Ed Driscoll

Blogging 9 To 5

The San Jose Mercury (via the WaPo) notes that “Blogging’s rise causes workplace issues“:

The number of bloggers continues to grow, but the number of workplace policies explaining the company’s rules on blogging remains anemic. And that can cause a lot of workplace angst for both management and workers.

Although there are no real statistics on how many people have been fired for something they wrote on their personal Weblogs, the stories keep coming:

A reporter in Dover, Del., was fired earlier this month for offensive postings on his personal blog.

He was just added to the list. Remember “Washingtonienne,” the intern who embarrassed her bosses on Capitol Hill when she described sexcapades with unnamed staffers? There was also “QueenofSky,” a Delta flight attendant who was fired after she posed provocatively (she meant for it to be funny, she said) in her uniform. A Microsoft employee was canned after he posted a picture that included Macs the company had purchased. And of course there is blogger Heather Armstrong, who was fired in 2002 from her Web design job for writing about work and colleagues on her site, Dooce.com. That’s where bloggers get the now-popular term, to be “dooced”: to be fired because of one’s blog.

According to a survey done by the Society for Human Resource Management in July, 85 percent of companies do not have a written policy that provides employees with guidelines on what is acceptable to write about in a personal blog, while 8 percent do.

I asked my wife to jot down some very easy to follow rules to avoid problems in the workplace. (Please note that this isn’t legal advice, merely the blogging equivalent of jotting on a cocktail napkin):

1. Remember that your work computer belongs to your employer, your work time belongs to your employer i.e., don’t blog from work.

2. Read your employment agreement. Morality clauses or non-disparagement clauses etc. might limit what you might otherwise say.

3. Know what is confidential information and don’t post it. In some states theft of a trade secret is a crime, in addition to being just plain wrong.

4. Ask your employer what their policy is about blogging that in no way reflects on the company. Double edged sword. It is the most professional and upfront thing to do. But if you are told that they do consider what you write outside the work area to be relevant to your employment (which I doubt they would) then you can’t claim “who knew”

5. Remember that in most states employees owe their employer a “duty of loyalty” Can’t you think of something else to blog about other than whining about work?

And as Jonah Goldberg might say, remember to keep all nudity tasteful and essential to the blog. What employer can complain about that…?