Mar 26, 2009

Am I putting myself at risk by blogging about work?

your facebook is embarrassingI've always been sort of baffled by why employers stalk their employees or potential employees on the internet to see if they're doing anything embarrassing. Particularly when you're talking about 20-something employees (20-somethings who are on facebook, myspace, twitter, and a half a dozen other social networking sites--and we're not even talking about the ones who blog), the chances that they have done something embarrassing in public, will do something embarrassing in public, or have been/will be photographed doing something embarrassing which will become public are, well...let's just say it's inevitable. I mean, how many of you have proof of some embarrassing, questionable or unprofessional behavior floating around out there on the internet? That's what I thought.

Honestly, I'm of the opinion that what you do on your own time is what you do on your own time. So if you're drinking after work, someone snaps a photo, and it ends up on the internet, who cares? I mean, it's not a photo of you sneaking sips from a flask in your cubicle. It's not affecting your job performance. And 10 years ago, if your friends possessed drunk photos of you making out with a pirate statue at some bar you went to over the weekend, your boss wasn't going to go looking through your friends' personal items to find proof that you aren't a saint after all. If it didn't matter that I did it then (as long as you didn't have blatant proof) why does it matter now? As long as I'm not flashing people, cussing, or acting a fool at work where this behavior matters, I don't see why it matters to my boss. (If a client finds some "unprofessional" pictures of me from my personal time, I don't see why that should matter to them either. As long as I'm doing a bang up job at work, I must be doing something right...right?)

The gray area, though, comes when I start blogging about work. Ah. Here's a topic I could genuinely understand an employer getting upset about, and this is one of those subjects I've tiptoed around in my blogs ever since I started working. To this day, I don't think I've mentioned the companies I work for anywhere on the internet, or even the first names of any of my coworkers, and I don't think I ever will. All the same, if one of my bosses came across this site, what would they think? After all, I was very frank about not being 100% satisfied with my job about a month ago and about not being 100% psyched about a forced role change this past week. In a time when the economy is bad, when you have proof that one of your employees is dissatisfied, wouldn't it be better to let go of someone who is unhappy in their job, rather than cutting someone who isn't? And...isn't this sort of unprofessional behavior anyhow? What if one of our clients finds this? (Granted, it would have to be a client I already have a pretty good relationship if they can divine from the scant information I've provided here that I am, in fact, myself.) What does this blog say about the company I work for? Could even the most minimal critique be taken as hostility or, worse, grounds for termination?

I've tried very hard to walk the fine line between honesty and professionalism when it comes to talking about my job here. But it's not always easy, and a lot of times I worry I've gone too far. There are a lot of topics I will obviously never be able to touch upon here that absolutely do influence my work life. There are also things that happen regarding my job, my company, etc. that I legally can't discuss. But what about the simple complaints? Would that be enough to offend my employer(s)? Could my seemingly harmless griping get me into real trouble at work?

The question is, in a world where almost everything personal is also very public, how careful do I have to be in what I say, how I say it, where I say it, and whether or not there is a camera or a stealth copy&paster around to immortalize these things I say or do on the web? Do I always have to be on my best behavior? Since my behavior affects my job not only when I'm at work, but also when I'm not at work, when do I get to relax and just be myself? Do I have to unplug myself from the internet entirely and go Chris Martin on anyone with a camera within a 1000-foot radius in order to avoid the fear of being constantly spied upon by the people I work with and for? And what does it say about us as a society when we are so deeply engrossed in other people's personal lives that we not only go out of our way to monitor people's personal lives on the internet, but act as enforcers in the workplace when we see someone getting out of line outside of the workplace?

I guess I wouldn't have as much to worry about if I didn't so freely broadcast my life and my feelings on the internet, but... I guess I fail to understand the mentality where employers feel the need to police their workers' in their time off.

I want to say, I have no reason to think I am being monitored by my employers or anything like it. But I do worry sometimes that my blogging, no matter how innocuous, will end up getting me into trouble. I write mostly because I'm hoping that there will be people who identify with me, who understand what I'm going through and who, in a sense, will act as a kind of virtual support group to help me get through what has been a rocky transition in my life. I really hate that "who will see this?" is something I have to feel paranoid about every time I sit down to write.

3 comments:

  1. This is the first reason why I had to blog, create a profile in Linked In and FaceBook: I want prospective employers to understand that while I write about random stuff and have pictures where I'm actually having fun, I also have a kick-ass resume. My philosophy in hiring people is that I want someone with a well rounded personality. Employers now use social networking sites and search engines to understand the person they are hiring and I think if this is used correctly, it can actually be very rewarding for both the employer and potential hire.

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  2. i think you have to just assume that your worst enemy, your boss and your parents all read your blog and see anything related to you on the net. it's all about managing your own brand, right? what you put out there, whether it's blatant or not, gets attached to your "brand" and as an employee, your outside behavior can still affect your in-office perception.

    i always tell college students to clean up what's out there on the net. make certain things private or untag pictures. you don't need to expose EVERYTHING about yourself to the whole world. put some walls up just to protect your employability. whether you want it to or not, your digital footprint makes an impression - probably a bigger one than your resume alone.

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  3. I blog about my life and work. I might get in trouble about it but when asked I say "Blogging is my therapy. I write what I know and feel and it relaxes me to spill my guts rather than do something horrible and harmful to myself or someone else."

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