Thursday, October 22, 2009

Do prolific bloggers face "online reputation" issues when job hunting?


How does blogging in volume (as opposed to use of social networking sites) affect the “online reputation” of job applicants in HR?

Because publishing, as opposed to “meeting people”, is seen as a “fame-seeking” activity, the4 psychological impact may be more challenging. What I wonder about particularly is when a staffing company hires an information technology professional to send to a client, and the possibility exists that the client as well as the HR company can surf the web with search engines for what the applicant or contractor (after starting work) does online at home.

It is common for bloggers to discuss nettlesome incidents (especially “political” problems in offices) that have happened at past workplaces. Most of us know that ranting about the boss (or about the employer as a whole) online can get you fired (go to the Feb. 26 2002 archive entry at “dooce.com” and read about how Heather Armstrong’s experience invented the verb “to dooce” -- and by the way, I'm surprised if Heather was eligible for unemployment!). But the problem can be more subtle. If a client found a lot of material about past workplaces, the client could become concerned that at some unspecified time in the future the contractor will write about the client. (This sounds to me like the “logic” behind the “propensity” concept of the “rebuttable presumption” clause of the federal law known as “don’t ask don’t tell” regarding gays in the military.)

I know that I am “guilty” – in retirement, although I might go back to work soon, maybe in a different kind of environment (more about that later). But generally I don’t identify a company unless the work environment in which I performed has long since changed radically because of changing business conditions (mostly because of mergers and acquisitions or major downsizings or offshorings). And I don’t “name names” of people. This sort of problem could occur with other situations, like the delivery of medical or nursing care (as I’ve discussed on my main blog).

The other rub with clients might be a tendency (“propensity”) to talk about controversial political issues in an unsupervised (without third party due diligence) blogging environment. If the issues (even when presented as abstract "ideology") are really sensitive (say, affirmative action, or some of the nettlesome “personal responsibility” arguments being made in today’s health care reform debate), and particularly is the issues are connected to historical personal narratives, a client could fear a legally significant “hostile workplace” element developing, especially if the contractor managed employees of the client (which happens a lot in practice). The client might fear that the posts had no real purpose other than to snicker or communicate some level of contempt for certain persons.

I wonder what experiences IT pros have seen with this issue. I really haven’t seen a blog or video posting on Tech Republic about it yet. What's the solution? The HR and Staffing World needs to develop detailed "business privacy" agreements that work prospectively, for openers. And Staffing companies and clients do need to develop blogging policies.

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