UK blogger sacked

A UK blogger, living in France, was sacked (Roland Piquepaille, famous technologist blogged that).

She won’t be the last one. Blogging is like hopping on stage at a major conference. You wouldn’t do that and start talking smack about your boss, would you? Would you honestly expect to stay employed?

If your boss doesn’t know you’re doing it, that should set off alarm bells right there. Talking online WILL get back to your boss. Unless you are so freaking careful to make sure you stay anonymous (like MiniMicrosoft, Microsoft’s anonymous blogger, has so far). This person obviously didn’t stay anonymous enough. It’s why I don’t advise anyone try the anonymous route: either be straight up with your boss and everyone, or stay off the Internet.

The lawsuit that springs out of this will be interesting to watch. If it succeeds it’ll set back corporate blogging in Europe because corporations will just adopt a zero tolerance policy toward any blogging out of school. I hope she gets kicked out of court.

Here in California and Washington we are an “work at will” state. I can get fired for pretty much any reason, especially when I talk about my workplace on stage in public (my contracts with all my recent employers says that and rubs it in). Such a lawsuit would be laughed out of court here.

Anytime you are identifyable with your company you’ve gotta be professional about your behavior. It’s why at Microsoft we said the policy was “be smart.” That roughly translated to “don’t piss off your boss.”

128 thoughts on “UK blogger sacked

  1. Range: which is why I said French-speakers might enjoy it too ;-)

    Let me know if there is an important part which is not understandable. I don’t mind translating a sentence here and there, but the whole post is a little long!

  2. Range: which is why I said French-speakers might enjoy it too ;-)

    Let me know if there is an important part which is not understandable. I don’t mind translating a sentence here and there, but the whole post is a little long!

  3. “Non-French speakers (and French speakers alike) might enjoy the Google translation of Eolas’s post:”

    Translating software is getting better, but there are always those few words or expressions that don’t work.

  4. “Non-French speakers (and French speakers alike) might enjoy the Google translation of Eolas’s post:”

    Translating software is getting better, but there are always those few words or expressions that don’t work.

  5. Eolas’s conclusion (well, the gist of his comments) about the firing letter is that they’ll have trouble defending it in court.

    Non-French speakers (and French speakers alike) might enjoy the Google translation of Eolas’s post:

    http://tinyurl.com/q3xxo

  6. Eolas’s conclusion (well, the gist of his comments) about the firing letter is that they’ll have trouble defending it in court.

    Non-French speakers (and French speakers alike) might enjoy the Google translation of Eolas’s post:

    http://tinyurl.com/q3xxo

  7. “If it were me I’d never fire a blogger for her blog. I’d find some other reason and have it well backed up.”

    Oh, good… that’s a very ethical, upfront position… “We don’t like her blog, but firing her for that would be bad PR so let’s fake up some other reason.”

    And this fits in with your ideas that companies should be more transparent and honest with their public… how??

    Oh, and this is pretty much what the second reason in this letter does, incidentally – they allege that, since she worked on her site during work hours she violated a section of her contract that commits her to 35 hours per week. Note that they don’t say in this section that her performance suffered… but it’s a legalistic point. Rather like what your quote advocates, actually…

  8. “If it were me I’d never fire a blogger for her blog. I’d find some other reason and have it well backed up.”

    Oh, good… that’s a very ethical, upfront position… “We don’t like her blog, but firing her for that would be bad PR so let’s fake up some other reason.”

    And this fits in with your ideas that companies should be more transparent and honest with their public… how??

    Oh, and this is pretty much what the second reason in this letter does, incidentally – they allege that, since she worked on her site during work hours she violated a section of her contract that commits her to 35 hours per week. Note that they don’t say in this section that her performance suffered… but it’s a legalistic point. Rather like what your quote advocates, actually…

  9. Scoble saved by Range, the Quebecois blogger!

    First off, he says that the letter was written by a lawyer who had a clear plan defined. It’s a long one, over 4 pages long.

    It starts off by saying that they were surprised to discover a blog that she was doing, that included comments and articles on the company. Even though she never mentioned names and used pseudonyms, it is easy to identify her and therefore identify the company. Also, you had an advert running in a Paris newspaper with a photo of you as well as the URL of the blog. They say that this blog is destined for a large audience, so does not fall under the privacy laws of France. It says that she dissed and denigrates here bosses, which is unacceptable. This causes harm to the people employed and to the company, attacking them this way. Potential clients will see that their company name has been sullied.

