These views are my own…

Employees = kids
Employees = Kids

…and do not represent that of my employer.

This line shouldn’t exist.

Read this. (It’s Seth Godin) Back? (or did you cheat?) So your employees are supposed to identify with your brand and represent it well.  I think we can agree on that.

Now let’s look at it from another angle.  Your employee identifies with your brand, wants to personally represent your brand, but you distance yourself from them?

What kind of mixed message are brands sending when they want employees to be themselves, but only when they’re not representing the brand?

So, be transparent. honest. us. honest and transparent only when it’s good for our brand.  If you write something controversial, then we have NOTHING to do with it.

I realize there are legal liabilities, but like I’ve said before, just because a system allows and requires it, doesn’t make it right.

If a brand wants its employees to identify with it’s beliefs, shouldn’t the brand also identify with the beliefs of its employees?  Shouldn’t they encourage and support their employee’s voice?

EDIT: I’m not saying that the brand should agree with the opinions of every employee.  However, they should absolutely recognize the fact that their employees have their own opinions, and support their right to express them, rather than try to censor, or distance themselves self from them.

Photo cred: Marc DiVall

22 thoughts on “These views are my own…

  1. This is really interesting, David. I can’t help but think how many working parts there are inside a company, though. Too many for the company to be able to stand behind each one, especially since each part likely has a different role to perform.

    Get away from what they should do. It’s what they can afford to do (that’s what a business is all about anyway, right?).

    If a company were able to afford to stand behind the beliefs of all of its employees individually, then all of those workers would have to agree with each other on everything, personally, religiously, politically… everything. That’s impossible.

    1. Good point. Let me try to rephrase.

      The company doesn’t have to support their specific opinion, but they should absolutely support the fact that their employees have their own opinion. Support their right to think for themselves, rather than trying to make it look like they have nothing to do with it.

  2. David,

    I think this is another issue, like your post on resumes, where something SHOULDN’T be the case, but it is and probably will continue to be.

    It’s a way for companies to cover their behinds if an employee’s opinion goes, um, off the deep end.

    The problem, I think, happens when an employee is tweeting/blogging/communicating great things, gaining a large following, and becoming a social media rockstar. Then the company can point to this employee as an asset to their business. But, when the employee says something the company doesn’t agree with, the company can put their hands up and say, “It’s not us, it’s him/her!” and the employee can say, “Well, I said my views don’t represent yours, so I’m in the clear, too!”

    OK, I think I’m babbling now, but I hope you understand. It’s a way for companies (and employees, too) to cover themselves.

    Tom O’Keefe
    @tomokeefe1

    1. I agree, and I realize that. I’m questioning whether or not that’s acceptable/moral. Is it fair to only take credit when it’s good and to be void of all credit when it’s bad?

      Just seems like a corrupt mentality to me…

      There were a lot of things that people said wouldn’t change…and then somehow, they did.

  3. There was a time when your time spent at work was “Work Time” and time not at work was “Personal Time.” What was done on work time reflected on the company, brand, etc. What was done on your personal time was a reflection on yourself.

    However, with the rise of social media, the end of a pure 9-5 work day, and the ease of expressing your thoughts/feelings/ideas much easier, there is now a blur between what is work time and what is personal time. Everything overlaps, and that is where the confusion comes in to play.

    Your personal time is now your personal brand, which coincides with your work time and your corporate brand. Which is why employers need to treat employees like children, because the entire playing area is gray, there is no line anymore.

    1. Truth. Also, now that “personal brands” are becoming so powerful, brands want to leverage the stronger personal brands of some of their employees to benefit their corporate brand. This integration has definitely created a gray area.

      That’s why I’m drawing a line…blurry as it may be, you can’t be on both sides. Either support your employees’ voice, or don’t.

      1. That is what I was getting to. Since there no longer is a division between corporate brands and personal brands, companies need to establish a social media policy in case of any liability issues.

        With out a policy, personal thoughts can be misconstrued as corporate thoughts which could end up in litigation.

        I am also sure that the culture to sue first and ask questions later does not help!

  4. I think it’s key that we distinguish the term support from respect.

    Employers need to respect the employees beliefs and opinions, but they don’t need to support them. Like you mentioned, there are legal and image issues involved.

    @kmskala

    1. Is it respectful to distance yourself from your employees? Is it respectful to ask them to support your brand, but if they have any views that are contrary to your image, you alienate them?

      We do have to distinguish between support and respect.

      As I said in the edit, I’m not saying you have to agree with their opinion, but you should support their right to have one AS AN EMPLOYEE of your brand.

  5. The confusion lies in the definition of support. For me, the word respect means you allow them to follow/practice all their beliefs regardless of your personal or corporate opinion.

    Support – in my opinion – such as sponsoring events, holding conferences for such beliefs is not the responsibility of the employer. By all means, make the resources available, but the business does not need to put its name along side.

    1. Maybe my problem with “that line” is that it doesn’t really do anything.

      It’s obvious that your beliefs are your beliefs. Unless you specifically state that this is a view of your company’s brand, there should be no reason to believe it is.

      I think the reason people do this is because brands make them afraid to represent them. An employee should be proud to represent their brand, not afraid of it.

