When what you do outside of work comes back to bite you

How you say it matters as much as what you say









There’s been plenty of media recently about politicians behaving badly outside of work. How this will play out is still anyone’s guess- but the overall feeling is clear. What you do outside of work matters. It can (and increasingly will) come back to bite you.

Closer to home, I heard recently about a networking event that got out of hand. Some attendees disagreed with the panel, vigorously and possibly inappropriately. It appeared that they may have been under the influence and wanted to state their case loudly for all to hear.

Those that think we’re already living in a nanny state, it’s ok. I am not suggesting that no one can disagree with anyone anymore. Nor that you can’t do anything that isn’t “perfect”.  But it does raise an interesting point about what you do, and how you do it. And whether your employer cares about that when it is outside of hours.

To some degree, it depends on what your role and the organisation is. But if your role is one with profile, and one that requires you to represent your employer during working hours – it is probably safe to say that what you do will be under increased scrutiny outside of hours.

Leaving aside the legal aspects of this, and the issue of “what I do in my personal time is my business”, it’s worthwhile thinking about when you are and when you’re not representing your employer. A private bbq with friends – you can no doubt do and say whatever you wish. A public networking event sponsored by your employer – perhaps not so much.

Social media is a place where people often come unstuck with this. When they post commentary that is inconsistent with their employer’s values or brand. You’ll often see those in the twitterverse disclaiming – “these views are my own and do not reflect my employer.” But, that doesn’t really help when the proverbial hits the fan.

The reality is, employers are increasingly looking for their employees to be ambassadors for their business. To reflect their name, values and brand in a positive light. Employees might find that unfair. That they didn’t sign up for that when they accepted the role. But there aren’t too many employers who will now write off very poor behaviour as “what you do in your time is your business.”

The other point to consider is the degree to which behaving inappropriately reflects poorly on your own personal brand.  It only takes two seconds for someone who is observing your behaviour to review your profile on Linkedin. It only takes a few moments for someone to make a judgement. And you never know when that person will be the person making a decision in the future about something that matters to you.

So where does this leave us?  Without doubt – the world needs constructive debate more than ever. Silent, seething disagreement doesn’t further any argument. But, and this is a big but, as with so many things – it is HOW you do it. Disagree for sure. Have a different opinion for sure. But if you want your personal and employment brand to thrive, think about how you go about making that point so that the point is heard, rather than just your behaviour being seen.

One more thing to say. We have all, and I mean every single one of us, made mistakes. Done things that in the cold light of day were not sensible or appropriate.  But the good news is that how you deal with that counts too. There’s lots to be said for owning your behaviour and apologising if it is inappropriate.

Key Takeaways

So, where does this leave us?

  • Think about what you want your personal brand to be known for.
  • What does your employer expect from you outside of hours? If you don’t know, now might be a good time to ask.
  • If you feel like you’re not being heard – think about how you’re delivering the message.
  • When things do go wrong, think about what you can do to put them right.


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Thanks to Franchise Relationships Institute for the use of the image.

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