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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Is it wrong to look up old flame's social media accounts?



Social media can be a great way to stay in touch or reconnect with friends and family, get a heads up on a news item you might have missed, be alerted to a job opportunity, find out about a yard sale a few towns away, or generally keep up with things you might not have kept up with otherwise. Social media can also become a huge time suck, a too-easy outlet for anger and resentment posted at others, and sometimes a source of problems for users that otherwise would never have arisen.

Recently, M.N., was killing time by searching around several social media sites to see if he could locate old classmates or friends. His searching led him to start scanning the friends and followers lists of some people he had already been following on Facebook and Twitter. M.N. admits that he spent far longer than he'd planned at this exercise, but he was surprised when he came across a long-lost high school girlfriend, G.V., on each site.

The relationship hadn't ended particularly well a couple of decades earlier when they were completing their senior year together. After each of them went off to college, M.N.'s family moved away from his hometown, so he had few opportunities to run into his former girlfriend.

Apparently, based on what M.N. found in his searching, G.V. had married, changed her last name, had a family, and stayed pretty close to their hometown. M.N. had moved several states away and had a family of his own.

M.N. recognized G.V. in the photos she'd posted. Once he'd learned her new last name, he found himself compelled to search for her on other social media sites. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, he checked out her Instagram feed.

"I really got caught up in this," writes M.N. "I spent way more time looking around online trying to find out what she'd been up to all these years."

M.N. says he has no desire to or intention of contacting G.V. But now he wonders if he crossed a line by spending quite a bit of time checking out her social media pages without her knowledge.

While it might be a bit voyeuristic to check out old friends' social media sites, it's not unusual or necessarily creepy to look up an old relationship from time to time. As long as that curiosity does not turn into an unhealthy obsession or stalking, there's no line crossed.

On most social media sites, the user can choose to create settings so that the general public cannot view his or her information. G.V. had posted information on her various sites that was open for public viewing. People like M.N., who once knew her, could view it, and so could people she never met. The right thing for those who would like to limit access to their information to a group of people they know is for them to set up their privacy preferences accordingly.

The right thing for M.N. to do is to ask himself if searching out information on someone he hasn't seen in decades is the best use of his time. He might consider reading a good book instead. 

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a senior lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of www.jeffreyseglin.com, a blog focused on ethical issues. 

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@comcast.net. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

(c) 2017 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Do I tell job-seeking friend that my company is in trouble?



A couple of weeks ago, L.A. and her colleagues at work received an email letting them know that a division of their company was going to be shut down and its function would be outsourced to an outside agency. The email informed them that every effort would be made to find those who worked in the division other positions at the company, but that it was likely that some layoffs would result from the move.

The email didn't surprise L.A. For several months, there had been signs that the company was in a bit of trouble. Employees choosing to leave, promotions on hold, projects delayed, and other clear indications all suggested the business was having trouble. The outsourcing in an effort to save money was simply the latest indication that her company's best days were behind it.

In the midst of the most recent news, L.A. has heard from an old friend who had applied for a job at L.A.'s company. Even though the company was laying off employees from some divisions, it continued to try to keep enough of a staff to meet its obligations to customers. L.A.'s old friend was hoping to fill one of the open slots.

Knowing that L.A. worked there, her friend emailed to ask her if they could meet to talk about the company and what it was like to work there. This request, writes L.A., puts her in a bit of a pickle. She likes her job and the work she does, but she also feels like she should be honest with her friend if she asks about the company's health.

"How much loyalty do you owe your employer if you know a friend is looking there for a job and all signs at your place of employment point to it going under?" writes L.A.

L.A. is right to be concerned. The evidence she's witnessed suggests that her company is struggling and long-term job security could be an issue, not just for her friend, but for her as well. On the other hand, L.A. doesn't want to tell her friend anything based on office gossip.

If L.A.'s friend asks her about her job and whether she likes the work she does, the right thing is to tell her she does indeed enjoy both. She should freely describe what the work days are like, what it's like to work with colleagues and customers, and what the positive and negative aspects of her work life have entailed.

But when the friend asks about the company, the right thing is to level with her and tell her what she knows to be true about recent layoffs and any other concrete indications that the company could be going through a bumpy phase. L.A. shouldn't violate any nondisclosure agreements she may have signed, but she shouldn't hesitate to give her friend as full and as accurate a picture of what she might be getting herself into.

It's up to L.A.'s friend to gather as much information about the company as she contemplates working there. Armed with that information, her friend can decide for herself whether to pursue the position.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of www.jeffreyseglin.com, a blog focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@comcast.net.

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin

(c) 2017 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.