Monday, July 18, 2005

Blog power

Dr. B has a couple of good posts about blogging, anonymity, employee-employer relationships, and more. Whenever I mention to people that someone got fired for blogging, they almost always say, well, they deserved it for being so stupid. And, like Dr. B and many of her commenters, I think more needs to be done to examine the responsibility of the employer in such situations. There are endless accounts of bloggers being fired for what seem like small offenses. There's even a Technorati tag for it. And there are advice articles. Most of these articles advise you to suck all the life out of blogging. "Be safe," they say.

I have to say that I think most employers fear bloggers and blogging. Otherwise they wouldn't be firing and/or suing employees for doing so. There is a power in blogging that most people don't have at work. In your blog, you can say that comeback that you wish you could say. You can speculate about why co-workers said certain things. Or you can simply report the goings on at work because they're interesting or funny or pathetic. How often have you been in a meeting and wished you could just say, "This is the dumbest meeting I've ever been in. There's no agenda and we'll never make a decision because so-and-so won't let go of X project because he's a power-monger." Social convention makes you sit there and keep your mouth shut. But you can write about it on your blog and it makes you feel better.

What are employers afraid of? Are they afraid they'll be embarrassed? Have their secrets revealed? Afraid they'll look stupid and some client will dump them because they read something bad about them on a blog? Afraid an employee will reveal their unethical behavior? Afraid they'll lose their position of power, which is really held only because of social convention?

Frankly, I'm a proponenet of more openness, more honesty, which is what bugs me about the Bush administration. Blogging begins to shed some light on what was once hidden. Bosses are afraid of this. It's like the secretive family not wanting people to know they do strange things in private. I'm all for privacy except when it comes to the employer/employee relationship and business policies and practices. I think employees should know their rights. I think employees should know what's going on in a company. If employees feel that their superiors are being honest with them, then there's no need for them to speculate on their blogs.

I see a lot of fear of blogging and other kinds of open content like wikis among journalists, employers and educators*. They're losing control of the message. I would like to see those in power think, not of controlling, but of partnering with their employees of letting their employees expose problems and propose solutions--perhaps via their personal blogs.

Like the nanny story Dr. B related, I think too many employers not only want to control the message, but want to control the very identity of their employees. They want to prevent them from having any individuality. They project their hopes onto them or a packaged image.

I think we can't be squelched by all these stories. We have to keep scrutinizing these situations and start to turn the spotlight, not on the bloggers who were fired, but the employers who fired them.

A tangent, of sorts. Want to read some interesting employee blogs? Read some by people who work at Walmart.

*I have more to say on educators' fear of blogging later.