  6. I think we need to distinguish first if the person serves as a spokesperson for the company – in an official role.

    For example, I am more often than not referred to as “Mensa spokesperson Lauren Fernandez.” There can be a cloudiness when people read my personal blog.

    This was not an issue for me until a post where someone attacked me and my company personally. They put “I can’t believe a Mensa PR person would write something so dumb” and went off on me. That was the line. When my company is attacked because of what I write – and since I am the spokesperson – I felt the need to put that in there. This was discussed and approved by my CEO.

    Here’s the thing. I can’t hide who I work for. You google my name, and it’s everywhere. I speak with international and national on a daily basis. My views, personal or not, might have an impact on the brand. I put it up there in case they are attacked again, just because of something I as the PR person said.

    If I worked for an agency as an AAE – not so much. I wouldn’t put it there. Since my official role is the face of the organization, I felt the need.

    1. Very good point Lauren.

      So looking at it from a spokesperson angle, didn’t the company hire YOU to be their spokesperson because they felt that your personal brand aligns well with that of the brand? They wouldn’t hire someone to be the face of their agency that they didn’t think would represent their brand image well. Right?

      The also hired you because they know you’re smart and wouldn’t post something “dumb”. So in the situation where someone called you out, would it not be more effective for them to support you rather than distance themselves from you?

      The fact that you said “these are my own thoughts” doesn’t change the fact that you ARE a spokesperson for your brand. The things you say will inevitably reflect on your brand, so why the alienating disclosure?

  7. That’s where it gets tricky. I work for an organization that has NO opinion. We don’t side with anyone on any issue. Privately, they can support me. Publicly, no.

    That’s why the disclaimer was absolutely necessary. I think the disclaimer has to be discussed on a case basis and decided as a brand.

    And yes, I was hired because I’m quirky and bubbly – and it fits in with the brand. I don’t believe a disclaimer is distancing – there are still people who will link my name to my org, no matter what. But it’s also imperative if for some reason, I completely go off the deep end. It’s a liability issue.

    1. But you do represent your brand, and therefore your opinions do represent your brand. There’s also a distinction to be made between your opinions representing your brand and your opinions representing the opinions of your brand.

      If you have an opinion, and you work for a brand, your opinion is going to play a role in how you function for that brand so to say it has nothing to do with the brand is false.

      At the same time, that doesn’t mean that the “opinion” of your brand is represented by your opinion.

      Not sure if I’m making sense…am I?

      1. My head just kind of went around in a circle. There should be a distinction between the two – but how do you make that happen? As of right now, the best approach is a disclaimer.

        I don’t think I ever said that my opinion doesn’t change how I function for that brand. Just in case – of course it does. I run a social media campaign for a 57,000 members national organization. The Mensa brand social media wise is “LAF with a Mensa Twist” as my boss puts it. But thats WHY you put in a company bio “So and so is tweeting.”

        The reason a disclaimer is also important – I don’t want my blog to be used as the official Mensa blog. It’s not. It never will be. But as a spokesperson, it could be confused. Sure, maybe the disclaimer can change wording. Since that is the accepted standard, however – it’s what I chose to do.

        My opinion is put into both our PR and branding strategy. But I also have to take my company opinion into consideration every single day – even when I’m off the clock.

  8. Maybe it is the wording of that specific disclaimer that bugs me. I understand what you’re saying and I agree.

    The double standard that bothers me is if you posted something that would make Mensa look great, the disclaimer is no longer considered necessary.

    1. Well, they don’t give kudos if it’s great, or distance themselves if it’s bad. Back to the whole ‘no opinion’ thing. 🙂 On my guest blog posts, I write that I work for Mensa. It’s in my ‘About Me.’ Online transparency = no reason to hide it, but the blending of professional/personal is the big stickler with this.

  9. A company hires YOU to represent their brand, they don’t hire you so they can represent you. They hire you for your ability – not your beliefs or opinions. Yes, it’s vital to get a person who messes with the community, who’s strong, passionate, etc.

    Like I said, I firmly believe a company should support its staff. It should make the staff comfortable and support their interests, but it’s not a responsibility.

    It’s different for a smaller organization, but for a Fortune 500 company, it’s simply impossible. I’m a huge animal lover, so I would love my company to support the Humane Society. However, I don’t expect them to, nor should they be obligated to. Maybe they give people the option to donate through payroll contribution, maybe they allow me to put brochures in the lunchroom; but there’s no reason why I should go in with a sense of entitlement and expect them to support my beliefs simply because they employ me.

    1. Right, I agree. As I’ve altered my point in the edit: I’m not saying that the brand should agree with the opinions of every employee. However, they should absolutely recognize the fact that their employees have their own opinions, and support their right to express them, rather than try to censor, or distance themselves self from them.

      On the issue of responsibility…sure it’s not their responsibility to make the staff comfortable and support their interests. It’s also not their responsibility to give them lunch once in a while, provide coffee, to smile when they’re chatting with you, to do anything that would make your experience better as an employee…See where I’m going?

  10. People will always voice their opinions. You can’t regulate what someone is saying about the company they work for at happy hour. And you can’t regulate them online either – except confidential information obviously.

    Social media cannot be controlled, as soon as those attempt to tie it up we’ll revert to the same old 1 way channel…

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