Speaking your mind can hurt your business. Here’s how to build, not burn, bridges.
We are living through extraordinary times and sometimes we have extraordinary reactions to the events swirling around us. I sure do. If you are my Facebook friend, you know where I stand, based on my posts and shares. But during client interactions, I have to remember to put a sock in it, as there can be consequences to my freely flowing speech.
We’ve all heard about people who post controversial comments on Twitter or Facebook, only to be reported to their employers and subsequently suspended or fired. Then there’s the red-sweatered cautionary tale Ken Bone, who became a brief internet sensation after asking a question at the second presidential debate. Eagle-eyed Reddit users rummaged through his past comments, only to find unsavory and offensive remarks. I don’t know if he got any blowback at his job, but he became a laughingstock online.
You may not get fired for speaking your mind, but your reputation and brand can be tarnished. Here are a few guidelines for protecting your career while exercising your right to free speech.
Don’t post anything you can’t say out loud to a co-worker in the office. Always stop and think about this before hitting “enter.”
You don’t get a pass if you retweet something. You are promoting and cosigning a message, even if it didn’t originate with you.
Separate out your professional social media presence from your personal. Check that your Facebook privacy settings are limited to a close circle of friends and family. Opt for professional over personal posts on LinkedIn. If you blog, tweet or participate on message boards, use an anonymous handle and email.
Taking a strong position invites responses. Some comments might be untrue, which can register on your client’s or boss’s radar, which means you might have to beat back alternative facts.
Channel your opinions into editorials or thought pieces. Outlets like medium.com — not to mention the editorial page of newspapers like The Seattle Times — allow people to publish articles with a strong point of view. Writing an op-ed forces you to support your position in a way that invites respectful debate, not antagonism.
Protect your company or client. What you say reflects on the company for which you work. Do you want your opinionated tweet to not only come back to haunt you, but your business/client as well?
Deeply held beliefs are the stuff of life. If you believe it necessary to express your opinions, seek out clients and companies that align with your views. Live your truth but work with discretion.