Sunday, November 24, 2019

What you put online is fair game for employer to dissect

When students register for a writing class I teach, I typically set up a Google alert for their name. I'm not trying to be alerted to any misdeeds or glories; I simply like to keep up with their writing.

Often students alert me when a piece is published or posted, but just as often, after they've moved on from my class, graduate and get on with their careers, they don't. I do look to see if any of the work we've done in class has transferred over into their online work, but mostly, I simply enjoy reading what they have to write.

Google alerts doesn't capture every instance of a former student posting an article, but the technological assist helps me keep up with their work. I also use technology to learn more about my students when they register for a class with me. They each fill out a one-page survey about, among other things, what they read and what they might have written. If they list a prior publication, I try to look it up and read it.

While I don't always announce to classes that I do this, I make no secret of it and I see it as part of the research I do in preparation for current and future classes. Some pieces from former students make it into the assigned readings for future classes.

Working with students continues to be the best part of my job.

I raise all of this because I continue to be surprised when readers seemed shocked that a prospective employer or someone else discovers something about them online that they hadn't made a point of disclosing. If someone maintains a public Twitter account, which anyone with a Twitter account can see, for example, they should not be surprised if racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic or other hateful Tweets they make get called out.

A fellow employee has every right to raise concern about a colleague's hateful speech. We do have a right to free speech, but we do not have the right to be hired by someone who finds such speech inappropriate and likely to lead to a hostile work environment.

Access to online information about each of us also makes it far more likely that any fabrications we might have made about our past to secure gainful employment or simply higher regard from others will be uncovered.

It's not a heavy lift to discover if someone claiming to have earned an MBA from an Ivy League school actually spent several days on campus to earn a non-degree certificate of completion. Nevertheless, some employers still don't bother to double-check a candidate's stated credentials before hiring them. Even if a fabricated degree isn't necessary for a particular job, lying on a resume speaks to the integrity of the candidate.

I recognize that leaving my own footprint online leaves my past open to discovery by students, readers and others. My proclivity for collecting restaurant butter knives is not my proudest moment, but it's out there.

When it comes to our expectations about online information, the right thing is to be fair and respectful about how we use it when it comes to others and to own that our past behavior can define how we are perceived in the future. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

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Sunday, November 17, 2019

Should restaurant owner track down person who left negative review?

A reader we're calling Millie wasn't about to let a reservation miscue nor a soggy pizza get in the way of a long-anticipated night out with a half-dozen friends she hadn't seen for a while. "We had a good time," Millie writes.

But the night didn't start off well. One of her friends had made and confirmed a reservation at the agreed-upon restaurant, but when they arrived, the hostess informed them that the restaurant didn't take reservations. The estimated time for a table was about 15 minutes, they were told. There was no bar for them to wait so they milled about near the entrance to the restaurant. Finally, 30 minutes later, they were seated.

And they waited some more. The server arrived to take their orders and Millie and two friends decided to share what was described as an artisanal brick-oven pizza with a mozzarella and basil topping. They and their friends placed their orders.

Twenty minutes later their dinners arrived. When Millie lifted her first piece of pizza, the bottom crust was soggy and, as a result, chewy. Millie didn't finish the pizza, but she enjoyed the time with her friends.

When she got home that evening, Millie decided to leave a review of the restaurant and recount her experience on Yelp. Millie commented on the reservation miscue, that her pizza was soggy, but that some of her friends enjoyed what they had ordered.

The next day Millie got a call from the friend who had tried to make the reservation letting her know that the restaurant owner had called her and asked if he could speak to the person who left the review. Apparently, even though the restaurant doesn't take reservations, he had looked up the number of the person who had made the reservation and called her. After Millie gave the go-ahead to give him her phone number, he called.

"He asked me why I hadn't asked for a new pizza if the one I had was bad," writes Millie. He went on to tell her how important online reviews were to him, but he continued to tell her that she was wrong to not have said anything if her food didn't meet her expectations.

"He was telling me it was my fault for not saying anything while I was at the restaurant," writes Millie. Millie writes that she occasionally has sent back food at restaurants, but that she chose not to this night because she didn't want the evening with friends to be more disrupted than it already was.

"Was it wrong to post a mixed review when I didn't say anything to the server?"

Millie did the right thing by posting what was good and bad about the meal. She had no obligation to send the meal back or to ask for a refund. The restaurant owner could have responded directly to the Yelp review if he had an issue with it. That he hunted Millie down to berate her for not speaking up was wrong.

Millie writes that he ended their conversation by telling her that she should come in again so she can try another pizza. Given her prior experience and his call, she prefers not to do so. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

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