Be Careful What You Blog For
Blogging about work is risky business. Weblogs are still a thin ice realm, poorly defined with unclear lines and though becoming a powerful medium, it is only their potential that makes employers uneasy, not necessarily the content.
The employers that reside on the edge have encouraged their employers to blog about the industry while maintaining guidelines about trade secrets.
But for the rest of the world, blogs are an unregulated mass communication tool where corporate messages aren’t tweaked and sanitized before being aired.
The communication, PR, and marketing departments go into fits because the job of public message creation is suddenly out of their hands. It makes the boss nervous too, and that’s where it counts.
An op-ed in the New York Times yesterday details the trouble a women’s magazine editor stepped into after two separate employers (her current and soon-to-be employer) nixed her career efforts once they learned of her weblog. The trade secrets contained therein? Only the perks that come with being a beauty editor-free lip gloss and moisturizer.
The author, Jeremy Blachman, regales us with the story of his own blog, a fictional account of life in a law firm called “Anonymous Lawyer.” Fortunately for Blachman, when the public outed him, he’d already moved on to other career ventures.
The crux of the matter is that there is no case law regarding employee weblogs and to what extent employees are protected. Blachman asserts that weblogs are worth protecting if only for the public demand for insight into how people live their lives.
“Weblogs are worth protecting. It used to be that if you wanted to know what it was like to work for a law firm or a beauty magazine, you had to have a friend on the inside. But now that everyone can publish online, we can get these incredible glimpses into worlds we might otherwise never get to see. People across the world can share stories, commiserate and connect with each other,” writes Blachman.
He makes an excellent point that employers should have to demonstrate actual harm before letting someone go on account of their online musings. As of now though, it’s no holds barred, as even if employers think a worker implied something to the public they dislike, they can snap a career in two.