Sunday, December 31, 2017

Should 'friends' caution 'friends' about social media posts?



A couple of years ago, Arnie was friended on Facebook by Libby, a colleague at work. They knew one another at work and shared a boss, but had never worked on the same project, and never socialized outside of work. Still, Arnie had accepted Libby's friend invitation and regularly perused her posts about her family when they showed up on his Facebook feed.

Some of Arnie's Facebook friends were acquaintances like Libby. Others were actual friends or family members. Arnie was cautious not to overshare on social media, partly because he wasn't much of an oversharer, but also because he didn't want anything to come back to haunt him in the future.

On his setup page, Arnie had chosen to only allow other friends to see whatever it was he posted rather than to make his page and postings open to the entire Facebook world and the public. He noticed that Libby had also chosen only to allow her friends to see the links she posted.

Recently, as Arnie was scrolling through his Facebook feed on his train-ride home, he took note of a posting by Libby in which she excoriated their mutual boss, suggested the boss was tyrannical, hyper-critica, and unfair. Libby never named the boss, but since she and Arnie shared the same boss, he knew who she was referring in her post.

While he figured it was unlikely, Arnie clicked on Libby's friends list to see if their mutual boss was among her Facebook friends. The boss wasn't. But Arnie did notice that there were a few other colleagues among her many Facebook friends.

Since Libby had set her postings so only her friends could read them, it was unlikely that their boss would see her post, unless someone copied it and forwarded it along. Arnie was not inclined to do this, but since Libby listed her place of work on her page and some of her Facebook friends also worked with her, he knew it would be relatively simple for many people to know whom it was she was referring to in her post.

"I'm not inclined to report her post to the boss or to work," Arnie writes, particularly since Libby didn't suggest the boss had done anything illegal or inappropriate (unless, of course, you consider being an overbearing boss inappropriate). But he wonders if he should send a note or say something to Libby to remind her that her post might find its way back to the boss, even if she didn't want it to.

Arnie is not obligated to remind Libby that she might be opening herself into a whirlwind of trouble with her post. The right thing would be for Libby to make responsible choices about what she posts and to recognize that her words could go far beyond her intended audience. If Arnie wants to remind Libby of this, then it would be kind for him to do so. But the ultimate responsibility lies with Libby to make smart choices about her social media postings and to be willing to suffer whatever consequences ensue. 

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, December 24, 2017

Can I use someone else's design for my remodel?



Larry and Dianne have wanted to remodel the master bathroom in their house for some time. Partly, they hoped to knock down a wall, install a larger shower, and expand the vanity so it could accommodate two sinks. But they also believed that the remodel would result in some mold issues they had discovered shortly after buying their house. So their desire was for comfort and cosmetic appeal, but also based on a healthier environment.

After meeting with several prospective contractors, they settled on one they liked. He had done some work for them earlier and, while they had some issues with how long it took him to follow through on finishing touches, they liked the quality of his work quite a bit. He drew up some design plans and presented Larry and Dianne with a cost estimate. All in all, they were pleased with the look and the price.

That was two years ago. Right after getting the plans, a storm uprooted several full-grown trees in Larry and Dianne's yard, which resulted in some unexpected costs for removal and then planting of new mature trees to replace the trees destroyed in the storm. Because of the cost, they put the master bathroom remodel on hold.

But now, they are ready to move forward. They dug out the plans and called the contractor to see if they could schedule the work. After waiting a few weeks for a response, they finally got a call from the contractor letting them know that he was solidly booked with large projects and would not be able to even consider their project for a year.

Larry and Dianne want to do the remodel now, however. So they plan to find a contractor who can take on the project. Nevertheless, they loved the design plans that the prospective contractor had given them and hope to use them on the new project.

"He hadn't charged us for the plans or anything," writes Larry. "Would it be wrong to just hand the plans over to a new contractor and tell them that's what we want done?"

While Larry and Dianne might be able to find a contractor who would agree to follow the plans drawn by their original contractor, the drawings still represent the work done in good faith by him. It's one thing to ask a contractor to come up with plans after looking at a few other bathroom designs Larry and Dianne liked in magazine photos or even in friends' homes, quite another to take the work done by someone else and use it as his or her own.

Even if it's unlikely the old contractor would ever discover that it was his plans that were being used, Larry and Dianne would still know. The right thing to do is to simply ask the original contractor for permission to use his plans. It's unlikely he'll be using these plans for future work, so the chances are that he'd be agreeable. If not, then Larry and Dianne should start from scratch with a new contractor. They'd rest easier at night knowing they did so, and they even might be surprised and pleased with what a new contractor designed. 

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.

"Everyone is doing it" is no basis for doing it yourself

Years ago, after I had left my job as a magazine editor and took a significant cut in pay to become an assistant professor at a liberal ...