Bad blogs get you 'dooced'

By Val Leveson

So, you're angry with your boss. He makes what you think are stupid decisions, he doesn't listen to you, he's running down the department, he's favouring somebody over you. He just can't see how brilliant you are and he's ignoring you.

In the "old" days, it's likely you would have vented your frustration at your colleagues at the water cooler or lunch table. You would have told them what an idiot the boss was.

But things have changed - you're techno-savvy and you want to show it. Hey, you think, why not blog about the boss? Let the whole world know what an idiot he or she is and you decide to have some fun with it, you doctor some pictures perhaps, you make lurid comments. It feels so good to vent in this way. Bad idea, very bad idea.

As the manager, New Zealand, at executive recruitment firm Tanner Menzies, David Doyle, says: "Just think of the recent case when a video of police watching porn surfaced 20 years after the event.

"If there had been no documented evidence, there would have been no scandal.

"What you are doing by blogging your boss is creating a legacy for yourself, not your boss. And it doesn't look good to prospective employers."

Doyle points out what we all know by now _ prospective employers are finding the internet, particularly networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, to be a good way of finding out who you are before they employ you.

Beverley Main, chief executive of the Human Resources Institute, said recently: "More people are growing up with and using technology and it means young people have to be careful about the information they share about themselves because prospective employers will be looking."

Sam Morgan, founder and managing director of Trade Me, said "a significant trend" had developed for employers to use the kind of information easily gleaned from the sites (Facebook and MySpace) to vet potential employees.

"It's a real insight into people's characters," Morgan said.

The scary thing is - much of the information gets stored and can be accessed years later, which is what Doyle said he would be most concerned about.

Employers don't want to employ people who have a track record of disloyalty.

"The reality is, everyone bags their boss. They say `so and so is useless' or whatever. But they don't say that in a formal situation.

"Blogging is so new that it's a grey area. There's a line to cross between whinging vocally and publishing on the web. It can be bad form and the thing is, you may be 23 now and think it's OK to do this. You're not thinking of consequences. A blog is your remaining legacy of who you were when you wrote it. Is this what you want people to think you are when you are, say 30?

"Let's face it, blogging about your boss has more of a downside for the person who's blogging than the person who's been blogged about. The blogger is risking not being taken seriously.

"The thing is - you should never joke in writing. Not in emails and not in your blog. Think of how much trouble people have got into with emails. If you say something vocally, it's far easier to take it back than if it's well documented. If you write bad things, it stands out large; if you say it, it stays in the hearsay realm."

He says the fact that companies use the internet to research candidates is a "real trap" that employees need to understand.

"If your blog is affecting your career badly, you may never know it. You may not have the right of the reply - employers just won't call you into interviews.

"Blogging about your boss is the career equivalent of posting your ex-girlfriend's pics on the internet. It won't gain you respect. It's a negative that you can never correct through context."

And it's not just finding the next job that may be a problem for the person who blogs about the boss. Consider the word "dooced" that can be found in the blogosphere. According to Blogossary.com, the blogosphere's dictionary, it means: "To lose one's job due to entries on a blog."

These entries could, of course, be publishing company secrets on the web - but it can also be bagging your employer or company. This could be seriously career-limiting.

In Britain, retail worker Joe Gordon became the first blogger in the country to be sacked because he kept an online diary that mentioned his "sandal-wearing" boss at bookseller Waterstone's. Britain's Guardian newspaper reported Gordon was sacked for "gross misconduct" and for "bringing the company into disrepute".

A senior solicitor at Chapman Tripp, Geoff Bevan, says if you blog negatively about your boss you're walking on thin ice and you face real problems if what you've said gets back to your employer.

He points out that, as an employee, you have a duty to be loyal to your employer, and act in a way that is "consistent with a relationship of mutual trust and confidence".

"Staff who attack their boss or their work when blogging are probably breaking this unwritten term that exists in every employment agreement."

Especially serious is if you are revealing confidential matters on the internet. "You can't do that and you can't bring your employer into disrepute."

Bevan says one of the big problems with blogging is that your words are put into a public forum and you lose control of what you have put out there. He says it is possible to get into trouble when the information is spread by word of mouth, but it's usually one person's word against another.

"In print, what you've said is clear and stark and it's easier for employers to take action."

You may have just put something on email or in your blog in a tongue-in-cheek manner, but this is not always apparent to your boss when he or she reads it.

An illustration of blogging going wrong happened in New Zealand in mid-December. A Warehouse worker was fired after posting comments about her workplace on the social networking website Bebo. She wrote "work sux" and working until midnight was "gay like the management".

When her boss read the comments, she was fired for serious misconduct.

Bevan says this case has brought the issue into focus here and that the consequences of blogging about your boss can indeed be a warning or loss of employment. "The legal consequences can be unexpected," he warns.

So be careful - don't get dooced.

- NZ Herald

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