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Blogging About Work

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What with the recent increase in dooce-ing and an article in this weeks Micro Mart about “the perils of blogging” it got me thinking about how many of my readers write about work, and how many would be willing to give up their blog or lose their job, should the situation arise.

Personally, I’m quite a private person and I don’t blog extensively about my home life or my job anyway. Vague comments about changing employment or unspecific details on new tasks are about as far as I’ll push it. I made it clear I blogged when I had my interview for my new job too — even went so far as to use my personal website as an example of my coding and design (haha) skills.

So, assuming that you are employed, what would you do if your employer called you into the office and said “stop blogging or lose your job” (even if you don’t blog about work)? Does your employer know that you blog? What do you think about people who get fired for blogging — just desserts for speaking out of turn or a violation of their right to free speech? It’d be interesting to hear what you all think, even if you’re not currently employed.

Edit: Off-topic, I forgot to mention my new page on my collection of geek t-shirts.

Jem Turner jem@jemjabella.co.uk +44(0)7521056376

36 comments so far

  1. Rhiannon said:

    A few years ago I got in trouble for even mentioning the name of the company I worked for at my blog. I went to work that afternoon and there were already twitterings that I had been blogging about the place, and that I was going to get in trouble for it. Sure enough, I was taken into your usual claustrophobic meeting room and was grilled about it, and asked to take down the word “Telecom”, or else I would lose my job. Of course, the whole thing resulted in the entire 200+ call centre talking about the whole thing, making up rumours and changing the story. I remember I walked into the canteen and heard people going on about it right to my face. There’s a website all about people being ‘dooced’ isn’t there? Must look it up.

  2. Amelie said:

    I don’t have a job because I’m a lazy bum. I mean student. Yes. Anyway, I don’t think it’s right for anyone to be fired for blogging. Ok, if they are defaming the company or insulting co-workers then that would probably be grounds for dismissal, but other than that, what you do in your spare time should not concern the company. There was a case a couple of years ago where a woman was fired for having a blog completely unrelated to her job. She wrote fictional stories *slightly* related to her job, but contained no names or anything. Then of course she posted pictures of herself in her work uniform, and while at first the company asked her to take down the pictures (which she did), they then sacked her for apparently “distorting the image of the company” if I remember correctly. To sum up, as long as you don’t insult your co-workers or defame your employer, the company should have nothing to do with your private life. If all you do is tell people how you did this and that today and that you have a dog called Bonzo, there is nothing there that can be used against you. Of course, if you’re blogging about how you had a supah partaaaay some night you were meant to be working, that’ll be your fault if your employer fires you…

  3. Carly said:

    On the other extreme I know somebody who worked for the NHS and although they didn’t go as far to name which establishment they worked in, or name any of the employees, they wrote musings and observations – sort of stereotypically about the medical staff… for example, about doctors not listening to nurses, anyhow, their blog was featured (without being contacted about it first) in a Newspaper, and to this day still, the person is paranoid about loosing their job. I hope that all makes some sort of vauge sense…. I didn’t want to give too much away about the situation…! My current job is in a bar – If they told me to give up my job or loose my website, i’d leave my job, but that’s just because I hate it anyway.

  4. Chans said:

    My boss doesn’t know about my blog and I don’t think he has to. Like you, I don’t say much about my job and I don’t want to either. Doesn’t it conflict with your rights though if you get fired for having a blog? I can imagine if you slag off the company you work for and / or your co workers or boss you will have to accept the concequences that come with it. But if you just blog about everything else but the above I don’t see a reason for getting fired. I don’t know what I would do if I were given the choice, my blog or my job. I’ve had my blog for longer than I’ve had my job, but bills need to be paid.

  5. Kimmie said:

    I say the same thing for all of this kind of deal. Don’t be dumb! Don’t write anything you might regret later. Like, I was going to write a really funny story about my mom the other day, but then I thought, “You know… I wouldn’t like it if my mom put up a similar story about me on her website.” So I didn’t. And if I mention work, I try to keep it to, “it was a long day today…” or “I had a really good day at work. I accomplished a lot.” But that’s about it. If you want to tell a funny stereotypical story, say, “My friend told me this story the other day” and don’t mention work at all. I don’t know if my employer knows about my blog. I certainly do not go advertising it. Honestly, I don’t think he cares. Plus, I couldn’t see anyone asking me to stop as long as I didn’t say, “Such and such a place sucks to work at!” They would probably just say, “That’s cool. Here’s mine.”

  6. Belinda said:

    I’m currently interning at a small law firm, so not only is there a social/moral obligation for me to not talk explicitly about confidential information, there’s also a legal one. With this in mind, I usually only mention things I’ve done at work in the vaguest of senses. Usually I use scenarios I’ve encountered at work as a springboard to talk about more general and abstract notions. I find it less boring to be rambling on about something as context-specific as your workplace. I really hope my employer doesn’t know about my blog, chances are he doesn’t. However, while there is a freedom of speech issue, if people are idiotic enough to blog about private client or workplace information with specific details, onto a fully public blog entry, I think that’s grounds for a fair dismissal.

