Sunday, December 03, 2006

Employee Blogs - As dangerous as you let them be

This post focuses on two things I have ranted about before - Employee Blogs and The Karma principal in HR and Management - If you treat people well, you have a much lower chance of being hung in blog-effigy or being a poster child on F*%^ed Company or Internal Memos.

My company has taken a pretty enlightened approach to blogs and we are pretty proud of this position. We believe that our people are experts and professionals. Since it is bad form to hide your light under a basket, we feel it perfectly appropriate for our folks to blog - many of them do. Some do it like I do - to vent and educate on matters from managing people to managing your scrabble club. Both are legit uses of blogs, but when you are fortunate enough to have folks in your company who are smart and passionate enough about what they do at work to blog about it, you are entering sacred ground!

I am amazed by the technical prowess and passion of a number of my co-workers. I point out two of theme here because they have taken their passion far beyond that of mortal bloggers - they have blown it out to the point where the line between the blogosphere and the real world gets a little blurry.

Daniella Barbosa and Glenn Fannick are great examples of what can happen when bright, passionate people get behind a cause that is along the lines of helping your company or industry. Hats off to them for being shining examples of how to make this blog thing work.... but there is a darker side- what happens when employee blogs are your enemy. It can and does happen.

Once upon a time in a hypothetical company, an employee who was struggling to keep up with her work was terminated. She felt she had done nothing to deserve termination, but her boss felt there was enough grounds to end this unsuccessful and draining relationship. The HR weasels concurred, and off the employee went - banished to bogey-land! Did employee get the feedback and counsel she needed along the way to know she had skated onto career "thin ice" ? Maybe not. Was her termination handled in a clear, fair and compassionate way so she had no doubt about why her performance was the reason for the termination? Maybe not. Was she left to devise her own truth about what went on? You betcha!

Well, it turns out that the now former employee was a blogger. She, being so betrayed, decided to tell the world about her plight. "I was wronged by them" she ranted. "They fired me without cause and gave me no chance to succeed", "They conspired against me and beset me with evil spells and incantations which turned me in to newt.... I got better.....". Wow - sound familiar? I will bet this sort of thing has happened to most of us at some point, but till now it was just a tongue-lashing at the watercooler of her new office. With the advent of "social media", it becomes fodder for the whole world to chew on, and it can have a worse impact on revenue than a faulty product or a larcenous CEO!

Now I am not saying that this would NOT happen if you managed performance and terminated the person flawlessly (is there such a thing?). She might still blog badly about you, but it is far less likely for someone to toss a blog-grenade at you if you have dealt with them fairly and compassionately. Heck, if you take good care of them, give them feedback and help them grow professionally by giving them the responsibility of challenging assignments and opportunities to strut their stuff, you just might find you have a Daniella or Glenn working for you.

Start the conversation with your management about a blogging policy and the tack you will take with employee blogs. Consider the great exposure you can get by allowing your best and brightest to be featured in a product or industry focused blog - imagine the boost to your company's image and the pride, development and stature they might gain from the experience.

Then set up a way to track what is being said about your company on blogs. You can invest in some very cool tools like the one's my company, Factiva does, or you can just set up a Google Alert that searches for mention of your company name in blogs - WARNING - if your company name is as common in the press as the word "dude" on a California beach, you better study up on constructing custom search terms!



Evil HR Lady said...

Excellent point. Managers are such wimps when it comes to managing performance. It always backfires. Either you end up firing the clueless person or their competant co-workers end up quitting because they can't stand it any more.

My company has no blogging policy other than only Public Relations is allowed to speak for the company. I never mention my company by name. In fact, I try not to even refer to it. And I, of course, am a mystery.

daniela barbosa said...

Thanks Pat-

i agree that the corporate policy has gone a long way in encouraging me to blog from a personal and business perspective. The clear rules many times makes me scrutinize draft posts which is good for all of us. I really try to blog for daniela, working at factiva is just something I am doing at the point (ok you know me and that I am obsessed with my work but that is my intent!)

What we did with the social media roundtable that you reference as a link to my name was awesome but it is also pretty scary. We went beyond blogging and used social media from start to finish in order to have this roundtable event. So we have engaged in this community of social media enthusiasts one that i had been involved in for a while- mostly 'personal' due to my interest in this 'new' media. Because i haven't really engaged with the Insight product suite since consulting services hasn't been involved that much, i started bringing the product folks into the conversation and they engaged fully and whole heartily- so the whole thing got we have some great information that we gathered and we have started a buzz around where we are going and now how do we continue to be engaged above and beyond my blog or glenn's? It takes a lot of work and passionate individuals to maintain what we have started but I think it is very worth while. An interesting conversation is going on per this post once you jump in you need to continue so you don't just ask like visitors:

By the way, I almost missed your post because you have two LLs in my name and it is only one daniela (I find that many people have misspelled my name so I updated my blog alerts to include the different variations and your blog popped up- make sure my HR file is correct ;-))

daniela barbosa said...

Oops..end of second paragrpah it should have read:
"so you don't just act like visitors