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July 18, 2014

Helping Employees Hone Their Personas

By Karen J. Bannan

What you post on social media impacts how people perceive you. For women, this is especially true when it comes to images, according to new research out of Oregon State University (OSU).

The study, which was published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture found that women who posted sexy photographs of themselves as their Facebook profile photo got lower marks for their physical beauty, social attractiveness – how likely someone would be to call that person a friend — as well as their competence. (The competence statement was simple: “I have confidence in her ability to get a job done.”)

While it’s unlikely that your employees will be using pinup photos as their avatars or posting such photos in a company intranet, the fact still remains that social sharing is something that most people do on a daily basis. According to the Pew Research Internet Project, 73 percent of all Americans use social media. Social sharing is engrained in our society. Blurring of personal and professional lines can happen, and if it does it can undermine your teams and their abilities to work together as a group.

There are things you can do to help employees make good social business – and social media – choices, says Elizabeth Daniels, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs who was the lead researcher on the study at OSU.

“This is not based on my findings but some of the lessons we learned from the research work in a professional context,” she explains. “Employers may want to focus on the lack of differences between public and private [social media and social business] so that people understand what they post on their social media accounts isn’t really private.”

Daniels says employers should explain that Facebook, even with stringent privacy settings, can affect someone in the workplace. “Every time we post, we should be stepping back and saying, ‘Is this something I want people seeing?’”

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