Delete your LinkedIn contacts – they belong to us!

Ahhh LinkedIn, the great online world of professional networking. Would you agree to delete the contacts you may have made during your employment on departure if it was instructed by a workplace policy or your employment contract? Personally, I don’t know how I feel about this.  However we are starting to see cases where employers feel their departing employees are exploiting the connections they have made during their employment. This is especially true in times where employees leave consultancies to start their own competing businesses.

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Firstly from a learning perspective, LinkedIn provides me an amazing opportunity to follow and connect with people who share great articles and perspectives, some of these people I have met through my employment over the years. Reading posts and engaging with these connections makes me a better professional. I wouldn’t like to think that I would need to delete people out of my learning network just because I happened to meet them as part of my role.  On the flip side, if I was an employer and I knew for a fact that a departing employee was using the contacts they had made through me to poach work or employees I would be furious and I too might want to put my foot down and have some strongly worded contracts and policies drafted. Some of the policy recommendations to manage LinkedIn connections mentioned in HR Daily this week include:

  • Defining solicitation in contracts and policies to include “updating employment details on LinkedIn”;
  • Acquiring a list of a persons contacts on commencement; and
  • Requiring them to delete any contacts they made during their employment as part of the departure process and building in a clause to say they can’t add them again for say 6 months.

I think what we are seeing here is a struggle for business to keep up with a connected workforce and business landscape. People are moving in and out of organisations faster than before, people are making connections, building networks and really starting to recognise that this is where the value is, and this is the new world of work. Business owners naturally want to protect themselves from competition and damages however removing people from LinkedIn wont stop solicitation and poaching, It might make it easier but it wont stop it. Building in phrases such as “you are not to use LinkedIn or any social media outlet to solicit clients or employees that may cause damage to blah blah blah company”, might be all you need, but it isn’t guaranteed to work and the court isn’t automatically going to enforce it.

It’s such an evolving area and with very limited case law to go by it’s going to be interesting to watch the law and business come to terms with this new networked world.

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