Ground Rules for Blogging About Work

At my company, a large public company here in St. Louis, we sign annual confidentiality agreements before we get our bonuses and stock options.  It makes perfect sense to me, and I’m happy to sign.  This year, for the first time, the confidentiality agreement includes “external blogging” as one of the outlets in which we are prohibited from sharing confidential material.  I guess that’s a sign of the times.

When I thought about including posts here about “work,” my thoughts went to this annual agreement and the repercussions for breaking it:  termination.  That would be bad, especially in this economy and in a place as small as St. Louis.  Not disclosing confidential information is obvious, but this did get me thinking about some ground rules for blogging about work, and I offer them for you below.

I am only the latest person to think through ground rules.  Information Week posted an article titled “Blogging About Work Is Risky Business” all the way back in February 2005.  In this article they quote a lawyer who says:  “Ultimately, any blogger who chooses to discuss his or her job in an online forum may risk being terminated.”  Ouch.  However, if that’s the case, can I still blog about work every Friday.

I will try not to blog about work, but I do plan to blog about things related to work.  In my opinion, you can blog about the importance of project management, but you can’t blog about the current project you are working on and how good or poor the project manager is.  You can blog about lunch, eating in, eating out and post-lunch comas, but you can’t blog about the quality of the food in your cafeteria or the guy two cubes down who always brings in stinky food every day and eats it in his cube.

To help myself and perhaps some of the readers, I’ve come up with five ground rules for blogging about work that are designed to keep the writer out of the spotlight, in the job and still blogging.

  1. Publish posts that you will be comfortable emailing to your boss or your boss’s boss. 
  2. Assume your coworkers, past and present, are reading your blog as soon as you post and you want to make them happy.
  3. Broaden the definition of “Proprietary and Confidential” to include other materials. Err on the side of including things as “proprietary and confidential” and, therefore, don’t mention them in your blog.
  4. Avoid specifics and quantitative metrics whenever possible. This will help you with #1, #2, and #3 above. If a colleague reads a post and asks “were you talking about anyone here when you wrote . . . “, then you may not have been general enough.
  5. Don’t write an opinion post disagreeing with policies or processes or approaches at your current place of work. Be upbeat. A blog is not a soapbox to debate company policies or work direction already in place. Bad form. It is probably also a violation of rule #3.

A blog about work is an creative outlet for the author and a chance pass on knowledge from many years in the workplace. Following these ground rules, especially #1, will allow the writer to create insightful, thoughtful pieces, without incurring the wrath of management or coworkers, past and present.

Next Friday, when the Life With Spidey blog schedule brings me back to “work,” I’ll have a short piece about a concept called “Emotional Intelligence.”

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One Response to Ground Rules for Blogging About Work

  1. Pingback: Is Gen Y Causing Us to Rethink Communications at Work? « Life With Spidey

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