Nov 16, 2009

There are no safety nets in blogging

Ina over at Ina Nutshell (hee!) posed the age old question: how much personal information should I reveal and how much should I discuss my job on my blog in an age where people are more and more routinely fired for blogging? This is something I've vented my frustrations about in the past.

Generally speaking, I think it's silly that employers fire their employees over things written in blogs or on social networks, BUT it's one of the many obnoxious realities that must be dealt with. As such, I am very against revealing too much personal information, and I am even more against revealing too many specifics about where I work or whom I work with. As I've said before elsewhere regarding a litany of things I choose not to blog about, I choose to write a blog about my life and therefore I have permission (my own) to write about myself. The people in my life didn't choose to keep a blog, and they certainly didn't choose to be part of my blog. Out of respect for them and the fact that they don't have much choice over what I write regarding them, I try to limit what I write about them and be careful about how I portray them. I think this is a good rule of thumb in general when you blog. You wouldn't necessarily want people talking about you on their blog (with or without your knowledge), so why do the same to them?

When it comes to work, I've been fairly open about my complaints, but for the most part, I try not to be too critical of any one person, and I try to paint my job as realistically as possible. My job is far from being the worst in the world, and many of the problems with my job are a necessary part of the kind of job I have. I try to acknowledge that in all, my company works just fine for many people. It's just not a good fit for me. I try to frame my unhappiness at work as a personal problem as opposed to a problem with my company, and for the most part, that's exactly what my unhappiness is. Even if someone I work with does read my blog and does recognize me, I would hope they'd see my (mostly) respectful comments about work and look the other way. At most, I think I'd get a warning to be more careful about what I write.

What I worry most about is being let go because I am so dissatisfied, and if my employer read my blog, they'd become immediately aware of my feelings toward my job. However, I do good work, and I'm a valuable employee. Plus, I've already made my dissatisfaction known to key supervisors. If they were going to let me go, they probably would have already done so. To my supervisors' credit, they seem to be more interested in keeping me happy than they do in getting rid of me because I'm not a perfect match...one of the many positives about the company I work for.

My advice to people who keep blogs: keep the personal information at a minimum--about you, about the people you write into your blog, about where you work--and keep it respectful. The worst thing you want to do is embarrass your company. Notably, you can do that even without bad mouthing your employer or your clients. You can also do that by talking about bad behavior on the weekend or irresponsible behavior outside of work, and for some employers, particularly those who are concerned with how you could be representing yourself (and by association, your employer) to potential clients, blogging about your non-work-related unprofessional behavior could be just as fatal as talking badly about where you work.

It's a fine line to walk, and ultimately you have to be responsible for your own actions and words. I don't think I would ever get fired over anything I've written, at least not in my current position. (Other places very well might react differently.) And even if I did, I feel fairly confident in saying that we'd be fine if I lost my job, and it wouldn't be the crushing blow it might have been even a month ago. So, I'm being slightly less cautious than I was before.

However, I'm still not going to call out colleagues in specific, give out identifying information regarding the company I work for, or give enough information on my blog that I could be found via a google search. (Although honestly, I'm still pretty easy to find if you know what to look for.) Just be cautious. And the more concerned you are that your employer would take your words seriously, the tighter you should keep your lips zipped on the subject of work and unprofessional behavior in your private life. Focus on personal performance and personal improvement in your blogging instead, if you choose to write about work, and save the rants for friends IRL or for a private blog/journal that is for your eyes only.

There is no safe way to blog if you do so for the general public. Everything you say goes out into the ether, and you have no way of knowing who will find those words, who will read them or how they will interpret them. Some people will like what you have to say. Others won't. And for the most part, the internet is filled with strangers who don't matter in the least to your day-to-day life. Occasionally, though, someone who does matter may find something you wrote and take it the wrong way. If you choose to write about your career or about your colleagues or about your personal exploits outside of work that may not be completely professional, you are taking a risk, and you must be willing to accept that as a possibility and be able to deal with the fall out.

If you're not comfortable with that risk, blogging is probably not the right medium for you.

4 comments:

  1. Katie -- thank you SO much for your response. I have been going crazy reading and re-reading my entries to see if there is anything that is offensive. Your advice definitely helps set some guidelines. Love the blog, keep it up! ina

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  2. Or you could blog anonymously and your work doesn't have to know. What you do outside of work is not any of their business so really, why should you care what you put on there?
    That's my response to your last sentence.

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  3. Generally speaking, I agree that what I do outside of work is none of my employers' business. That being said, I don't think they'll see it my way when I explain that to them when they have a meeting with me to discuss my online activities. People get fired for this sort of thing. Arguing that it shouldn't happen isn't the same as having a realistic expectation that it won't happen.

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  4. What I'm saying is what you do outside of work is YOUR business. I don't think you should not have a blog or censor yourself because of that risk. Instead, make sure you have an alias in your blog, change your companie's name, names, and places. Also never log onto your blog at work. If you do that, how are they ever going to find your blog?
    I think it's a fair compromise. Don't you think?
    BTW, I'm new to your blog. I think you talk about a lot of relevant issues. Looking forward to reading more :)

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