    It continues saying that she had posted information that she had deleted, this had been mentioned in some comments. She had deleted them because she thought they were to risky. The company doesn’t know what they were, but since they were too risky, they couldn’t have been good. And these were published to a large audience.

    She blogged from work, which is a no no. She also used excuses to not go to work, to pretend that her kid was sick, when in effect the kid wasn’t.

    It says that she was disloyal and that the company has lost trust in her because she aired her opinions this way, to the public at large. She tarnished their reputation. She made it impossible for her to continue working with the accountants.

    It mentions that they are not considering suing her yet, but if she isn’t careful with what she says, they might.

    In the meantime, she is suing them for 56000 pounds, about two years worth of wages.

    http://fistfulofeuros.net/archives/002628.php

    It’s looking bad for the company, they should have just given her some money and sent her off on vacation.

  10. Scoble saved by Range, the Quebecois blogger!

    First off, he says that the letter was written by a lawyer who had a clear plan defined. It’s a long one, over 4 pages long.

    It starts off by saying that they were surprised to discover a blog that she was doing, that included comments and articles on the company. Even though she never mentioned names and used pseudonyms, it is easy to identify her and therefore identify the company. Also, you had an advert running in a Paris newspaper with a photo of you as well as the URL of the blog. They say that this blog is destined for a large audience, so does not fall under the privacy laws of France. It says that she dissed and denigrates here bosses, which is unacceptable. This causes harm to the people employed and to the company, attacking them this way. Potential clients will see that their company name has been sullied.

    It continues saying that she had posted information that she had deleted, this had been mentioned in some comments. She had deleted them because she thought they were to risky. The company doesn’t know what they were, but since they were too risky, they couldn’t have been good. And these were published to a large audience.

    She blogged from work, which is a no no. She also used excuses to not go to work, to pretend that her kid was sick, when in effect the kid wasn’t.

    It says that she was disloyal and that the company has lost trust in her because she aired her opinions this way, to the public at large. She tarnished their reputation. She made it impossible for her to continue working with the accountants.

    It mentions that they are not considering suing her yet, but if she isn’t careful with what she says, they might.

    In the meantime, she is suing them for 56000 pounds, about two years worth of wages.

    http://fistfulofeuros.net/archives/002628.php

    It’s looking bad for the company, they should have just given her some money and sent her off on vacation.

  11. Steph: what did the analysis say? I can’t read French.

    One thing, no matter how clueless my position is, note the huge PR hurt that this company is in. They’ve been in newspapers around the world and now look like jerks everywhere.

    If it were me I’d never fire a blogger for her blog. I’d find some other reason and have it well backed up.

  12. Steph: what did the analysis say? I can’t read French.

    One thing, no matter how clueless my position is, note the huge PR hurt that this company is in. They’ve been in newspapers around the world and now look like jerks everywhere.

    If it were me I’d never fire a blogger for her blog. I’d find some other reason and have it well backed up.

  13. Rick, I’ve seen people get fired for things they did at a private party. Oh, and ever watch a baseball player get fired for doing drugs? I have. It has nothing to do with their on-the-job performance. It has EVERYTHING to do with their reputation.

    And, sorry, anytime you write something on a public blog it’s the same thing as if you stepped on stage in the public square and said it.

    That said, I totally agree with you on what employers must do to be “clued in.” I will only work for employers that let me speak my mind openly and without prior restraint. If that ever changes I’ll expect to go find another job.

  14. Rick, I’ve seen people get fired for things they did at a private party. Oh, and ever watch a baseball player get fired for doing drugs? I have. It has nothing to do with their on-the-job performance. It has EVERYTHING to do with their reputation.

    And, sorry, anytime you write something on a public blog it’s the same thing as if you stepped on stage in the public square and said it.

    That said, I totally agree with you on what employers must do to be “clued in.” I will only work for employers that let me speak my mind openly and without prior restraint. If that ever changes I’ll expect to go find another job.

  15. “When companies hire you they are hiring you for your reputation.”

    No. Wrong. Absolutely, completely WRONG. The company and I are engaging in a trade of my time, talent and work skills for a compensation package. That’s ALL. Yes, there are some peripheral responsibilities such as not disclosing trade secrets.

    If a corporation wants to control my life 24 x 7, pay me for that. But that is NOT what current employment does – it is a trade of my labor and time for financial consideration. Period.

    You keep bringing up examples of inappropriate behavior that you think support your position – but they don’t. On stage at a conference? Uh, of course you are identified with your company. At a corporate party? Same thing. I’m NOT arguing about those.

