How long before a blogger sues a company for not being hired?
July 22, 2006
I was a guest on Saturday with Susan McReynolds on RTE 1 this morning in the good company of Damien and Claire. The piece was a general introduction to blogging and why people blog etc but we also touched on issues of privacy and work related matters such as the recent La Petite Anglaise situation (ie workers being suspended and/or fired for blogging). I think this latter one is going to grow and grow. The point I made in the interview is that it’s not only how much (if any – and not much in the above example) of a company’s information a blogger might reveal it’s also about how much of our personal selves we bring into the office even via virtual methods. We have highly codified rules about how we behave in work settings. One of those rules is that emotional or intimate behaviour belongs at the front door. When a “boss” discovers a personal blog they are faced with the reality that the blogger is a whole human being – they can read about who this person is outside of that door and they are then faced with the dilemma of what to do with that information back at base. We can’t not know what we know. If I have a personal blog and write salacious details of my comings and goings that has nothing to do with work – is it becoming behaviour? Likewise if I write an innocuous post about various other interests. Am I the kind of person my company want’s to hire? What happens when the personalised water cooler conversations are broadcast loud and proud? And what business is it of my employer who or what I am outside of the front door if I am not breaching any confidentialities? What kind of image building do bloggers contribute to by how they blog outside of company hours? How much control can and should employers have over the people who work for them? How much responsibility do bloggers have for what they say and write inside or outside of company time?
Here’s my prediction: Employers that don’t get blogging will increasingly use information garnered online to make decisions on hiring and one of these days a blogger is going to slap a pre-emptive strike on a company because they failed to hire them due to irrelevant information garnered online. A new type of prejudice will come into the daily parlance and while companies think they have the upper hand right now because most of the focus is on bloggers who reveal company business, I think business in general needs to take a long hard look at the kind of information it is ethically disposed to gathering and using and under what circumstances. Having a policy on blogging is a start (preferably one that is negotiated) but there are much wider ethical issues here which we’re only beginning to touch on and it’s incumbent on bloggers to be part of that conversation, not merely reacting and responding to it.
You can access the programme by clicking on this link, scoot forward to 41.08 minutes in where our interview begins. Cian from Irish Election did a phone interview towards the end of the programme (scoot forward to 1.25.36 for the beginning of his segment).