Would You Let Your Employer Tell You What Your LinkedIn Profile Should Say?

At what point does the tether between you and your job end? This is the conundrum facing one Consumerist reader whose employer recently told all staffers to edit their LinkedIn profiles to reflect the business’ very specific branding message.

Mike tells Consumerist that employees recently received an e-mail straight from the top of the company, instructing everyone to change their profiles on the professional networking site so that the text describes the business in the exact same, sales-lingo-filled way across all staffers’ pages.

“It’s obviously marketing gibberish,” writes Mike, “And I’m under the belief that we own our profiles and are under no obligation to conform. My profile doesn’t say anything negative, I just don’t want to have a bunch of embarrassing marketing speak in mine.”

Mike says there isn’t a direct statement in the e-mail that threatens employees with disciplinary action if they don’t follow suit, but he tells Consumerist that his employer has hassled staffers who resisted previous, similar efforts.

The consensus around Consumerist HQ is that the only way it would be even slightly reasonable for a business to make this request mandatory is if the business requires all staffers to create a LinkedIn page. We’ve seen this in other places, like companies that require staffers to create job-specific Facebook accounts for the purpose of social media outreach.

Additionally, if your employer discovers that you are misrepresenting the company or your position in a publicly searchable forum, it could be within the realm of understanding for it to request a change.

But it’s difficult to not look at LinkedIn as just another form of your curriculum vitae, which your employer has no right to edit.

We’ve asked LinkedIn to comment on this story and will update if anyone there has anything to add. In the meantime, tell us what you think in the poll below and in the comments…

Comments

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  1. drowse says:

    My previous employer wouldn’t even allow you to place their name on your LinkedIn or Facebook profiles. I thought it was strange, and I understand their reasoning to do so. I was quick to put it back on there once I changed jobs.

  2. Torgonius wants an edit button says:

    Hmm.. I’d find that my current employer was no longer listed. Issue resolved.

  3. Guppy06 says:

    If I don’t access LinkedIn from work, you don’t get to tell me what to do when I’m there on my own time/bandwidth.

    If you want me to maintain my LinkedIn profile as a part of your marketing campaign, that additional duty can be negotiated, provided it includes a commensurate pay increase.

  4. wellfleet says:

    I understand an employer not wanting specific numbers and figures on your resume. For example “raised profits in Beverly Hills Chihuahuas ‘R’ Us by 45%” would give away sensitive financial info. I would also understand an employer wanting you to use the correct name or appellation like “Beverly Hills Chihuahuas ‘R’ US” instead of “Beverly Hills Chis.” Other than that, how I present my work duties and accomplishments is between me and my future employer. As long as there’s no libel, that’s my private property.

    Certainly, if this is important to my employer, it should be discussed beforehand. Another way to get around this is to make your profile private, or take it down. You don’t have the right to free speech at work, so if this is a fireable offense at your job, act accordingly.

    • pitawg says:

      Unless and until the political effort to convert employment into slavery comes to fruition, employers can fire you, but cannot tell you what to do in your own life. Listen to their requests, and do as YOU wish. Outside of illegal actions, they can moan all they want. My employment is a complication, not my life.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        They can also fire you for what you do, legally, in your personal life, because we haven’t made it illegal yet.

  5. benbell says:

    I work for a large consulting company. For various reasons, they have specific guidelines about what we can and cannot post on linked in. There are various SEC and other regulations around this reasoning.

    • Sneeje says:

      But, as someone that has also managed portions of a large consulting organization, those regulations apply to any disclosures (written, verbal, etc.), not just linkedin and social media.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        O…K? Since the OP’s company likely has guidelines for each website, since each website has a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SET OF INPUTS AND OUTPUTS, I don’t see how your comment adds or clarifies anything. Other than the humble-brag about how you “managed portions of a large consulting organization.”

  6. az123 says:

    What people have to face as a reality is while you work for a company anything you do representing yourself as part of the company can have an impact on the company. Therefore they have the right to tell you how to represent them, while you are employed by them. In this modern age the line between work and not is so blurred, you cannot really claim that your bad comments on a media site were at 5:15PM so the company can do nothing about it since it was after working hours.

    The OP here should have the option to just remove the current employer info from Linkedin and thus not have to post something they disagree with, but the company can tell you that you are not properly representing them and potentially terminate you for doing so, even if it is after business hours

    • daemonaquila says:

      No, really, they don’t have the right to demand squat. They might gain some momentum – though never a “right” – along those lines if wussies let them get away with it. However, thanks even to some smart congresscritters, the message is coming out loud and clear that an employer doesn’t get to access a person’s own email or social media accounts, and it doesn’t get to dictate what you do with them.

