Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Should employees let their bosses know that they write or blog at all? The pre-dooce problem.

Back in 1988, during my last six months at Chilton (now Experian) in Dallas, before returning to the DC area that summer, and during some time of stress because of an impending merger with TRW, I recall telling my immediate boss in a SYSM (the mainframe’s version of office email, which usually runs as a CICS region) that I saw that the day of low cost publishing was coming soon, and that I wanted to get into it. I think the boss knew I had interviewed already on the East Coast.

I was right: desktop publishing would become a buzzword by the early or mid 1990s, even before the Web took over (and finally social media) as a platform for “self promotion”.

But of course, I didn’t realize at the time that I was creating an “existential” problem for myself. If I announced the desire to be known as a writer, doesn’t that tell an employer that the innards of its workings might some day be made public? I wrote a post about that (the “pre-dooce” problem) last Thursday (Jan 14) on my main blog.

This sort of problem would return in 1996 when I was working for a DC area company that, among major lines of business, stressed selling life insurance to military officers. When I had to tell my boss and then HR that I was involved in the political battle over “don’t ask don’t tell” and planned to write a book that would cover the military gay ban. In my circumstances then, I took it personally, given my history. (I still do.) Eventually (in 1997) I would “take advantage” of a merger and “transfer away” from the potential conflict of interest.

But today, with a wide open Internet, buttressed with social media, I can see how employers could worry that “future speech”, unpredictable at the time, could become a problem for stakeholders in the future.

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