"If they're not meeting work objectives and then there's documentation through technology, that's cause for termination," Schwab says. "It's the culminating event."
You may think that if you're going to leave the company anyway, your conduct doesn't matter. But technology immortalizes every moment, including ones you wouldn't want to revisit during a job interview. Managers may be leery of someone who resigns in a public forum such as YouTube, and no one wants to manage someone who criticized their previous boss in front of 1500 Facebook friends.
"A complainer is going to get burned," says Lou Adler, founder and CEO of The Adler Group and bestselling author of The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired and other hiring books. If he learned that an employee had complained publicly about work, Adler says, "I would ask if the evidence is legitimate, and then ask if it shows a character flaw. I would not ignore it."
Most employers still check references—and that's where chat logs and email threads can come back to haunt you. Captured complaints at one job remain part of the record and can hurt even a "golden employee" who leaves voluntarily. Moving on to greener pastures is hard when you still have manure stuck to your shoe.
"Email and chat history are often turned over to the company as company property," Schwab says. "Some of that information is useful for history or for project management. What we find is often disparaging comments, and it taints the legacy of that former employee....It makes managers less interested in providing good references."
Off the clock doesn't mean off the record
At this point, maybe you're thinking that you're smart enough not to publicly blow off steam about work, and that you clearly separate your personal life from your work one. But that "all opinions are my own, not my employer's" notice on your Twitter profile won't prevent your current or future employer from reading it. Your political views, your romantic life, your sports rants...if they're online, they're in the public record, and they're a piece of the puzzle that potential employers—and possibly your current one—look at to assemble a complete picture of you. Any behavior that suggests a lack of judgment counts against you—even if it happens outside the parameters of "work."
"Sometimes a recruiter will tell me, I googled someone, and I found some photos, so we're going to pass,'" says Julie Rogers, director of human resources at software company Atlassian.
An employer's search goes beyond the first page of Google results. Adler says he would "absolutely look at Facebook and Twitter" to evaluate a candidate. And if negatives surface—even after a promising interview—busy recruiters will move on to the next candidate instead of inviting a contender to explain red flags. "They just don't have time to deal with it," he says.
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