  7. Belinda said:

    ^ The last sentence of the first paragraph makes no sense. I meant to say “I find it more boring to be rambling on about something as context-specific as your work place”.

  8. Daz said:

    I work at a web development company. They know I blog (I showed it in my interview too), but I don’t think they really care. I don’t think I’ve ever written about my work though, apart from a guy with a beard who shaved it off. That said, if I don’t think I would ever mention company names, or customers whatever

  9. Vixx said:

    I like to think that I’m both untraceable and unlinkable through my blog; I’ve not publically discussed what I do, where I work or anything that has the potential to get me in trouble. Um, I think. I live by the rule that if I wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, I won’t publically blog about it. But no, I wouldn’t want to loose my job over my blog. I earn too much to possibly generate in shite ads spaces and Google Adsense. :p V xx

  10. Li said:

    I’m not employed but if I was and I was given the choice between my blog and my job, I’d choose the blog because my blog never gave me an ultimatum, ha. I could see the reason for someone being sacked if they were discussing their co-workers or the company they’re working for in a not-too-nice light but if you’re sacked for just having a blog, I’d be screaming UNFAIR DISMISSAL if I was that person.

  11. CJ said:

    I think it would depend on just exactly why they are asking me to quit my own site. If I was blogging about work and they asked me to stop blogging about work that is something I could do. If I was blogging about my life that has zero relevance to my employment then I would be frustrated with the employer for asking me to quit. I wouldn’t see any reason for them to tell me to stop taking an interest in an off-the-job hobby of mine just because they don’t like it. Work intrudes on personal lives in many ways, but I don’t see any reason why it should dictate what kind of hobbies I am allowed to enjoy. I would really hate to give in and say yes I’ll quit just to keep my job, so what I might end up doing is just moving the site to another link. Although that would piss me off all the same. I don’t think they have a right to do that. Why should they care if it’s not affecting them?

  12. Renay said:

    I wouldn’t want to work for a place that stifles the free speech of their employees. Depending on circumstances, I would a) move my blog to a new location and keep my job for the time being and look for new work or if financially able b) quit on the spot and find a less moronic company to work for. Maybe it’s unrealistic, though? I remember being asked once at my old job what sort of webpages I browsed by my boss. When I told him, he asked if I wrote about the Union and I said yes–he considered it good advertising for the school. This is me rolling my eyes. Erg. Also, let me just say I think it’s super awesome you got to use your webpage in your interview to prove your skillz. It’s really funny to me to come here and see all your talent–I remember being around when you were still learning new things that you’re like an expert on now. I waant your braaains (or maybe just your learning capacity).

  13. NPs Save Lives said:

    I would have to start another anonymous blog under another name. I think free speech is important. I don’t name names or tell where I work. I don’t think my employer knows and my coworkers don’t either.. I am very careful and change the circumstances about the details..

  14. Claire said:

    If I was employed and was stupid enough to blog (particularly in a negative/libellous way) about my job (even if references were heavily disguised), I would accept that I fully deserved whatever was coming to me. If however, my content and subject matter remained as it is currently (non-job), and my boss had simply gotten pissy at my writing style (which let’s face it, isn’t always rosy), I would dispute the ultimatum. What I say in regards to my personal life, disability and general day-to-day observations, should have no detrimental bearing on my professional life, and I’d seriously question the integrity of a person who made it their business to ensure that it did.

  15. Nikki-ann said:

    I’ve always been taught that what happens in the office stays in the office. I do have a blog and work do know about it, but I don’t mention work in it. However, I have a friend who constantly blogs about work, mentions the (national) company by name and colleagues by name, and it’s ever in a good light. I have warned him, but it wasn’t welcome and so I’m letting him get on with it. It’s up to him if he wants to be ignorant.

  16. Jenny said:

    Ooh, lots of good comments! I think your employer should only have a say if you are blogging trade secrets or libel. Things you wouldn’t say on TV, if randomly approached on the street by a reporter (and you had half a brain). However, you should be smart about it — if you’re always blogging office gossip, chances are that you might cross the line, even in complete innocence. I don’t write about work (or even much of my real-world life in general). Anything I have to say about work would likely be a) “look at this super nerdy thing I figured out how to do!” that no one will care to hear about (even my mother gets sick of it!) or b) certain frustrations with the way things are done around the office, which are not appropriate for the public internet — if I want to discuss them, I should call a friend or take them up with my boss. Right now I do have a link to the site I work on, and I mention my employer by name. I think my site is perfectly appropriate from their vantage point, and they know about it — it was on my resume when I applied (although I really don’t think my boss even read it before she hired me — just took a few personal recommendations on trust). In the future I may decide not to mention my job at all, depending on who I’m working for then. Being the sort of person who stands on principle, I would probably quit a job that asked me to stop blogging. Not because I am particularly attached to it, but because I would feel that they are completely in the wrong and wouldn’t want to work at a place like that anyway. Of course, being such a raging idealist can get you in to trouble, and I might end up starving on the streets, but at least my concience would feel good about it!

