Blogging is not easy. It takes thought, time, and effort.
What does blogging say about bloggers? At the very least, it says that they are interested in the blog subject. Interested enough to spend time thinking, researching, writing, and editing. This is time that could otherwise be spent doing any number of things (relaxing, exercising, socializing, etc.). One might argue that blogging demonstrates more than just interest – it demonstrates a passion for the blog topic. If one’s blog is related to what they do for a living, that means passion for one’s profession. And a passionate employee is a good employee.
Should employers encourage employees to blog? Should they prohibit blogging? Should they pretend that it’s not happening? I’m not talking about whether employees should be permitted to blog on company time. While most employers would say no, Michel Anteby, in his Harvard Business Review article, Working in the Gray Zone, suggests that it may be OK, and even beneficial. Anteby says that this has to do with employees’ need to “enact their ‘occupational identities,'” (i.e. “the self-image that a person trained in a specific vocation develops as a member of that profession.”). Much the way blogging indicates a passion for the subject, “gray zones signal a higher aspiration among employees that immediate supervisors deem worthy of pursuit.”
Blogging (on your own time) is good. I know that I personally–and professionally–benefit from blogging. It makes me a better KM guy. I learn from my blog buddies, some of whom are listed in my blog roll (and on the LawyerKM Netvibes Universe). But a blog, like any medium, should not be abused. A good blogger’s guide is The Golden Rule. Another word to the wise is “don’t [write] anything you wouldn’t want published on the front page of the New York Times” (aka The New York Times Rule). (I know, I know, some bloggers would love to have their stuff published in the New York Times – anywhere in the New York Times.)
In my opinion [see opinion disclaimer], a reasonable approach is best. Lawyers love the word “reasonable.” What does this mean? Todd Alan Ewan and Carolyn M. Plump put forth some pretty reasonable blog policy ideas in their article, To Blog or Not to Blog: An Employer’s Dilemma (although I think that they may have borrowed the title from another blog post. I’m kidding.). Perhaps another piece of guidance comes from our friends at Thomson Reuters, which recently released its Code of Business Conduct and Ethics.
Part of that code states:
It’s OK to mention Thomson Reuters in a personal blog. However, if you maintain a personal blog, it should not contain or discuss any confidential or nonpublic information about Thomson Reuters, our customers or other people or companies that we do business with. You should not cite or reference customers, employees or business associates without their approval. If your blog mentions Thomson Reuters, it should be clear that any opinions that you express are your own, and not those of Thomson Reuters. Even then, you should be mindful of the Trust Principles in discussing Thomson Reuters or any of its competitors. Further, personal blogs should never be used for internal communications among fellow employees and you should not use a personal blog to air any differences with co-workers, Thomson Reuters or people or companies that we do business with. Some Thomson Reuters businesses may have their own supplemental policies and guidelines on blogging.
That seems reasonable. And it seems that some law firms subscribe to such reasonable ideas. David Hobbie (Caselines) and Doug Cornelius (KM Space), of Goodwin Procter, write about KM topics and are pretty open about things they do at the firm. Tom Baldwin, of Reed Smith, also shares some of his KM experiences with the world via his blog, Knowledgeline. The KM community benefits from their ideas and experiences.
In the end, whether employers love it, hate it, allow it, prohibit it, or tolerate it; they shouldn’t ignore it. They need to be aware that people blog. And some of those people may be their employees. Reasonableness may be / probably is / definitely is–in my opinion–better than ignorance.
And for you bloggers out there, The Golden Rule and The New York Times Rule are good guidance, but perhaps the best way to put it is: Don’t Be Stupid.
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