not entirely clear who would misconstrue a Tweet from somebody’s clearly personal account but, as the legal world moves at a snail’s pace, one could probably make a fairly decent case that it could constitute an official statement if your lawyers really tried. The ‘views are my own’ clause seems to protect the company more than the individual though. In the advent of a controversial status update, the company would still be able to reprimand their employee whether they had applied the disclaimer or not, and perhaps you might say rightly so too.
So what’s to gain from including this statement in a profile? My feeling is not much really, gestural insulation aside it’s still the same person associated with the same company. My own personal rule of thumb is that if you mention your employers on your profile you are signing up to the attendant risks and benefits of doing so, with or without a disclaimer you are creating that association for good or ill. If you want to be free to tweet, update or blog what you want then keep your profile brand neutral and if you want to be associated with your company then you are signing up to their code of conduct, no matter how different it is to yours. No matter how well or poorly defined your company social media strategy may be it is down to you to negotiate the risks of your actions and ultimately, as with anything else in life, it’s about taking responsibility for your own course of action.
As ever, I would love to hear your thoughts.