Vice President - Human Resources
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Blogging's rise causes workplace issues

By Amy Joyce

Washington Post

The number of bloggers continues to grow, but the number of workplace policies explaining the company's rules on blogging remains anemic. And that can cause a lot of workplace angst for both management and workers.

Although there are no real statistics on how many people have been fired for something they wrote on their personal Weblogs, the stories keep coming:

A reporter in Dover, Del., was fired earlier this month for offensive postings on his personal blog.

He was just added to the list. Remember ``Washingtonienne,'' the intern who embarrassed her bosses on Capitol Hill when she described sexcapades with unnamed staffers? There was also ``QueenofSky,'' a Delta flight attendant who was fired after she posed provocatively (she meant for it to be funny, she said) in her uniform. A Microsoft employee was canned after he posted a picture that included Macs the company had purchased. And of course there is blogger Heather Armstrong, who was fired in 2002 from her Web design job for writing about work and colleagues on her site, Dooce.com. That's where bloggers get the now-popular term, to be ``dooced'': to be fired because of one's blog.

According to a survey done by the Society for Human Resource Management in July, 85 percent of companies do not have a written policy that provides employees with guidelines on what is acceptable to write about in a personal blog, while 8 percent do.

Another survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management said that 3 percent of 278 human resource professionals in early 2005 said they had disciplined workers for blogs.

With more than 8 million blogs -- and growing -- in the United States, employers will find themselves dealing with issues related to personal blogs, just as they scratched their heads a decade ago when they tried to decide how to deal with employee e-mail and Internet usage.

Employers are unprepared for blogging's impact, according to the Employment Law Alliance, a network of labor and employment law firms. It conducted a telephone poll of 1,000 adults in January that found about 5 percent of American workers maintain a personal blog, while only 15 percent of employers have a policy that directly addresses blogging.

That concerns Stephen Hirschfeld, a labor lawyer and the chief executive of the alliance, because companies could find themselves in sticky litigation if they fire someone for what he wrote on his blog.

``Both in respect to blogging or other non-blogging activities, you have to put employees on notice of dos and don'ts,'' he said.

The poll also found that 59 percent of employees believe employers should be allowed to discipline or terminate workers who post confidential or proprietary information concerning the employer; 23 percent of employees would support a fellow worker who criticizes or jokes about employers, co-workers, supervisors, customers or clients.

Meanwhile, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, 7 percent of human resource professionals read job candidates' blogs to gather information on them before the company decided whether to hire them.

From India, New Delhi
Very interesting. Blogging has created a transparency of sorts. It is never the medium at fault; it is how you use it. One cannot perhaps post confidential messages on the blog but if an employee is being harassed by an autocratic boss or his company is mistreating him in this respect, blogs maynot be a bad idea to garner support. One comes across online petitions for justice and all that and with the kind of legal system we have, where can one go anyway? Blogging implies empowerment of the individual.
I attended the Delhi bloggers meet for the first time three days back. For those interested, the site is
http://kimdelhi.in <link updated to site home>

From India, New Delhi
I agree totally with Hiren50. I think that the way organizations have numerous policies say- leave policy, mobile phone usage policy and more..... they can have one more policy Internet Usage Policy.
Many of organizations have this policy already in place. They can add a clause declaring that the employees will be subject to jurisdiction if they are found guilty to leaking company's TRADE SECRETS anyhow over the internet (including any comment made on online forums, any personal blog or simple comment to any story coverage inviting customer feedback.
As internet usage is increasing with every passing day you cannot keep track of every single statement posted by every employee. An employee can comment on any xyz.com website with any fake identity and create a bad name against the organization.
The threat of a punitive action by having a policy in place and acting persons adhering to its clauses can bring the situation under control to a respectable extent.

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