      The only thing you are correct about in this post is that making public nasty comments about your employer, any time, is grounds for termination. You are welcome to drag your employer’s name through the mud, but they don’t have to keep paying you after you do so.

      • Chuft-Captain says:

        They already have all they need, in the form of at-will employment. It is perfectly legal for your employer to make posting certain information about them, or posting it a certain way, a requirement of continued employment. You have every right to refuse, in turn. And in turn, they have every right to fire you for refusing.

  7. MeowMaximus says:

    Since I am self-employed, I can write or post anything I want. Also, comments are back – Yay!

    • Mark S says:

      So the owner of your company is dictating what is on your LinkedIn page.

      • Tim says:

        If I were in a company like that, I’d probably get into many arguments with the owner about this kind of thing. It’d probably get pretty violent at times.

  8. El_Fez says:

    At what point does the tether between you and your job end?

    9 AM to 5 PM, period, full stop.

    • AzCatz07 says:

      This.

    • RandomHookup says:

      Yet, you can get fired for something that happens outside of work time.

      • pythonspam says:

        The difference is that you get fired for doing something outside of work time not for NOT doing something outside of work time. If you are at your job between the specified hours and doing your work, they don’t have much say.
        Example: Could Chic-Fil-A change the uniforms so that there is a Cross embroidered on the left pocket area? Sure, but I believe that an existing employee would have the right to refuse to wear it or have grounds for quitting for being forced into a hostile work environment.

  9. greatgoogly says:

    So what you are saying az123 is that one’s employer is perfectly within their rights to tell you that you can’t campaign for or against a certain candidate, or take any action that the employer might deem objectionable. For that matter that should be able to tell you who you can and cannot be seen with in public. You sir/madam are a fine representation of The United Corporations of America, I’m sure they will reward you thusly.

    • NeverLetMeDown2 says:

      “So what you are saying az123 is that one’s employer is perfectly within their rights to tell you that you can’t campaign for or against a certain candidate, or take any action that the employer might deem objectionable. For that matter that should be able to tell you who you can and cannot be seen with in public.”

      Yup. Outside of certain very specific categories (racial discrimination, sexual harassment, etc.), your employer can demand anything they damn well please, just as you can demand anything you damn well please, and quit if you don’t get it.

  10. Chuft-Captain says:

    You are under no obligation to comply, but they are under no obligation to continue employing you if you refuse to do it. Unless you live in one of the tiny percentage of states that actually have employment contracts (less than 10% of the 50 do), you’re an at-will employee, which means they can fire you for not doing this, or for any reason at all other than protected class reasons.

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      Also, they can specifically fire you for no reason. They’re not required to tell you why you’re being fired. They can specifically tell you, to your face, “We don’t have to tell you.”

      Then it’s your problem to try to prove you were fired inappropriately. They can fire you because they find out that you’re gay / pregnant / Jewish / a Democrat, or other protected class, or that you asked for OSHA laws to be followed, or any other illegal reason, and just not give any reason for the termination. If you want the law enforced, you have to file a lawsuit. (And good luck finding a lawyer to take your case unless you have ironclad documentation of the true nature of your termination.)

  11. Tim says:

    It’s a slippery slope, really. Legally, yes, an employer can fire you for almost any reason, so they can also tell you to do almost anything.

    Perhaps there’s a middle ground. Something like a company policy that says what NOT to say in social networking about your employer.

  12. sir_eccles says:

    Legally about the only thing they could force you to do is ensure that their trademark or trade name is correctly displayed to avoid confusion in the market place. e.g. Ple

    On the other hand, do you want to keep your job?

  13. Holyrood Frank says:

    Employers might not be allowed to discipline or fire an employee if the action in aggregate would have a disparate impact on a protected class.

  14. triana says:

    I’ve got my employer’s name on my profile and my job title, but no details about the company. If they wanted some douchey marketing stuff added, I would resist. It’s not like I have the WRONG info, just less info.

  15. Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

    If my employer forced me to either a) create a LinkedIn profile with their corporate mantra in it or b) edit mine if I had one, I’d tell them that wasn’t part of my conditions of employment when I was hired, and as such I’ll refuse to do so. If I felt I was brushed off in any way (i.e. lost hours/responsibilities/turned down for promotion to an inferior employee etc.) I’d be finding an employment lawyer. I would neveruse LinkedIn, especially after their security breach that found many of their users’ email addresses/passwords compromised over their shoddy encryption (or lack thereof.)

    • thesupremeaj says:

      Yet you are using Consumerist a day after the accounts were restored from the security breach…

      • JollySith says:

        Pretty big difference between an account to post comments on a news (sorta) site, and an account on a social media where you put out your personal info.

  16. HogwartsProfessor says:

    “Would You Let Your Employer Tell You What Your LinkedIn Profile Should Say?”

    No.

