14 Jan 2005

Let this be a warning to all

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Blogger sacked for sounding off

Waterstone's says bookseller brought firm into disrepute

Patrick Barkham
Wednesday January 12, 2005
The Guardian

Former Waterstone's employee Joe Gordon. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod

A bookseller has become the first blogger in Britain to be sacked from his job because he kept an online diary in which he occasionally mentioned bad days at work and satirised his "sandal-wearing" boss.

Joe Gordon, 37, worked for Waterstone's in Edinburgh for 11 years but says he was dismissed without warning for "gross misconduct" and "bringing the company into disrepute" through the comments he posted on his weblog.

Published authors and some of the 5 million self-published bloggers around the globe said it was extraordinary that a company advertising itself as a bastion of freedom of speech had acted so swiftly to sack Mr Gordon, who mentions everything from the US elections to his home city of Edinburgh in the satirical blog he writes in his spare time.

Mr Gordon, a senior bookseller who rarely mentioned work in his blog and did not directly identify his branch of Waterstone's, said he had offered to stop posting anything about his working life online when the company called a disciplinary meeting. According to his union, Waterstone's rejected his plea despite it not having any guidelines on whether its employees are allowed to keep weblogs.

"This wasn't a sustained attack," Mr Gordon told the Guardian. "I was not deliberately trying to harm the company. I was venting my spleen.

"This was moaning about not getting your birthday off or not getting on with your boss. I wasn't libelling anyone or giving away trade secrets."

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Anonymous said...

Oh no..not another one! Well, I think it is proven now that if u work for a company and u blog about ur work, even if its minute details, theres a likelyhood that u might be in trouble for it. in my private equity group that i work for, we have strict guidelines about wat our people can talk about in blogs. i believe companies muz include such things in their job agreements wif their employees so that both parties know where to draw the line.

IZ Reloaded

Anonymous said...

I think its pretty common sense that when u create a blog, the potential audience is the WORLD and if you are not discerning enough to exercise some tact either on your identity or on your content then you are only inviting trouble to yourself.

I know many people will complain that blogging is an outlet for personal freedom of expression, and they don't mean any harm to their targets etc, but if you were in the office, and you wanted to gossip about your boss you would MAKE SURE he couldn't hear you. If he did, you are bound to be in trouble. Thats just human nature. Why should he condone such behaviour from his employees when he has an option not to?

That said I think that this trend (getting sacked for blogging about work) will continue and soon it will be serious enough to warrant companies to insert clauses forbidding its employees to blog about work related issues no matter how personal or trivial it may be.

The term "professionalism" may be of consideration to those who feel they have a right to blog about anything at work without fear of reprisals.


Merv said...

what i think is that, if what the blogger blogged about is the truth, he should not be penalised. If his boss really wears sandals, the blogger ain't lying right?

This is like getting fired for complaining about your bad day at work to your missus. (Although to a wider audience)

I think we will see a day when there are explicit rules laid down by companies to prevent employees from blogging about work.

Rudicus said...

This kind of thing is going to continue to happen as blogs increase in popularity and magnitude - but at the same time any kind of journalist or commentator knows that you have to be smart. I think this is just some Blogging 101 lesson - an online diary is far from private, so if you are worried about being sacked - don't talk about work or people you know - and if you must use different names.

I think this is more just a common sense wake-up call than anything else. Since none of us have lawyers and insurance and political clout - we just have to be a bit more smart about everything.

But just the same, I'm not shopping at Waterstone's anymore. The bastards.

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