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To be dooced or not

If perchance I have offended, then think on this and all is mended…

Imagine you have a personal blog where you write about things that happen and that you learn to help share knowledge and experience with your peers. What would you do if your employer was unhappy by something you posted?

Would you stop blogging?

Would you resign?

Would you remove the offending posts?

Would you edit the offending posts to make them less offensive?

Would you just ignore it?

Would you blog about it?

I would wonder why they would be offended. I respect a companies right to protect things related to their competitive advantage. Their pricing model or customer lists, or their corporate finances.

However I don’t believe that for example writing about a conflict that exists within a company which you are looking to solve, infringes on their competitive advantage. It is more likely that the conflict itself is an impediment to their competitive advantage, than one person’s take on it.

If you are an employer what would you do if this happened? I’d like to think that I would try to address the root problem, and not the fact that someone is talking about a problem. I believe everyone I work with should have the right to express what is true for them, publicly or privately, without blame. Only if we can engage at this level can we really move forward.

If you are struggling with something like this, I’d recommend reading “Leadership and Self-Deception” by the Arbinger Institute. I finished it today. I think I will need to read it a few more times, but for now I say: If there is anyone I have offended with my blog. I apologise. I recognise you as a person with your own hopes and fears. However, my truth is that I believe in honesty. I believe in openness. I believe that shining a light in the dark corners we don’t like to visit is the only way to make them a less scary place to visit, and there are no corners of my life or work that I want to avoid.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Leanne Nel #

    It’s an interesting question. Your blogs do not name either the organization or the individuals involved, so there is no obvious violation of trust. However, the people within the company may feel that their laundry (dirty or not) is on view to the world.

    To the outside reader its a discussion and retrospective which is of purely academic interest. I find that as an extension of inspect and adapt within individual projects I am drawn to gather as much of the collective knowledge and experience of the greater Agile community as possible.

    There is a wealth of experience out there which the Scrum community is particularly good at sharing. However, sharing requires a certain amount of bravery as most often the potential learnings come from the problems that have been encountered. Describing these problems often requires a certain amount of openness that may not sit well with the people involved.

    I hope that your company is able to see it as a contribution to the collective knowledge. Maybe your next challenge as a Scrum coach has just been identified :).

    May 10, 2010
    • Thanks for the comment Leanne. Nice to hear from an outsiders perspective. Like you I learn alot from others blogging about their agile experiences and therefore I am committed to sharing my learning too.

      May 10, 2010
  2. I agree and applaud your bravery. (Although I had to look up dooced: )

    It is a very interesting issue, and one that I’ve had to ponder a number of times as a small business owner and consultant into larger corporations. I think the extreme programming values, particularly bravery, are equally valid as extreme business values.

    If my company ever were to grow big & bad enough to have such high levels of fud & groupthink to keep people huddled in the light, I like to believe that I would be grateful for someone poking a window in a dark corner. The tendency for me to knee-jerk would be there, especially so if the monster lurking there was a surprise.

    As you said in your sugsa talk (I think): trust comes from being vulnerable in front of your team. If you expand “team” to “organisation” or “public” level, do you not stand to gain so much more? But at the same time, being vulnerable to the untrustworthy might be the valid underlying fear.

    May 10, 2010
    • Thanks David. Perhaps the problem is that I’m ready to be vulnerable in public and others are not.

      May 10, 2010
  3. Simon #

    Hi Karen

    Like most answers, it depends. Have you talked to the person raising the concern? That should be your 1st port of call. They may have a point or the truth could lie between the 2 viewpoints.

    Your definition of what is confidential and some one elses definition (or the company’s definition) of what is confidential may well be different. The correct definition cannot be assumed to be yours. Remember it is easy to tie you back to who you work for so it is difficult to claim that it is 100% personal.

    Some simple personal guidelines I use
    a) Does the post reveal any information that is marked Confidential? Whether you think its confidential is irrelevant. The Company gets to choose the confidential level of their documents, emails etc.

    b) If you are commenting on a meeting or exchange between people or groups and the group or person can be identified by your comment then you need to ask yourself whether the other party would consent (you can always ask them) to the conversation / dispute / exchange being in the public domain. If you don’t consider this then they will be more circumspect about what they say to you in the future. That is damaging to the company.

    c) Anything that will give anyone else ammo to hurt your company is obviously out of bounds.

    d) There are other no-no’s but lets not make this reply too long

    But most important you should be willing to debate any concern and not assume you are in the right. Maybe your viewpoint could prevail. Maybe you are wrong. Maybe the truth lies in the middle.
    Sometimes people are oversensitive but usually no-one is 100% correct and this implies you may well be at least partially wrong.


    May 11, 2010
    • I’d be happy to debate this one on one with the people who have a problem. Unfortunately they are not approaching me directly about this. I just get the complaint passed on. By my interpretation I have not done any of the things you mention, but then again I’m probably wrong 🙂

      May 12, 2010
  4. Sorry, very late comment here.

    I believe that shining a light in the dark corners we don’t like to visit is the only way to make them a less scary place to visit, and there are no corners of my life or work that I want to avoid.

    I believe the same, passionately, so this is me cheering from the sidelines. I also believe that following the above makes life satisfying and beautiful – and sometimes difficult but totally worth it – and real. As some old Greek carved somewhere, Know Thyself.

    June 19, 2010
  5. So it turns out after all I did resign, about 1 month after this post 🙂

    How many good employees are you losing due to trying to control their blogging habits?

    August 29, 2010

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