Blogging: Another Management Headache?
Web surfing and e-mail are no longer the only problems employers face regarding the Internet. Recently, more and more unhappy employees have been using the internet to unload their gripes about their workplace on their personal Internet pages, a.k.a blogs. As blogging’s popularity grows, so does the threat of disclosure of confidential information, false allegations as well as personal attacks against management. And as a result, companies should take a moment and address blogging in their own employment practices.
A blog is a web page on which its owner can post information and opinions, much like an online diary. Easy-to-create and an effective way to spread information, it's no surprise, blogging is on the rise. One popular blog website, Myspace.com, started as a platform for California musicians to network, but today is a social network with over 40 million members. Some companies even host employee blogs as a marketing tool, increasing publicity by moving the company higher on search engines.
However, as effective as blogs can be promoting publicity, they can be equally damaging to a company's reputation. A blog can just as easily become a soapbox on which an employee can stand and spout things that their employers might not want others to know. Still relevantly new, blogging is considered dangerous to a company's image because it spreads information to a potentially huge audience. Once a blog is posted, it is almost irretrievable. Therefore, much to an employers' dismay, a potentially racist, sexist, discriminatory comment or one that discloses confidential information is left to circulate the internet for a very long time.
So what can and should an employer do? Consider developing a policy that will help avoid a blogging before it starts or gets out of hand. Here’s a few tips when considering a blogging policy for your company:
Employers should also take into account the effect a blogging policy will have on employees. Is the policy intended to discipline renegade bloggers within the company? Or simply an extension of an already existing internet policy? And perhaps more importantly what will be the effect on employee morale?
- Confidentiality. Describe what an employee may or may not disclose, such as company and customer information.
- Respect of dignity. The policy should include a statement that the blogger should respect the dignity of others and refrain from posting personal information about coworkers or managers.
- Identification. Are employees permitted to reference the company in their blog?
- Facilities. Can employees use company facilities to work on their blogs? Are employees permitted to read and post messages to blogs during their work time or from the workplace?
- Monitoring. State that the company monitors its facilities, e.g., Internet, computer systems, network, etc. for compliance with this policy and monitors the use of its name and trademarks on the Internet.
- Discipline. What discipline measures will be used if the employee violates the policy? Note: employees should reserve the right to decide the appropriate level of discipline in any give circumstance up to and including the immediate termination of employment.
Employers should also keep in mind that they can prohibit the use of company time and equipment to write blogs.
Hedley Lawson, Contributing Editor
Aligned Growth Partners, LLC