The New York Times has interesting article today about how companies are responding to interns who blog. The reporter posits that young people are so used to sharing personal information online during their college years through websites like MySpace.com, that they think it's perfectly natural for them to chronicle the vagaries of their entry to the workforce—the mean colleagues and the job stresses—even if an earlier generation of workers would view such candor as a firing offense.
The Times also suggests that high profile cases of interns getting fired and then landing fancy book deals (and minor celebrity) adds another level of temptation. As proof of this, the paper cites the upcoming movie version of The Devil Wears Prada, which is based on the best-selling roman a clef written by the former assistant to the editor of Vogue magazine.
The phenomenon occurs in other, more prosaic workplaces, the paper said. A 25-year-old marine zoologist was reportedly fired by the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia for blogging about her job, and for posting pictures on a MySpace:
"The confrontation was traumatic, Ms. Werner recounted, not always with perfect spelling or grammar, on another Web site: 'I was still sobbing kind of quietly but I didn't want them to think that I was ashamed of what I had written. My parents read my blog. My old college friends keep up with my life through my blog. I took my badge off and looked at the mean HR lady who was smiling smuggly at me. She told me perhaps next time I would be more wise in my lifestyle and decision making choices regaurding work.'
"In an interview, she said she regretted crossing the line: 'I came to the realization that I probably shouldn't have been blogging about work."
So what do you make of all this? Do you think it's okay to fire a worker for blogging about his or her typical workday experiences? What kind of material on a blog is acceptable and what crosses the line? The Times noted a statistic that, in a Society of Human Resource Management survey, only 8% of 404 companies polled had policies in place about employee blogging. Do you think these policies make sense? Do you have one?
Last updated: May 26, 2006
MIKE HOFMAN was previously editor of Inc.com and a deputy editor at Inc. magazine, which he joined in 1996. The site was nominated for a National Magazine Award for Digital Media in 2010, and was named the best business website by Folio Magazine. In 2006, Hofman was part of a team of writers nominated for a Webby Award for best business blog. He lives in New York City. @mikehofman