February 04, 2011, 10:35 AM — The ability to transition ethically and legally from one job to another has always been something of an art.
Now, in these days of personal gadgetry and social media mania, it's become infinitely more difficult moving from old employment to new. Today's job changers must figure out how to untangle personal information and unplug personal electronics from company property. And the lines aren't always clear.
That personal e-mail sent to your work account -- is that yours or the company's when it comes time to part? Those project notes you pounded out on your home keyboard one weekend -- are those ideas yours or your firm's? You may be asked to give back your company-issued smartphone, but can you keep the actual telephone number, the only way your spouse and kids know how to reach you?
Add to that questions around your use of social media -- if you managed to rack up 10,000 loyal Twitter followers by tweeting in connection with your company and position, whose followers are they? What if you set up a Facebook user group to discuss tech topics important to your work -- when you leave, are those groups now the province of your replacement?
"Company policy, the law, issues around intellectual property, social media, ethics, they're really not clear," says Miriam Reiss, Ph.D., a business and personal coach based in Los Angeles. "In most companies there's a very fuzzy social media policy that doesn't address what needs to be addressed. Or there's no social media policy at all."
In the face of such fuzziness, what's an IT employee to do when it comes time to depart? Computerworld checked in with high-tech job changers, lawyers and HR pros to learn how workers should best manage the process of separating the personal from the professional.
Their takeaway? The rules of the road depend on the company you work for and its policies, which can be all over the map. Read your employee manual carefully. Talk openly with your boss. And if you're still unsure, you might want to invest in a lawyer who specializes in this area before you make any employment switch.
My tweet, myself
Erica Driver, senior director of product marketing at Qlik Technologies Inc., has done her fair share of disentangling in the past few years. She left a position at Forrester Research Inc. to become an independent analyst before taking her current job at Qlik, which is headquartered in Radnor, Pa.
Driver, who works out of the company's Newton, Mass., office, has had the same Twitter account and many of the same followers since 2007, when she was still working at Forrester.