I wish I didn't know about your blog
September 8, 2008 5:31 PM   Subscribe

One of my coworkers has a personal blog which periodically has some Very Ugly entries about other coworkers. I mean, seriously, vulgar and uncalled-for entries.

I hesitate to go to the blogger directly for fear of arousing their direct anger. I'd want to know if I was one of the targets (I'm not, so far, but several of my ((respected)) coworkers are). I've been keeping mum so far but feeling weird about it.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (32 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Honestly, I'd lose the url or bookmark and stop reading it, if it's just someone blowing off steam in a (not very professional or, likely, mentally healthy) manner.

But if they are making specific threats that you believe they intend to follow up on, you should bring it up confidentially to someone in management or HR.

How did you come across it in the first place, and if you found it, are you sure you're the only one who knows about it?

If it's not a seriously threatening situation, perhaps you could slip a hint to the blogger to lock it up...sort of a "your fly is showing" kind of thing. An anonymous email maybe? Cowardly, I know, but you could couch it in 'just a friendly tip' language and maybe they'd heed the warning. This is stuff they should be keeping private, for everyone's sake.
posted by peggynature at 5:41 PM on September 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

Does the blogger refer to the company or people in any kind of identifiable way? If so, you can -- anonymously, if you desire -- point this out to someone in charge. Otherwise, ignore it.
posted by sageleaf at 5:43 PM on September 8, 2008

Does the blogger call co-workers by name? Do they mention the name of the company? If neither of these, I think I'd just forget I ever saw it. Just a really juvenile way to blow off steam. Just be glad he/she doesn't come to work with a gun instead.
posted by CwgrlUp at 5:44 PM on September 8, 2008

This is definitely a situation that calls for an anonymous tip to the blogger. I once blogged angrily about one of my high school teachers, and he found it and approached me about it. He was actually pretty cool about it, more than I had any right to expect, but I so wish someone else had gotten there first and told me to cool it.
posted by crinklebat at 5:44 PM on September 8, 2008

Or...what everyone else said. *sigh*
posted by CwgrlUp at 5:45 PM on September 8, 2008

There isn't an actual question here.

My suggestion would be to just fire them an email saying "you know, some of us at Anonymous Enterprises know about your blog, and it's not real hard to find. Assuming you are not actually trying to hurt people's feelings, you might consider either password protecting the more offensive posts or being a little more circumspect in general. Changing or abbreviating people's names might be a good starting point."
posted by aubilenon at 5:46 PM on September 8, 2008 [4 favorites]

I like peggynature's idea of sending an anonymous email. Nothing volatile, just a heads-up.

I'm assuming from what you've said that it's not anonymous and that there's no real attempt made to disguise the identity of the blogger's targets. Providing that this person isn't completely technologically inept, he/she must be aware that the blog is publicly accessible and that there's no real expectation of privacy for this sort of thing. If the person is slurring co-workers or implying violence or something of that sort, I'd definitely take it to HR.

Then again, from what you know about the blogger, can you tell if this person is having an overall shitty experience at work? Maybe he/she feels out of place and marginalized at the office? Every place I've worked at has had nasty back-biting to some degree, and usually it arises more out of the offender feeling slighted and hurt in some way by co-workers than through any intentional desire on their part to be mean. Maybe having a gentle, non-congrontational talk with the blogger in person would be the way to go.
posted by kryptondog at 5:54 PM on September 8, 2008

So, you're not really trying to get this person dooced, but you might want to interest them to the concept of dooce. Really this is just a fun opportunity to say dooce. But seriously, you might need to set up a throwaway email account for the anonymous notification if you choose to go that route. It all depends on how they have their blog or contact information set up.

posted by ericales at 6:00 PM on September 8, 2008 [4 favorites]

I think you could say something and have it come off as nice instead of accusatory. Like "Hey, I think your blog is the bestest, but if someone else saw it, you might get in serious trouble. Watch out!"
posted by rmless at 6:32 PM on September 8, 2008

There isn't an actual question here.

Implied: "what should I do about this situation?"
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:35 PM on September 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Telling your targeted coworkers won't achieve anything. Maybe you could talk to the blogger directly, but what you should really do is just stop reading it.
posted by The Monkey at 6:36 PM on September 8, 2008

What about printing out some offending entries, and slipping them under a boss's door, with an explanatory (anonymous) note if necessary?