  17. Xeronia said:

    I would give up my blog because the job is more important. Or more likely move it to a new url. To me, getting fired because of blogging, especially when you don\’t blog about work, is a violation of free speech. It reminds me of bosses firing employees in the developing world whenever they try to organize. I’m not employed right now. But I wouldn’t blog about work past the “I’ve got a job!” statement, depending on where I got a job or what the contract said. For example, if I worked at a grocery store, I’d probably write a lot about it. But if I worked for a law firm, then I wouldn’t blog past the fact that I worked there. I don’t think that you’d get fired for blogging unless you write about something that violates the contract that you set up with your employer. Your boss probably hired you because he saw how good your design skills were.

  18. Maggie said:

    I’m not working at the moment, because I’m a student. I don’t see anything wrong with talking about work as long as you keep it vague and don’t say names. The last place i worked at a couple months ago I blogged about with names and links because they made me so angry! I only worked there for just under 2 weeks. If a person is blogging about work using the company name and giving out company secrets or spreading gossip through their blog I can definitley see getting into trouble and if it persists getting fired.

  19. Aravis said:

    I think gossip or overly detailed entries about the company would be considered inappropriate. If the company requests not being mentioned on your blog at all, then you’d have to respect that too. But threatening to fire you just because you simply blog would be unfair. Moreso if it has nothing to do with the company at all. Your employer shouldn’t have any power over you other than your job. You shouldn’t have to be accountable to your boss about your personal life.

  20. Tracey said:

    I’ve said one thing about my job: What coporation it is. I don’t ever plan to say anything else about it publicly. It’s a big company, I’m just a little worker bee very afraid of the queen bee.

  21. Nanda said:

    I think it’s kind of odd that people get fired for blogging. Okay, if they post secret information about a company on their weblog.. but if they just say they don’t like their job (or even if they do), where they work, whatever, I think you should be able to talk about that because everyone has the right to have their own opinions and actually it’s just like discussing it with your friends – except you post it on a website. If you discuss your job with friends, they could also tell their friends and their friends could tell their friends. It’s the same kind of thing, actually.

  22. Jordie said:

    Well, I think it depends on the situation. As much as I advocate free speech, a woman who blogs extensively (and publicly) about her love life probably isn’t going to turn out to be the kind of person I’d want caring for my children. Keep that stuff for a private LiveJournal, please. But simply blogging about work hardly seems like enough to justify firing.

  23. Lew said:

    I never, ever blog about work. Being freelance I sign non-disclosure agreements with nearly all my clients. Besides, it’s not really all that interesting.

  24. Shannon said:

    I’m still too young for a job, but I’d never be stupid enough to just blog openly about one. Arrgh, your themes won’t work for me! I have no idea why. And I’ve cleared my cookies, too. I’ve only tried it here on FireFox on Windows XP. I should try again. D:

  25. Corinne said:

    Well my “current” job, although I’m not working there right now, I told them I would make my schedule a week ago, but I haven’t contacted them again ;). I hate it, I’ve been working there for a couple years, this will be year three, and if the pay wasn’t good, I would have stopped a long time ago. I wouldn’t name them though, and no one knows me online, but if I did talk about them, yeah, I would be fired in a sec., they SUCK. I should have gotten a promotion, but they didn’t give it to me for a stupid arbritary reason, they say, “apply again” like I want that. But, I think that if you can separate your work life from your private life, then so should they. Who are they to say what you can talk about when your not “on the clock?” ps. Jem, how can I ask you a ? about your contact form (the one that you’ve just “released” because -your- contact form won’t let me send a message for some reason. It says my referer details are incorrect or something. Could it be because I’m back at school?

  26. Ryan said:

    Wow, not blog or lost job… Blog, Job, Blog, Job? Humm… Depends, if I could make more money selling stuff on my blog then my job, I would drop the job. Though I would try to not tell anyone at work about it. If they find it then fine, if they dont like it then its their problem. – Ryan

  27. Andrea said:

    I had tried to comment before, but it mustn’t have gone through. I think that there’s nothing wrong with posting about your job as long as it’s vague…no mentioning of the place or any names. For me, I feel that blogging about my job is a violation of confidentiality because I work with kids. I’m not about to put my job at risk, nor put any of these kids at risk.

  28. wonkotsane said:

    As long as your blog doesn’t affect your job or employer then there’s no reason for them trying to stop you blogging. What you do in your private time is none of their business as long as it doesn’t affect them. I’d be buggered if it was!

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