From chewing someone out to sharing inappropriate and private content, executives say, you’d better watch out. The same etiquette and corporate rules apply in the virtual world.
Not long ago, while on a company Zoom call, participants heard one of their colleagues berate her live-in boyfriend–which was not only “super egregious,” but happened several times, said Sean Nguyen, director of Internet Advisor.
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“Someone would be speaking, and she would suddenly start fighting with this guy loudly, during the meeting,” Nguyen said. “It was just so uncomfortable. The first time she did it, I thought maybe she just forgot her audio [was] on or something came up right then, but she did it multiple times, and it was just incredibly disrespectful and unprofessional.”
That was the final straw, he said. “We had to let her go. I hope she at least got rid of the boyfriend, too.”
As Zoom and other video calls become the norm in a workforce now largely remote, there’s a line between things people do that are inappropriate, and things that can get you fired. Many people have heard about the now infamous California commissioner who resigned after throwing his cat during a Zoom meeting, and the reporter who broadcasted himself on Good Morning America via a Zoom call wearing no pants.
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Of course, there are some things that can’t be controlled. For example, in late April, while the chief people officer of a large candy brand was on a Zoom work call, her dog came in the room and threw up. The CPO was mortified. However, that pales in comparison to other things that are happening on Zoom calls that can get people fired.
The CPO, who requested anonymity, said during a recent virtual town hall, her boss was very upset that some people didn’t show up dressed as though they were going to a meeting. “They were wearing baseball hats and looking like they had just rolled out of bed,” she recalled. While these may not be offenses worthy of firing, it prompted the CPO’s boss to have her write a work-from-home policy.
“It’s good common sense if you’re going to get on a call with the executive team you would get dressed,” she said. Other things the policy will mention: No eating and making sure there is nothing inappropriate behind you on a Zoom call, she said.
Additionally, even though the lines get blurred sometimes between work and home, she stressed, “you still have to maintain that level of professional behavior.”
For example, on a separate call the CPO did with her team recently, someone’s face “froze in a funny position, and we were commenting on that, and she said, ‘I can still hear you.’ So it’s just all these nuances of how to behave that you don’t think of.”
Other big no-nos
Betty Rodriguez, senior workplace analyst at Fit Small Business, said that even though many workplaces have gone digital in the wake of COVID-19, the same standards and protocols still apply. “Sharing derogatory images, disclosing confidential information, or using discriminatory language toward a colleague will still have the same repercussions as they would in a physical office setting,” she said. “Zoom is no exception.”
Sharing non-disclosure information, especially if it is considered private to the company, is a big one, agreed attorney Jacob J. Sapochnick, founder of the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick.
“There’s a chance your software can be hacked, and since Zoom has the ability to record your meeting, then that can be a problem itself” as well, Sapochnick said. “Companies have set up clauses when it comes to sharing information using online software as they are aware of such problems.”
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Scot J. Chrisman, founder and CEO at digital marketing firm, The Media House, echoed that, noting “everything we do online can be breached or accessed publicly and could
also endanger your job.”
Another action on Zoom that can get you fired: “Privately” chatting with an individual or a group during Zoom meetings,” he said. “There is a feature in Zoom where in-meeting chats are downloaded automatically and can be viewed by all of the participants. Thinking of sending a private message to your officemate criticizing your boss during a boring business meeting is fun right? Think again.”
Though your colleagues will not be able to see it in real-time, they can still see it in the minutes’ folder, which is available for everyone after the conference, Chrisman said. “Save yourself from trouble and don’t chat privately on Zoom.”
Screen sharing inappropriate content is another fire-able offense, Chrisman said.
“Screen-sharing is very useful in showing the participants your report or presentation during business meetings,” he said. “You should always assume that everyone will see everything on your monitor, so it is better to organize your files.”
But be careful what type of content you save, he added. “If by instance that during a conference call an indecent or inappropriate tab or a link was shown on your browser, this might be very malicious,” he said. “This is very unprofessional and can get you fired.”