  17. NickRayko says:

    “Do as your told”?

    That’s a grate tag.

    /s

  18. JEDIDIAH says:

    Your social network history like the mythical “permanent record”. Except it really is permanent and everyone can see it. It is simply not worth it to pollute that record with stuff you’re not comfortable with. This stuff will follow you long after you have left that jerk boss behind.

  19. Cor Aquilonis says:

    Mike tells Consumerist that employees recently received an e-mail straight from the top of the company, instructing everyone to change their profiles on the professional networking site so that the text describes the business in the exact same, sales-lingo-filled way across all staffers’ pages.

    Sounds like Mike should start looking for a new job, since his current employer has obvious boundary problems, and I wouldn’t trust a boss with this level of obtuseness to accept gentle constructive criticism or passive resistance to his inappropriate power-grab.

    • Kuri says:

      Indeed. If an employee has something negative to say, don’t try to silence them, see if you can rectify it.

  20. Mike says:

    You should put a post on LinkedIn saying you like working at the company. A social networking site where employees discuss working conditions is protected speech. Keep a record of this email and any other correspondence about LinkedIn. Keep written notes of an verbal correspondence. If you feel you are being harassed about it, file a complaint with the NLRB and start looking for another job.

  21. Rick Sphinx says:

    I would also never be “friends” with my current employer. I would add after leaving.

  22. ReasonablePerson says:

    Many of the commenters here sound like the kind of people I am terrified of ever having on a team that I’m working on.

    Completely discounting whether or not this should be mandatory let’s take a look at some of the responses offered by this commenting crowd:

    “If you want me to maintain my LinkedIn profile as a part of your marketing campaign, that additional duty can be negotiated, provided it includes a commensurate pay increase.”

    “At what point does the tether between you and your job end? 9 AM to 5 PM, period, full stop.”

    “I’ve got my employer’s name on my profile and my job title, but no details about the company. If they wanted some douchey marketing stuff added, I would resist. It’s not like I have the WRONG info, just less info.”

    “Sounds like Mike should start looking for a new job, since his current employer has obvious boundary problems, and I wouldn’t trust a boss with this level of obtuseness to accept gentle constructive criticism or passive resistance to his inappropriate power-grab.”

    Here’s what I distilled from that line of commentary:

    1. Working prior to 9AM or after 5PM is unacceptable and should be eliminated from our lives – “Period, end, full stop”.

    2. Any extra effort put into your job should be open the negotiation for a la carte pay increases – “additional duty can be negotiated, provided it includes a commensurate pay increase”.

    3. Despite years of quantitative data proving otherwise, products and services sell themselves and marketing activity is useless and douchey – “If they wanted some douchey marketing stuff added, I would resist”

    4. Employers asking you to help promote the brand and company are not to be trusted, rather they should be vilified – “I wouldn’t trust a boss with this level of obtuseness to accept gentle constructive criticism or passive resistance to his inappropriate power-grab”

    Speaking from personal experience the following things have had nothing but positive impact on my career and overall quality of life:

    1. Working early/late hours to drive towards objectives
    2. Understanding and promoting positive company values (we have no idea what the content of the requested Linkedin update contained)
    3. Understanding and appreciating every person’s role within the company (including the marketing team)

    Maybe it is because I grew up as an athlete and in a household full of coaches but I feel like this comment thread is filled with people who have very little work ethic and no sense of team spirit. I don’t think everyone has to be a cheerleader, shouting from the rooftops about how awesome your company is. If you don’t have enough respect for your co-workers to discuss the decisions they are making in a mature forum, maybe you should find a new job.

    Furthermore, if you’re so dispassionate about what you’re doing that it is just a “9-5″ and you feel like you have no obligation to care about or work on outside of these 40 hours per week, you might want to look into doing something you are more passionate about as you’ll probably increase your quality of life and not frustrate your co-workers who do love their jobs/careers.

    Just my 2-cents.

    • raydeebug says:

      You bring up some interesting points, but I think the basis of the Op’s complaint here is that the company is being very specific about the content they are insisting he put on his profile, and he objects to it on a personal level–he calls it “embarrassing marketing speak,” and I can completely sympatize with wanting to avoid having a profile with that kind of garbage on it.

      Nobody trusts a corporate shill, after all, and a profile that describes the current employer with a list of buzzword corporate-speak is going to raise a lot of flags about the personal integrity of the profile owner.

      I know I wouldn’t really trust someone whose profile includes a paragraph along the lines of “I work for (Company X), the industry leader in the field of Widget production. (Company X) is dedicated to the promotion of Widgets in the mainstream and developing a synergestic approach to all forms of Widgetry, Gadgetry, and Gizmotech. Be sure to visit our Widgetastic Website at www dot (company x) dot com for all your Widgety needs.”

