MySpace vs. WorkPlace

Today's Boston Globe has a great article about MySpace in the working world ("MySpace vs. WorkPlace"). In part:

Montibello, the marketing manager at a Newton-based consulting firm, was screening job candidates last year when an application came in from a recent college graduate. As she prepared to set up an interview with the applicant, one of her younger co - workers asked a fateful question: "Did you check out her MySpace page?"

Montibello did so, and there on the applicant's public profile she found what she calls "all kinds of compromising photos," including one of her applicant Jell-O -wrestling. Still, that "wasn't necessarily an issue" to Montibello or her boss. "The real issue came when my boss was interviewing her and mentioned it, and the person was like 'Oh, yeah, it was so funny,' and was so cavalier about it, instead of being responsible," she says.

They ultimately hired someone else.

Contrast that with a reaction from a twenty-something interviewed in the article:

"Whatever I do outside or after work shouldn't be brought up against my work review," contends Lydia Fabiano, 23, of Braintree, who has a MySpace page she allows co - workers to see. "Just about every person has their own thing that they do outside of work. As long as it doesn't hinder your work performance, it should be two separate things. Whatever I do at 10 o'clock on a Saturday night shouldn't matter at all to my boss."

OK, but unless you're Lindsay Lohan, the whole world isn't going to know what you were doing at 10 o'clock on a Saturday night unless you tell everybody. Twenty-somethings are like their very own paparazzi documenting all their substance-fueled benders and fashion faux pas, and then they turn around complain about the invasion of their privacy. Weird.

I come down firmly on the side of employers here. As I put it to a reporter a while back, posting something on a public website is like parading naked down Main Street. You can do that, but then don't blame other people when they stare and gawk and decide you have poor judgment. And as I wrote in my "Say Everything" posting:

Whether as a matter of fairness or just practicality, you don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy when you post things online for anyone with a web browser to see. To employers, how you behave online says a lot about you: your judgment, your discretion, your maturity. When they are interviewing you for a job, they are evaluating, among other things, what kind of ambassador you're going to be for that organization to the outside world. If they find you, say, trash-talking your current employer, or posting embarrassing pictures about your employer, or making fun of your boss's behavior at the company Christmas party, or writing about your sexual exploits with Very Important People and Not So Important People (who can forget Peter Chung?), or threatening your colleagues, or sharing your provocative photos, they'd be crazy *not* to wonder whether they want you working for them.

Or take #11 in my Memo to Corporate America:

Assume they're venting about you online. They think nothing of complaining about work to the whole world on MySpace or their blogs and will happily use company email to complain about you, the company, the office refrigerator, and the idiot in the next cubicle. You may be surprised to discover what they are saying online, and you'll likely have to have a conversation about the propriety of venting in public and using company resources to do so.

Sure, people older than 24 do stupid things too -- not necessarily on MySpace, but often with corporate email. (See here, here, here, and here.) In our electronic lives, we don't necessarily get smarter with age.

And "old" people know how to use "the internets" too. From the article:

Take the case of Dana Schaeffer of Burlington. When she started a new job a year ago, Schaeffer, now 42, required training from two co - workers who were in their 20s. At home one night about two weeks after she started the job, she was on her own MySpace page when, she recalls, she thought to herself: "Hmm, I wonder in anybody in my office has it. They seem like a pretty techno-savvy place." So she typed in the name of one co - worker, checked out his MySpace page, then typed in the name of another, and went to that page . . . and was stopped cold. There was a vituperative message about her, directed to a co - worker. She went to that person's page, and found an even more vicious reply to the original message.

It was devastating for Schaeffer. "They went back and forth on how much they couldn't stand working with me," she says. "I was absolutely, absolutely horrified. It was very hurtful."

She said nothing to her co - workers, and still hasn't. But in hindsight, Schaeffer has figured out what she should have said to them -- and they are words that could stand as a mantra for the modern workplace: "I have a MySpace page, and I know you do too."

Bottom line: You owe it to yourself not to blow that huge investment you made in your college education and your future career prospects with careless postings.