By Deane Barker on January 12, 2005
Anyone who has been a regular reader of the Gazette will know that I do occasionally mention my work life, although it accounts for a fraction of my written output. Like many folk I am not always happy at work […] and me being me when I mention bad days or annoying occurrences I do so in my own satirical, sarcastic, comedic style.
I often put many things into a basic narrative form, add characters etc. So I would coin terms such as “Bastardstone’s” and have a character called “Evil Boss” (my equivalent to Dilbert’s Pointy Haired Boss — in fact I compared head office directives to being in a Dilbert cartoon). I once referred to a chum and former colleague, Olly, when he found a full time IT job after his graduation as being a successful member of the Escape Committee at work.
The A-list blogs are rushing to this guy’s defense, and everything I’ve read on the subject is heavy on “free speech” and “individual rights” and such. The author even brought this up as his “disciplinary hearing”:
I pointed out once more that I was outraged that a company seemed to think it had the right to tell an employee what opinions they could articulate in their own time.
The entire narrative he gives about his firing is very long and detailed. It makes a fascinating read.
What do you think about this? I’m torn. While I’m very much in favor of free speech, I also believe that you shouldn’t write anything about anyone that you wouldn’t say to them should you discuss it face-to-face. Especially when that person is writing you a paycheck.
Example: the bookstore was called “Waterstone’s.” At least once, apparently, this guy called it “Bastardstone’s” in his blog. Would he have called it this in a personal discussion with the owner? If not, then why write this on a Web site accessible to several billion people?
There’s a tendency, I think, to wrap blogging in the flag of freedom and individual rights. But things you write still have personal implications. Just because you have the wonderful, God-given right to put something down in text doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to piss someone off.
If I found out that someone had made a name like that up for my company and relayed it to others, either in person or — worse yet — on a public Web site, would I be pissed? Well, yeah, I really think I would. Especially since he was an 11-year employee. That carries weight with people, since veterans are assumed to know the organization better than anyone. If this guy, who has worked there for that long, feels the need to say things like this, then it must be true, right?
This happened to me early last year, as some of you long-time readers might remember. I made fun of a job posting that someone put on the Web. Shortly after, I got a phone call from the attorney of the company. I pulled the entry down, and, in retrospect, I don’t think there was anything they could do, but I got to feeling bad about it. The attorney asked me, “What did we do to you?”
It’s true — what did they do to me? Yes, I legally had the right to post what I did, but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t going to irritate someone. I ended up taking the entire blog down for six weeks while I mulled over the consequences. Would I have said that if the guy was standing right in front of me? Probably not, and if I did, it wouldn’t be with near the vitriol that made it into my original post.
The bottom line is that things you put on the Web have real-world implications, no matter how much you get all wrapped up in the “blogosphere.” Yes, this thing we do is great fun, but we’re not doing it in a bubble, and there’s no “ramification-free zone” in which we can throw around whatever opinions we like.
I feel badly that the guy is out of a job, but there’s just no way I would have written about my employer in the way that he wrote about his. Not if I expected him to keep signing my paycheck, anyway.
Feel free to discuss.