London: In today's world, privacy has become a thing of the past as whatever you write in an email or a message, anything you say in a private or public conversation, can easily end up plastered all over the Internet.

As for social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, say or write the wrong thing and you can lose your job or destroy your career.

A classic example of this is the the 45-minute instant message rant by Keith Block, Oracle's (ORCL) executive vice president for North America, about the company's hardware products, Oracle co-president Mark Hurd, and all sorts of other things that seemed to get under the sales executive's skin.

The IM came out during an ongoing court case between Oracle and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ). Block had apparently been travelling for five weeks and was probably just passing time on a flight by venting to Oracle's VP of human resources, Anje Dodson.

Blowing off steam or not, Block said some things he shouldn't have, including a few about Hurd, who was CEO of HP before joining Oracle.

"He doesn't like to travel ... he likes to stay in the U.S. and rattle around ... lots of noise, not much results ... be a f----- global president," a daily quoted Block as writing.

"Does it bug anybody else that every two weeks Mark gets on a [forecast] call with all the evp directs or is it just me?"

"Not enough room for us both ... he should be a ceo," Block wrote.

It hardly matters how powerful or accomplished a person is, or whether you're an assembly-line worker or a top executive. If you break certain unspoken rules, you can lose your job or ruin your career.

Five such rules, most of which were broken by Block have been outlined as things an employee must never do.

Firstly, an employee must never bad-mouth the boss. You should never, ever bad-mouth the boss, or your peers, for that matter.

If you think people won't find out you're wrong. Juicy stuff has a way of propagating. That's what happened to Allstate president Joe Lacher, who had some unsavoury things to say about his boss, CEO Tom Wilson, at a company event last year.

Two weeks later, Lacher was gone "effective immediately", according to a terse press release.

Secondly, never put something in writing you wouldn't want posted on Yahoo's home page. It's hard to believe how often executives, managers, and employees document their stupidity by putting things they shouldn't in writing.

Whether it's email, texts, IMs, or anything else that passes through a company server, it can be made public. Even deleting it doesn't make it go away as there's always a backup copy somewhere.

Thirdly, never disparage the company's products or customers. Especially if you're an executive, remember that anytime you're in public, at a conference, in an airport, even on your own time, you represent the company and that anyone with a cell phone can record you.

The same goes for talking with the media, or anyone else who just might repeat what you have to say. People talk just like you do.

Fourthly, never assume private conversations will stay private. Your expectation of privacy is far more limited than you think. If you're at home talking with your family, you're probably okay.

"Probably" because these days one never knows what your spouse or kid will post on the Web. Other than that, your privacy is so limited you may as well assume that whatever you say will end up on the front page of The Wall Street Journal.

Lastly, do not get too social with social media. Last year, Bloomberg reported that Scott McClellan, a vice president who had spent his entire 26-year career at HP, tipped off competitors about previously undisclosed details of the company's cloud computing strategy on his LinkedIn profile.

Shortly thereafter, he left the company. It may have been a coincidence but according to a Forrester Research survey, 82 per cent of 150 companies that monitor social media are primarily searching for competitive intelligence.


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