    • Cor Aquilonis says:

      I’m happy to defend my position.

      4. Employers asking you to help promote the brand and company are not to be trusted, rather they should be vilified…

      Did you read the article? The OP’s CEO is “instructing everyone to change their profiles on the professional networking site so that the text describes the business in the exact same, sales-lingo-filled way across all staffers’ pages.”

      This is not “asking for help.” If the CEO asked for help, he would’ve sent a letter that invited employees to consult with the marketing department on writing compelling LinkedIn profiles. Or, he could’ve asked the employees, if they wished, to put up the “marketing-speak” on their profile.

      Instead, the CEO is ordering employees to vandalize their own profile page to promote the company. I see this as akin to making all employees put signs on their personal cars, which they drive on their own time, to market company services. It’s inappropriate. It violates work/home boundaries. Also, it requires a certain amount of social deafness to instigate, which is going to impact other areas of the CEO’s leadership. Thus OP may want to find a position where the company leadership has more respect for their workforce.

      Also, thank you for your concern about my professionalism. I congratulate you on your near-Sherlock-Holmesian ability to infer from – literally – one sentence, that I lack work ethic and team spirit. Your concern that both I and other commenters are passionless about our jobs, frustrate our coworkers, and creates quality of life issues is noted. I think I’ll file it away in the round file.

      • ReasonablePerson says:

        Could you point to the section in the email linked to in the article describing the verbiage used by the “CEO” (or Marketing Director, or PR Director, or whatever “The Top” means)?

        Or the objective explanation of “Marketing Gibberish” stated in the article?

        Just curious where you found this wealth of information left off of the original post?

        Everyone on this site is so ridiculously reasonable that I can see how you’d immediately jump to the conclusion that the email he received read something to the effect of:

        “Dear employees,

        Dudes! You’ve totally got to add the following words to those LinkedIn things I see you all have:

        ‘Company X is the raddest, most bodacious company on the earth and, like, all of our customers totally love us. We made a Majillion dollars last year and got a 200% in customer awesomeness rating. Visit http://www.Majilliondollarbusiness.com right now to learn more’

        By the way, we’re not forcing you to do this, but like, you know, if you don’t, you’re fired.”

        as opposed to:

        “Hey team,

        As many of you know, the professional services consultation industry is flush with companies trying to gain marketshare. One of the things we want to make sure we’re doing is practicing what we preach, and the primary focus of all the campaigns we build for our clients is consistency in messaging.

        We’ve prepared the following description of the company that we’d like you to use as the official “about my company” item on your LinkedIn profile, should you choose to list us as an employer. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to your manager, or me directly. Thanks for the help here everyone!”

        I’m not at all concerned about your professionalism I’m saying I hate working with people who share the sentiments you seem to be expressing in your communication because they often don’t pull their weight and become indignant when asked to contribute more. You took – literally – pure conjecture, and drew the conclusion that the “CEO” of this company is power-hungry, unable to accept criticism and obtuse. That level of conclusion jumping leads me to believe you’re probably extremely toxic to any work environment.

        Thanks for responding.

    • BrienBear Thinks Stupidity Defies Logic says:

      I will absolutely give a shit about my company and will absolutely give them 110% each and every day, as soon as they stop treating me (and my coworkers, and the rest of the employees) like disposable napkins that they don’t need.

      You act like we should bow down and treat these companies with the utmost respect. But they can’t seem to respect us anymore. No longer are the days when businesses bend over backwards for you to make you happy (which in turn helps them because happy workers are efficient workers). Instead, as soon as it looks like if they get rid of your job, they’ll have a .05% higher profit margin, they sh*tcan you. No one is invaluable to a company anymore, except the CEO who makes, on average, 150% times more than you (or at least I) do. And I’m in IT – one of the higher paid sectors.

      I worked for 1 company, which was a tech company coincidentally, that cared about their employees. Then they got bought out by their (bigger) competitor and I got laid off. I loved that company and am glad to have worked there, but every other place I’ve worked… They didn’t care. In fact some showed almost contempt for their employees. And I’m sure I’m not the only worker who’s felt this way.

      And people don’t have the luxury of finding another job. The economy sucks. It is what it is.

  23. limbodog says:

    Wait, so it’s up to *us* to decide what the company that bought and installed these machines intended to do with them?

  24. Red Cat Linux says:

    I keep hearing about companies intruding into people’s social networking accounts. Wasn’t there another recent article on someone being pressured by a potential employer for their Facebook account password? Has there been a court case yet?

    I think as long as you are not representing the company with your social networking account, it’s hands off for them.

    Also, in other news, the grammar police called. They have a “you’re” at the station house that says it was left behind at a gas station and the article tag drove off with a “your” in the car instead. Poor thing is traumatized.