Third of bloggers risk dismissal

May 25 2007 by Brian Amble Print This Article

More than a third of bloggers risk falling foul of their employer because they have posted sensitive or damaging information about their employer, workplace or colleagues.

A new survey carried out in the UK by workplace consultancy Croner found that among employees who kept a personal blog, four out of 10 (39 per cent) admitted that they had posted derogatory or damaging material about their working lives.

Gillian Dowling, technical consultant at Croner, said that the problem is similar to that of the early days of email use.

"In the 1990s when emails were introduced as a new means of communication employees were lulled into a false sense of security by the informality that this type of communication brings.

"Many recipients received rude, angry or otherwise inflammatory emails which had been written and sent in the heat of the moment.

"Back then it was common to train staff on the use of emails which included advising employees not to send inappropriately worded emails in haste.

"Employees were advised that the use of emails was the equivalent of sending or dictating a letter, and just as binding. These concepts remain in email or internet policies today."

Bloggers, she argued, now risked being lulled into the same false sense of security by the ease with which they were now able to publish their thoughts and opinions. But doing so risked serious consequences.

"If there is a negative impact on the organisation's corporate image which is so serious that it breaches the implied term of mutual trust and confidence, the employee could be dismissed for gross misconduct," she said.

"The blog could also be evidence of other conduct issues or reveal workplace discrimination or bullying.

"Confidential secrets could be disclosed including financial information or new product development, or whistle blowing all of which could have a negative impact on the business."

In the light of blogging's growing popularity, she suggested that it may be appropriate to extend a firm's internet policy to cover blogging and the risks involved of disclosing information over the internet.

In sensitive roles employees could even be asked to sign media and communications policies, which should be expanded to include blogging Ė something that is already appearing on the horizon.

In industries where there is a high level of computer literacy and usage, however, having a corporate blog may be an appropriate way forward to tap into the bloggers' creative energy and enthusiasm.

"Employers need to ensure that they carefully consider the impact of blogging on their organisation and take appropriate steps to minimise any potential risk," Ms Dowling added.