Fired For Blogging? UK Bloggers At Risk, Are You?

Checking in with the Beeb it looks like a third of bloggers in the UK are at risk of getting fired from their workplace. In a recent survey of 2,000 bloggers it was revealed that 39% of people made “harmful comments” that could be grounds for gross misconduct. That’s a fairly high percentage wouldn’t you think? This gives rise to a post I’ve been keeping in the drafts…

In the Irish blog o’sphere there is a good element of transparency and a great sense of community. We’re not afraid of saying who we work for, who we represent, what our interests are commercially or personally – nice transparency. What I’ve yet to come across – and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong – are people stepping out and bad mouthing who they work for online. Sure enough, you might hate your boss or management and you might talk around the water cooler about it or yap in the pub about it but you don’t go blogging about it!

I worked with AOL for some time a few years back, before I had any interest in blogging (but not too long before) so email was the big thing. So was professional misconduct and the two went hand in hand – you don’t bitch about staff or insider details in email, you don’t (or try not to) make personal mails from your company account, forward emails from your company account, anything that has the potential to bring the name of the organisation into disrepute.

Whether its an organisation you’re working for employing hundreds of people, a small company with fifteen of you there or a small startup (my situation in 2005), it pays to have a little professional courtesy and a little common sense.

From the report –

If there is a negative impact on the organisation’s corporate image which is so serious that it breaches the implied term of mutual trust and confidence, the employee could be dismissed for gross misconduct

And I think thats what it is, common sense. You bite at the hand that feeds you enough and it will eventually bite you back. But blogging isn’t a “new thing” any more and neither is getting fired for it. The term ‘Dooced‘ was pretty much coined by Heather Armstrong who was fired for references made about her employers on her blog back in 2002, just a year after running the blog; ‘Queen Of The Sky’ Ellen Simonetti was fired from her job at Delta Airlines because of events on her blog ‘Diary of a Flight Attendant‘; staff at Wells Fargo and Friendster have been fired in the past for blogging
. More recently there was the case with Sam Sethi getting the flick from Techcrunch UK before Christmas.

The three of us in the office including myself, Aidan and John blog on several different fronts and as a business trying to develop itself and its clients the last thing we need to do is go pissing people off. It might be different in our case as we wouldn’t be blogging about hating our own business, but you’d still not see us naming and shaming clients, buyers or suppliers. However, if it was me in a position over 20 other people and one disgruntled employee decides to take things to the web and bad mouth the business or but the business in a bad light thanks to his remarks online I don’t think I’d have any hesitation in taking action – its just something you don’t do. Even if you’re freelance, why would you want to go bad mouthing or showing up a previous source of work if you’re actively looking for others. Things that get published to the web have a tendency on sticking around….

Late night rant aside, CNN.com published an article while I was finishing up in college just over two years ago and its final points as as important now as they were two years ago.

  1. Know where your employer stands on blogging
  2. Blog on your own time
  3. Practice safe blogging (like not giving away business secrets)
  4. Don’t hide your blog from your boss – be open
  5. Use good judgement – don’t use your blog to talk about things you’d never say in real life
  6. Others will disagree with you – be aware

I’ve had people approach me this year asking “should I tell the manager if I end up telling a funny story from work” (or something along those lines) – I say you better. Be honest and upfront about it. Take from it what you will but for those people getting into blogging, open your eyes when your blogging. People are reading, people are visiting, search engines are keeping track of your posts and you can be held accountable at the end of the day.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a code-of-conduct type thing, its just common sense in relation to your employer and your own job security. If you value your job, don’t put yourself in the firing line.

  • http://howtosplitanatom.com/ Steve S

    Definitely the right idea mate. Blogging gives us all an editorial platform, and the more exposure we get from our blogs the more we have to realize that someone out their might be looking over our shoulders, and that someone might be responsible for our livelihoods. I think as long as you do your homework, your blogging career shouldn’t cause you too much trouble.