    You seem to want to live in a society where corporations can penalize me for saying or doing things completely disconnected from the company, that cannot be tracked to the company and that don’t involve the company in any way. I don’t want to live in such a society.

    Finally, there’s no way you’re going to sell business blogging with this as a basic tenet – sure some people will blog and you’ll have marketing ‘blogs’ that are as personal as a press release. But there’s no way most employees will blog with any openness if they have a reasonable chance of getting disciplined or fired. If companies want to reap the benefits of the new openness, they need to embrace a little more tolerance and realize that employees are free agents, not their childern, wards or servants.

  16. “When companies hire you they are hiring you for your reputation.”

    No. Wrong. Absolutely, completely WRONG. The company and I are engaging in a trade of my time, talent and work skills for a compensation package. That’s ALL. Yes, there are some peripheral responsibilities such as not disclosing trade secrets.

    If a corporation wants to control my life 24 x 7, pay me for that. But that is NOT what current employment does – it is a trade of my labor and time for financial consideration. Period.

    You keep bringing up examples of inappropriate behavior that you think support your position – but they don’t. On stage at a conference? Uh, of course you are identified with your company. At a corporate party? Same thing. I’m NOT arguing about those.

    You seem to want to live in a society where corporations can penalize me for saying or doing things completely disconnected from the company, that cannot be tracked to the company and that don’t involve the company in any way. I don’t want to live in such a society.

    Finally, there’s no way you’re going to sell business blogging with this as a basic tenet – sure some people will blog and you’ll have marketing ‘blogs’ that are as personal as a press release. But there’s no way most employees will blog with any openness if they have a reasonable chance of getting disciplined or fired. If companies want to reap the benefits of the new openness, they need to embrace a little more tolerance and realize that employees are free agents, not their childern, wards or servants.

  17. Raincoaster: I don’t work for a company that bans adult language. Hope that helps! :-)

    Translation: If using a certain type of language is important to you and your boss isn’t letting you use it, then leave and get another job! I’m all for that. Just like MacBeach just demonstrated.

  18. Raincoaster: I don’t work for a company that bans adult language. Hope that helps! :-)

    Translation: If using a certain type of language is important to you and your boss isn’t letting you use it, then leave and get another job! I’m all for that. Just like MacBeach just demonstrated.

  19. “I saw people get fired for how they behaved at a party (they were hitting inappropriately on someone I knew). I thought that was totally justifiable. How you behave in public DOES reflect on the company.”

    I’ll top that.

    I know a guy who got fired (at least threatened with such) for not “voluntarily” giving to the United Way campaign that the company (fortune 50 or less at the time and still) sponsored. He turned in his resignation the next day, had a new job the day after. Within a year half a dozen colleagues left to go to the same much smaller company, and I’m sure all got nice pay increases in the bargain. I’d say that a dozen people had their triggers pulled to leave in the long run by this one incident, myself included. It wasn’t that we disliked United Way, it was that we finally saw our local management (particularly the HR department) for the total nincompoops that they were (how many people do you know who drive a Winebego to work every day?). This was the 70s by the way, a time when companies were begging for programmers, and these were systems programmers that commanded the highest salaries in the industry (most of us made more than our managers).

    In other words, the decision to threaten this guy cost the company huge bucks in replacement costs for all those people, disruption in the technologies they supported, and the small company that got all that talent ended up taking a lot of business away from them too. I doubt anyone in that incompetent management structure ever figured out what hit them or why. But they did subsequently close down that local Washington Division. Today things would probably be different. News of that event would have been all over the place and would spread faster than any number of lawsuits could handle. Not only would they lose the original disgruntled employees but might lose their ability to replace them AT ALL.

    I don’t know what the laws in this area are for a company disclosing reasons for dismissal, but in this particular case they would be well advised to get as much out there as they are allowed, even if they had to do it in a round-about way. A simple “Her dismissal had nothing to do with her blog” would be helpful, if that is the case, otherwise they could state that they do not allow blogs of any kind, as a general policy statement. As I pointed out in my own (related) entry, blogging is just a buzzword for a particular publishing technology, so if they are going to ban blogging, they are implicitly banning any public admission that you work for the company. What follows is the realization by the public that all statements about such a company by company insiders are filtered, and possibly untrustworthy. That, IMHO, is a dangerous position for any company that sells products to the general public to be in.

    I guess what remains to be seen for these “naked conversations” is whether all of the participants will be disrobing voluntarily.

