Blogging employees? Get a policy

Blogging about work is no crime, but shooting your mouth off has always had its consequences. The best insurance is for employers to develop clear policies
Written by Leader , Contributor
Google sacks blogger. On the surface, that's a quirky story that touches on some deep issues. After all, isn't innovative use of the Internet just the sort of thing Google encourages and hires people to do -- and doesn't Google own Blogger?

We may never know the full story. New hires part company with their new employers all the time, for all sorts of reasons. Nonetheless, this is not the first nor will it be the last time that a blog has unintended consequences.

It is neither possible nor desirable to make people's every expressed opinion conform to a company's ethos, and employees and employers alike are protected by the principle that what you do on your own time is your own business.

But revealing internal secrets about your company in public is now and has always been a daft thing to do for which you can generally be summarily dismissed. Many companies already forbid employees to talk to journalists about work matters: the blog is the most efficient way of informing every hack in the world how you feel. It's unlikely to want to protect its sources either. Companies are not democracies: freedom of speech might be your natural right, but so is a firm's freedom to show you the door.

The lesson of Mark Jen's blog isn't that low corporate cunning is slamming the door on a bright new age of personal communication. It's that if you're a new hire not two years out of college, brilliance is not best expressed by complaining to the world about pay and conditions less than a week into a new job. Imagine the outcry if his line manager wrote so frankly in public about new hires.

Companies should have clear guidelines about employee blogging, with the aim of making neither side look like dolts. Those who wish to relate their innermost thoughts to the world should consider the wisdom of leaving some things unsaid. If that's too hard then at least practise safer blogging by using a pseudonym.

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