mardi, mai 30, 2006

Is Blogging An Employment Deal-Breaker?

Aaron, the Podfather, emailed me with an offer I can't refuse. Well, I could if I really wanted to but I won't. The subject is blogging anonymously and doing so almost entirely out of fear of the employer reading the blog.

I am, technically, an anonymous blogger. Although some of the bloggers know me personally, I have used my judgment regarding to whom I'll disclose my identity. Those bloggers who are 100% anonymous are sadly missing out on a good opportunity to meet their peers... but in some cases it must be done.

So why post anonymously? It's important to protect your identity. Nothing illustrates that better than the modern day world and all its modern opportunities to invoke problems for yourself.


So with that, none of what I include here reflects the opinions of my employer. Something I think all bloggers should indicate - and only if it's true.


Is one's blogdom a deal breaker in the employment arena?

I think there are a lot of ways blogging can be interpreted by an employer, especially where the variety of work environments and job types are concerned.

Someone who writes for an ad agency or even the mainstream media would, I think, be encouraged in their blogdom. In positions that are hourly or of a structured environment with a lot of policies, politics and procedures will have significantly less leeway and poses more risk to themselves. When I say that, it's due to employee monitoring via network or spot background checks which are more likely in a structured environment.

If the blogger has poor judgment and decides to blog about their employer, they have to be ready to accept the consequences if they arise. It's incumbent upon the blogger to understand their employment culture and how to position their blogging. For the employer, a blogger can be a serious risk - depending upon their access to information within the company. If they decide to blog about work, they are a risk from the perspective of exposing trade secrets, financial leanings, or even the personal habits or traits of the management they work with or for (a huge safety issue I might add). They’re a risk whether or not they blog about it.

And the risk is on both parties. Employers need to have good selection practices, and employees need to be selective about their actions. Some may argue this, but its' within the employers right to present and position themselves in the media as they please. The employee should respect that especially where sensitive information is concerned. Employment is like any other relationship and is an agreement. They may terminate their relationship with the employer if they choose. They are not bound to them, however, per the agreement of service for pay, I think it's unethical to capitalize on the employer for personal gain or notoriety.

But wait, if the employer has high ethical standards, this shouldn’t be a problem, correct?

Corporate ethics are absolutely indispensable and priceless. And with proper enforcement by a good legal team and a management team of character, they have nothing to lose and everything to avoid. That said, strategic ethics are overall applicable, but individual behavior is more difficult to patrol. A lot of the ethical issues you'll see blogged are those of [peer] individuals and their decisions. Most situations are management calls and should be enforced as such, and it’s incumbent upon the employee to bring it to management’s attention instead of to the world’s without giving the employer a chance to rectify.

Business decisions - ones that affect employees - should not be confused with corporate ethics. It’s hard for people with very little understanding of business and capital philosophy to understand that all the time and know where to apply it. A business decision may not be interpreted as fair by the employee, but it is probably still ethical. This is where things can get dangerous if the person has good computer skills.

Companies should have blogging policies whether they are internal or external, but they should not forbid the blogger from blogging. It's not appropriate to ask employees or candidates if they are bloggers. And employers shouldn't have to patrol blogs if they have a policy in place and have an employment culture of respecting the policies as a term of employment.

And in addition to that, I don't think employers read blogs. They are running a business, and that’s no easy task and takes up most of the day. It's the evil folk who play politics that bring it to other employees' attention. You, as a human being, are responsible for that risk. Like it or not, you will always be subject to the whims of others.

Aaron thought that bloggers, by thoughtful and often analytical nature, would embody many of the traits that an employer would be seeking. I disagree with that… because not all bloggers have the interactive skills that an employer will need for a given position. They might be saving their opinions for later. That’s not appropriate if your position requires persuasive skills or requires some risk, for example. If you’re in an appropriate position, it works out just fine.

Other bloggers, with you know, rueful fervor, might be “bottom line” nose-tackles. If their blogging personality is reflected in real life as such, they might be just what the employer needs.

Most bloggers probably fall comfortably between the two. Kick in the pants opinionated, funny, and hopefully outgoing and persuasive at appropriate times.

At the end of the posting, you are who you are. With your judgment, ethics, and personality. Your employment is an investment and your actions don't have to be in accordance with the employer, but you'd be smart to protect your investment.

It’s Blogger Beware. Blogging is like the gun control argument. Guns don't kill people. Blogs don't get people fired. If that was the case, anyone who ever had a diary would have been fired a long time ago.


Blogger Nick said...

I agree completely. Although I stamp my name personally on everything I write (something I'm very proud of), I'm also very careful never to mention my employer or my clients by name.

I have blogged "about them", but unless you know me personally, and already know who I work for, you don't know where I work or who I'm talking about. Some of my coworkers have "found me", and know I blog, but are kind enough to keep it on the down low. I also have former coworkers who read my blogs.

I can also say that blogging has brought me job opportunities. Earlier this year I was in the running for a position (something that was hush hush at the time) at Microsoft on a new Visual Studio development team that was being started. The program manager found me because of my blogging on The Coding Monkey. So instead of costing me a job, I was actually getting opportunities because of it.

Like anything else in life, it just takes some common sense. Perhaps thats why so many people have a problem with it.

9:23 AM, mai 31, 2006  
Blogger Phelony Jones said...

I think that's great that you were able to, in a sense, profit from it. How do you promote The Coding Monkey so that you can get that kind of exposure?

8:13 PM, mai 31, 2006  
Blogger Nick said...

Microsoft actually encourages blogging quite a lot, and host a lot of developers who blog on their projects, and ask for community input on certain things. A lot of people think they're a very closed company, but this is one area where they have significantly turned around.

When the last Visual Studio was in beta, they actually created a public bug forum where people could post bugs, get responses from developers, and watch progress.

Anyway, so I comment on some of the MS blogs, and always point to the Coding Monkey. But as it turns out, the project manager for this new team found The Coding Monkey through a random Google search on certain programming topics and emailed me cold, and it just went from there.

8:34 AM, juin 01, 2006  

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