Deepening the Conversation

thinking about questions of authority, technology, learning, and 2.0 in academic libraries

Blogging and workplace ethics 2.0

5 Comments

So here’s today’s question to the blogoverse:

What would you do if you discovered a colleague’s blog is sprinkled with unprofessional rants about people at your workplace? In this particular scenario, the people talked about are nameless but the the blogger is not so anonymous that others can’t identify who’s who.

This blogger never approaches people in the real world with complaints or concerns, but sees fit to attack them with spleeny, self-involved rants – which of course cannot be substantiated or defended against. Defaming unknowing people in such a (semi)public manner is beyond unprofessional. In addition, the unquestioned construct runs the risk of becoming the blogger’s reality, because the blogger never opens the construct up to the light of day and external questioning.

I’ve been noticing that passive aggressive behavior breeds passive aggressive behavior, and am not sure that following the lead set by such a tone is a good idea. Avoidance may seem like keeping the peace, but a situation like this lead one to ask: at what cost? and is it really a peace at all?

Librarianship is markedly more “office-like” than other academic professions, and we encounter an odd hybrid of approaches and philosophies in the workplace. And personality issues take a high level of importance, especially given team-based organization, the vast number of committees we each work on, and the fraught addition of the tenuring process.

So I add this dilemma to Management 2.0, a new shade to library politics: what do you do about the self-involved office blogger and the impact of said blogger in the library workplace environment? Do you ignore? practice visualizing horrific scifi-esque accidents in your head? Explore new breathing techniques? Anonymously comment in the bloggers’ blog? Confront in the real world?

I turn to you: what course of action would you — actual you, not your higher angels you — pursue in this case study? And, is there an emerging set of rules about bloggers who keep personal blogs that mingle with their professional lives? I think there are clear standards for professional blogs, but blurred lines between personal blogs discussing work are decidedly fuzzy.

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5 thoughts on “Blogging and workplace ethics 2.0

  1. You raise some very pertinent and tough questions. I learned early in my professional blogging venture to be careful not to mix the two. I use secured blog accounts like a My Space blog if I want to complain, which I rarely have the time for in writing.

    I think it would be really easy to get Dooced even if you are doing it anonymously. If it’s becoming a problem, then is that contributing to a hostile work environment? Perhaps not reading it would be best.

    I think anonymous blogging begs the question of anonymous replies. Maybe a few anonymous comments might make the blogger thing twice about what they are putting out there.

    Folks have been fired for as much before.

  2. Chadwick,
    you raise a lot of the points that have been rolling around in my head. I keep coming back to an impasse about good management… It feels somehow cowardly to do the anonymous posting bit, but it would likely be effective in shredding the shield of supposed anonymity. But it would also do little about the underlying personality and communication issues the behavior represents. And I think the real (as opposed to ideal) struggle is about impact on the workplace and the best way to deal with these interpersonal issues now that teh intertubes provide such a variety of new avoidance mechanisms.

    I’m also really glad you commented at all — I’ve been sitting on this post for quite a while trying to figure if it was too ethically dicey itself. (I’ll sort that one out right about the time I settle the framing question!) But it was good to get a touch of back up for my perceptions. Thanks!

  3. You’ve created a good post on a really tough issue. I vote that the victim(s) of this abuse confront the blogger directly. Easy for me to say but I really would do that as this is about more than hurt feelings. Of course, I couldn’t help but go on and on about this below. I’m somewhat surprised at my own reaction to this issue.

    As an aside, your comments about the odd, hybrid nature of librarianship are intriguing to me. I’ve never thought of it that way but it certainly does add a piece in the puzzle that is our life’s work. (Come to think, I HAVE to comment on another post you made about tenure status. Very cool post.)

    As for negative blogging about coworkers in a not-so-private manner, I believe the term to describe this could be _slander_, depending on how public and traceable the people are. I’d wager many people have witnessed or been a victim of such actions but few would ever talk about it. Personally, I don’t care if a coworker is an absolute nightmare to work with; blogging about it in this manner will not help anything. You rightly point out that mythologizing in a vacuum can only compound the problem by allowing an unchecked reality to prevail where the author is always right and the objects of ire are always wrong. Intelligent dialog, critical thinking, true evaluation of situations and/or issues cannot occur and you’re left with an Id. In psychological terms I believe the Id can be described as a part of the human psyche which simply needs and wants, without consideration for anything else. I’m not suggesting that people who do such things are mentally disturbed but I do say that they might be a bit immature. More sadly to me is that this kind of behavior does a great disservice to our profession.

    Many of us (I hope) do not work in a library where micro-management is the prevailing ethos. Hopefully many of us are very free agents in our workplaces . . . this idea goes back to your faculty discussion post that I need to reply to. Being a free agent, faculty (or whatever) is a powerful thing, full of potential but riddled with possible pitfalls. I worry many librarians don’t understand their role within their own library, much less their larger institution. I realize many of us are victims of circumstance where there is no training or other resources but I still worry we don’t take responsibility for our roles. I can’t imagine what lead someone to feel that a blog which seems to be known by coworkers was the forum in which to blow off steam. What short-sighted behavior, especially if those involved are likely to be working there for a long period. How many little wars have we all seen in our working lives? In the end, the wars do nothing but detract from what we’re all supposed to be doing every day. I always hope people will always behave in a responsible manner but we’re all human, aren’t we? At my library maintaining and fostering good relations with colleagues is an important part of promotion and tenure.

    We all need to be thoughtful of what we say and how we say it. If someone is unhappy with someone at work then they need to reflect on the situation and do something constructive about it. This all sounds like school yard bullying albeit in an indirect way. Power and strength do not come from being unkind and dominating others. True strength and power come from uniting people as best you can. We’ve all had personal relations go sour. We’re all human and we’ve all wished ill will towards a _perceived_ enemy. I hope people can rise above work conflicts and try to get along with other, even if they dislike certain co-workers. How is any of this moving our profession forward in our mission to provide services and information to our users? How will unkind blog posts about coworkers help them be happy, productive employees in our library?

    It is my hope that our profession will always attract broad-thinking people whose actions are always infused with a sense of humanity towards our users as well as our co-workers. We’ve all have been hurt by others. We all dislike others for different reasons. Whether the reasons for disliking someone are valid or not isn’t the issue.

  4. Hey, lady, I’m sorry to hear this is happening. It is completely unprofessional, and while confrontation is hard, it probably does need to be done in this case. I have unfortunately found that management doesn’t care to deal with problems like these so it probably will have to be done on your own between you and this person. I’m still having a hard time believing that someone could post negative things about you when I think you’re such good librarian, but alas, not everyone likes us. Good luck, and keep your head up, we all have to work with difficult people sometimes.

  5. I’m all for confronting people directly.

    It’s a hard question, because it asks where the line between professional and personal is drawn, but asChadwick points out, people have been fired for as much – or less- than thsi before. (Perhaps you could find a nice way to work that into conversation.)

    You can point out that it’s petty, lowers morale, and generally makes you think less of the blog author as a useful human being…but then again, I’m a Judgy McJudgerson. *grin* Passive aggressive behavior in the workplace is unhealthy.

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