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13 Social Media Posts That Could Get You Fired

The golden rule these days is to think before you tweet. Follow these rules to avoid learning this lesson—and losing your job—the hard way.

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Keep it confidential

Blabbing private workplace information to the social media masses is grounds for firing. Before you act as an unofficial spokesperson for your employer on Facebook, step away from the keyboard. “Sharing information that is confidential or proprietary, or reveals upcoming business plans or changes to products, services, or staffing, will pretty much all get you a box to clear out your desk…the list of wrongs is quite long,” says Jenna Wells, a San Francisco-based human resources pro. “It’s about trust. What you become privy to through your position merely by attending a meeting or presentation shouldn’t be shared. When and if the company wants to share it, it will!”

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There’s no such thing as privacy

In some circles, a healthy social media following can actually help land you a job, but don’t let your online popularity make you feel as though you’re above an employer’s posting protocol. While you may have your account settings on private, posts can still easily travel through options like screen grabs.

At the same time, know your rights. The National Labor Relations Board says an employer’s social media policies “are found to be unlawful when they interfere with the rights of employees under the National Labor Relations Act, such as the right to discuss wages and working conditions with co-workers.”

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Mind your memes

That viral meme may seem hilarious to you, but your co-workers and boss might find it downright offensive. Even if you didn’t originate the content, be careful of what you share. “The short answer is yes, you can get fired for sharing an offensive meme or gif,” says Wells. “Sure, it’s a gray area when it comes to free speech, but it can happen.” Wells explains that what’s most important to consider is the content and the vehicle through which you’re sharing, particularly if you’re using company devices, email, or Internet service when company policy spells out that this is inappropriate.

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Caught in the act

So you decided to call in sick to take advantage of a perfect day at the beach? No matter how good those waves and sand look, do not post pictures. While the content of your social media happenings may not be offensive, it shows that you have been untruthful in your whereabouts and essentially blew off a day of office productivity at your leisure. Obviously, employers don’t like that. Here are 11 more photos you should never post on social media.

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Overtly offensive

In 2013, public relations executive Justine Sacco found out just how quickly a social media post can spread—particularly an offensive one. As she was boarding a flight to South Africa, the former IAC employee tweeted: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” It didn’t take long before the horrifying message reached her employer, who promptly pink-slipped her upon landing.

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Ban on bullying

Writing something defamatory about another person, particularly a colleague, could send you straight to the unemployment line. “Posts that intentionally defame, hurt, or target your colleagues in a way that would constitute harassment or bullying are behaviors that can absolutely lead to your firing,” says Wells. “If you experienced conflict with someone, have the courage to engage in a constructive dialogue. Challenge yourself to grow!”

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Always be respectful

Even social media professionals can get it wrong on the very platforms with which they make a living. Kate Nash, a social media manager for Frederick County Public Schools, was manning their accounts when bad weather hit the area. A student tweeted the hope that the schools would be closed “tammarow.” Nash replied, “But then how would you learn to spell ‘tomorrow’?” When school officials became aware of the exchange, Nash was asked to remove the offending tweet and apologize—and then she was let go. Don’t miss these 10 other “innocent” things you didn’t know could get you fired.

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Watch your voice

Everyone is allowed to have an opinion, and Wells’ previous mention about the importance of freedom of speech is always worth bearing in mind, but if your message is hurtful or insensitive, check it before posting. Comedian Gilbert Gottfried learned this very lesson while voicing the Aflac Duck. After the disastrous tsunami in Japan, Gottfried tweeted: “Japan is really advanced. They don’t go to the beach. The beach comes to them.” As it turns out, Aflac is Japan’s largest insurance company. Gottfried was quickly dismissed from the once lucrative gig. Brush up on the 10 ways to have a healthier relationship with social media.

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Speak only for yourself

It’s important to separate yourself from your employer. Acting on their behalf on social media can lead to serious consequences. “You should really not be presenting your own opinions or beliefs in any way that can be construed to represent those of the company,” says Wells. You may want to consider keeping the name of your employer out of your profile and include a disclaimer that your posts and opinions are expressly your own. You should definitely find out what your social media is really saying about you.

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Evaluate values

If you’re unclear about the values your employer holds most dear, Wells recommends speaking up, as social media posts that don’t jibe with their message could prove costly. “Know your company’s values, policies, practices (if you don’t know, ask!) and generally where they stand on social media behavior,” she advises. “You shouldn’t feel overly restricted or like you’re living life for how people will perceive you. Though, when it comes to your professional life and possibly making career-limiting moves, be thoughtful. When in doubt, don’t!”

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Poor judgment

Columnist Catherine Deveny had a plumb gig writing for The Age in Melbourne, Australia, when she made some off-color remarks about Steve Irwin’s daughter Bindi (then a teenager). In response, her editor made this statement: “We are appreciative of the columns Catherine has written for The Age over several years but the views she has expressed recently on Twitter are not in keeping with the standards we set at The Age.” And that was that. Look out for these silent signs you might be getting fired.

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Premature pink slip

You’d think it would be hard to offend your employer before even beginning a job, but that is exactly what happened in one very special social media circumstance. When a young woman received a job from the Cisco corporation, she decided to tweet about it…in a less than flattering light. “Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work,” she wrote. In response, the company replied, “Who is the hiring manager—I’m sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web.”

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Customer consideration

When you’re in a job that deals directly with a specific group, it’s probably best not to express your distaste for that group. Kaitlyn Walls found a job working at a daycare, but, according to a story on WPIX, was quickly dismissed after she posted on her Facebook page: “I start my new job today. But I absolutely hate working at daycare. I just really hate being around a lot of kids.” Here are 10 more social media moves that could sabotage your career.