I want to reproduce a recent letter which I found very valuable.
I wrote something not so flattering about a co-worker on my Twitter page, and she found out about it after someone on my friend list showed it to an acquaintance of hers. The co-worker went to human resources and complained that I was talking about her on Twitter. Because I tweeted on my own personal time, the only thing H.R. could suggest was to be careful about who my friends are on Twitter. So I deleted friends of friends who know the co-worker. My page is marked “private,” so only the people I have chosen as friends can see my entries. Now the co-worker I talked about has made other co-workers give me the cold shoulder. All these women are over 40 and are acting like 5-year-olds. Can you suggest some options for dealing with such a hostile environment? I love my job. so I don’t want to look for work elsewhere.
Dear Cold Shoulder,
Your adventure shows that social networking really works. When you throw out a piece of information juicier than what you had for dinner last night, it travels the network in ways you can’t control. I know everyone is now compelled to make visible each passing thought, but you might want to give a passing thought to the purpose of your tweets. Sure, we’ve all had the experience of sending an embarrassing e-mail to the wrong person or finding out an e-mail has unfortunately been forwarded. But when you write an e-mail to one friend, there’s an assumption that it’s not for mass dissemination. Twittering is about spreading your thoughts far and wide. You’ve also just gotten a good lesson in how well privacy settings on social networking sites protect you from yourself. As for your office relationships, let’s agree that both you and the woman you disparaged have behaved in a juvenile fashion. But, as they say on the playground, you started it. So own up to what you did—sit down with you co-worker, and tell her you behaved like a jerk. Say you are truly sorry for your ill-considered, hurtful remark and that you hope she’ll accept your apology. And be glad that given Twitter’s limitations, your disparaging comments were blessedly brief.