Leaving a job with your personal tech intact

IT employees often have no problem melding their work lives with their personal lives. Until it's time to switch jobs.

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She considers those followers to be one of her assets in the marketplace. "Twitter is about connections, and what makes a person valuable to a company are those kinds of relationships. Companies want to have people with influence and contacts," she says, noting that those contacts could be seen as potential clients and customers.

Driver believes her various employers have no claim to her Twitter account or her followers.

True, she tweets about topics related to her work, but she does so in an account that's in her name. "Those are key points: Is the account in your name? Are you tweeting on behalf of the company or tweeting as yourself? That's very different as me tweeting as customer service at company X," Driver says.

(Like many companies at the time, Forrester didn't have a Twitter policy when she left, but issued new social media policies, particularly around blogging, after her departure, she says.)

Laying down the law

"What you're really raising is the question of how old-fashioned rules apply in the new world," says Jonathan Segal, a partner in the Employment, Labor, Benefits and Immigration Practice Group at Duane Morris LLP.

Standard rules say that what a worker creates in the course of employment is the employer's property, regardless of whether it's a paper document or the content of a blog or the extensive e-mail list an employee has compiled on her smartphone.

"The general advice we give when people leave a company is you should leave everything behind. So you leave the contacts behind — that means you take them off BlackBerries, PDAs, smartphones," he says. "Contacts may be [employer property] if the employer has invested in those relationships, and that includes creating the technology and providing the employee the time for engaging in social networking."

In the best of all worlds, companies should have clear policies regarding these issues, and workers should maintain separate electronic devices for business and personal use.

That said, Segal also believes that workers need some wiggle room, and employers should be reasonable in meeting that need.

Segal acknowledges that the personal and professional have become so blurred — even when policies are in place — that departing employees often do need to access and take information stored on company computers, and, conversely, that companies may feel the need to access personal devices in search of corporate data.

Workers should be able to take personal data such as digital photos or contact information for their kids' teachers. In many cases, Segal believes, they should also be allowed to print out or forward some professional material — for instance, contact names to a user group — provided they can argue that what they're taking isn't protected, proprietary or confidential to the firm.

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