  20. “I saw people get fired for how they behaved at a party (they were hitting inappropriately on someone I knew). I thought that was totally justifiable. How you behave in public DOES reflect on the company.”

    I’ll top that.

    I know a guy who got fired (at least threatened with such) for not “voluntarily” giving to the United Way campaign that the company (fortune 50 or less at the time and still) sponsored. He turned in his resignation the next day, had a new job the day after. Within a year half a dozen colleagues left to go to the same much smaller company, and I’m sure all got nice pay increases in the bargain. I’d say that a dozen people had their triggers pulled to leave in the long run by this one incident, myself included. It wasn’t that we disliked United Way, it was that we finally saw our local management (particularly the HR department) for the total nincompoops that they were (how many people do you know who drive a Winebego to work every day?). This was the 70s by the way, a time when companies were begging for programmers, and these were systems programmers that commanded the highest salaries in the industry (most of us made more than our managers).

    In other words, the decision to threaten this guy cost the company huge bucks in replacement costs for all those people, disruption in the technologies they supported, and the small company that got all that talent ended up taking a lot of business away from them too. I doubt anyone in that incompetent management structure ever figured out what hit them or why. But they did subsequently close down that local Washington Division. Today things would probably be different. News of that event would have been all over the place and would spread faster than any number of lawsuits could handle. Not only would they lose the original disgruntled employees but might lose their ability to replace them AT ALL.

    I don’t know what the laws in this area are for a company disclosing reasons for dismissal, but in this particular case they would be well advised to get as much out there as they are allowed, even if they had to do it in a round-about way. A simple “Her dismissal had nothing to do with her blog” would be helpful, if that is the case, otherwise they could state that they do not allow blogs of any kind, as a general policy statement. As I pointed out in my own (related) entry, blogging is just a buzzword for a particular publishing technology, so if they are going to ban blogging, they are implicitly banning any public admission that you work for the company. What follows is the realization by the public that all statements about such a company by company insiders are filtered, and possibly untrustworthy. That, IMHO, is a dangerous position for any company that sells products to the general public to be in.

    I guess what remains to be seen for these “naked conversations” is whether all of the participants will be disrobing voluntarily.

  21. Robert, have you not used adult language yourself? Could you have been fired for it? According to your stated position, you should have been. Or for telling jokes that your boss doesn’t find funny. Or pretty much anything else. Is every aspect of your life subject to corporate approval?

    Also, please let us not forget that only a person who worked closely with her at that company was able to determine her identity and connect the blog with the company. This is in no sense publicly-available information; it is insider information. The public had no way of determining where she worked, and from the way her blog looks, wouldn’t be particularly interested. Her identity does not come from her corporate association at all. She was obviously more of a force as a blogger than as a worker. As an individual she was onstage. As a worker, she was not.

    As the labour market continues to invert (giving the power to the sellers of labour, rather than the purchasers) we’ll see a correction. Your attitude, Robert, that “As to freedom of speech: sorry, you have none if you work for a corporation” has been very strong throughout the last twenty-five years or so, but that is changing, and this case is going to be an important precedent. I don’t want to get all Business 2.0 rah-rah about it, but it’s true.

  22. Robert, have you not used adult language yourself? Could you have been fired for it? According to your stated position, you should have been. Or for telling jokes that your boss doesn’t find funny. Or pretty much anything else. Is every aspect of your life subject to corporate approval?

    Also, please let us not forget that only a person who worked closely with her at that company was able to determine her identity and connect the blog with the company. This is in no sense publicly-available information; it is insider information. The public had no way of determining where she worked, and from the way her blog looks, wouldn’t be particularly interested. Her identity does not come from her corporate association at all. She was obviously more of a force as a blogger than as a worker. As an individual she was onstage. As a worker, she was not.

    As the labour market continues to invert (giving the power to the sellers of labour, rather than the purchasers) we’ll see a correction. Your attitude, Robert, that “As to freedom of speech: sorry, you have none if you work for a corporation” has been very strong throughout the last twenty-five years or so, but that is changing, and this case is going to be an important precedent. I don’t want to get all Business 2.0 rah-rah about it, but it’s true.

  23. The thing about this is I don’t know why this girl REALLY got fired. It might have had nothing to do with her blog. But I did find some adult photos on her blog and some adult language. I know many people who would fire you for doing that kind of stuff in the public square. Which is what blogging is.

    When you’re employed you are loaning your reputation to the company. If your company doesn’t like your reputation they’ll ask you to find another company to loan it to.

    What you do in public has a GREAT impact on your reputation.

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