A reader writes:
I'm a fan of twitter and have recently started a departmental twitter feed for my branch library. I'm encouraging my student staff to come up with ideas for posts, and they've been very enthusiastic.
However, one of them sent a tweet from his personal twitter account, while he was at work, which talked in a disparaging way about another department.
I approached him and asked him not to say negative things about our workplace and fellow staff on a public account, or if he wanted to, not to mention any specifics that would link it to our library. He is 19 or 20, and though he said he would refrain, I don't think he got the picture.
How can I say this without sounding like I'm snooping, but let them know it's not appropriate? I don't want to say "no tweeting at work," but I also don't want the privilege taken away from myself too, when the higher-ups see negative tweets from workers during working hours.
As his account is public, has his picture, and he mentioned both departments by their proper names, it seemed in poor taste, especially since he tweeted it during his shift. It seems akin to someone complaining about work on facebook, while at work, when you're friends with your boss.
I'd just be straightforward. Tell him, "I know this is your personal Twitter account, but the fact is that you're connected on it to many people at work. Sending out a message that disparages another employee isn't okay, just like it wouldn't be okay if you printed up a flyer about him and passed it out in the parking lot. Just because it's your personal account doesn't mean that it doesn't have ramifications or affect the way you'll be perceived."
You'd also be doing him a favor to spell out for him that this stuff isn't private, now or in the future. If he's job-searching and a prospective employer searches for him and pulls up his twitter page, it's not going to look good to have posts like that there. As many others before me have observed, this generation is so comfortable with social media and so used to living their lives on it that they don't always understand the need to censor themselves in public spaces where they might be observed and judged by people they want something from (like a job, professional respect, etc.).