Let the higher ups handle this asshole.
posted by jayder at 6:50 PM on September 8, 2008

If you think what they are doing is wrong and or dangerous you could always drop HR an anonymous note.
posted by Ponderance at 6:51 PM on September 8, 2008

D'oh, Jayder and I were having the same thought at the same time.
posted by Ponderance at 6:52 PM on September 8, 2008

Personally, I don't think the blogger has any right to privacy since the posts are in the public domain. If they were blogging about people I care about, I'd out the blogger, because my loyalty lies with them, not blogger, and if it happened to me, I'd want to know.
posted by lottie at 7:02 PM on September 8, 2008

Don't go to HR unless the blogger is giving up trade secrets or something. They can't do anything about it that isn't illegal or unethical. People have a right to blog about work and say Very Ugly things, however childish it is.

If the blog makes you think the person could be dangerous, you should be notifying the authorities first, HR second.

How you should handle this depends how you came across the blog, and what they say in it.

If you came across it on your own, or if others easily could:

...and they are just being immature and badmouthing others, I'd just tell them discreetly that you respect their right to say what they want, but the people they are talking about could see it, and take serious offense. Suggest that they control access to their blog more, or that they not write about those things.

...and they make immature but idle threats, like "ugh jane in accounting is so annoying, sometimes I want to friggin strangulate her", do the same as above, and suggest that they never, ever make those idle threats publicly.

If you were told by the author about the blog, or ass randomly came across it, but it's unlikely that anyone else from work would:

...and they are just being immature, just ignore it, especially if they don't name names. If they name names, you might go with the above option, since it's possible someone could come across it.

...and they make idle threats, and you believe there is absolutely no danger, warn the author that they really should never ever make idle threats in public, and then continue to ignore it.

Again, if you believe they are dangerous, notify the government authorities. Don't tell only HR. If it's a for profit company, your company has its own interests in mind, and might take other more important things into account if people are in danger, if that aligns with their interests. If it's a public or non-profit employer, it's still not their specific duty to handle the overall situation, so don't expect them to. Expect them to fire the person, and escort them out, and forgot about the problem. That still leaves them able to hurt others.

Don't tell HR unless its specifically relevant to them. That means people are in danger and this person needs to go (which means you're notifying the authorities as well), or this person is breaking other laws where the company is harmed (like mishandling intellectual property). If you're at a for-profit company, expect them to act selfishly and even illegally if you notify them of the situation. So only do so if your company is directly being harmed.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 7:24 PM on September 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Assuming the blogger isn't threatening harm in any way... Is the company mentioned? Are the coworkers mentioned by name? If not, I'd just consider it harmless venting, stop reading it if it's upsetting to you, and leave it at that.
posted by chez shoes at 7:37 PM on September 8, 2008

Simple question: do you like this individual?

If it pisses you off that they're insulting your colleagues, send an anonymous email to HR or management. If it doesn't, send an anonymous email to the blogger.

People have a right to blog about work and say Very Ugly things, however childish it is.

And employers have the right to terminate them over it.

posted by JaredSeth at 7:43 PM on September 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Feel free to just let this go. That blog is a reflection on them, not you.

If you don't want to 'get visibly involved', but your like to help them in a 'fellow man' sort of a way, an anonymous email just giving them a polite head's up is good. Also inviting them to just not make it public - I think blogger.com does this.
posted by anitanita at 7:43 PM on September 8, 2008

Correction: In my answer above, I should have said "in public" not "in the public domain". I intended no inference that the blogger doesn't own the content they are producing - I know nothing about that.

I just meant that it's out there in public, and anyone skilled in the interwebs knows that once it's out there, it's out there.
posted by lottie at 8:12 PM on September 8, 2008

When I hear a coworker badmouthing our other coworkers, one of my first thoughts is to question what they say about me when I'm not around. It's a pretty poisonous thought, and really not worth dwelling on because it only harms me. In this instance, I bet you figure you should stop reading, but you can't help being curious to see if you ever come up on this blog. Pull out all the stops on your will-power, and just stop reading, permanently. Delete the bookmark, do whatever it takes to forget the url, and stop worrying about it. If this person isn't making threats of harm to anyone, it's not worth your time to try to do anything about it.

That said, if you actually like this person and don't want them to get in trouble if/when another coworker finds the blog, I'd agree with others' advice to send an anonymous email.
posted by vytae at 8:32 PM on September 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

If this person is using your co-workers' names, and hasn't included your name, and you want them to know about this without having to tell them yourself, you could ask them idly in conversation if they ever Google themselves, and have a chat about that.

Then, you know, they will, and the situation will sort itself out without your further involvement.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:43 PM on September 8, 2008

Depends how close you are too them. Even if it's an acquaintance I would tell them to be careful and not use real names, etc. If you are not friendly with them at all, send them an anonymous email. People don't think when it comes to blogs, but I think it's a little harsh for them to be fired over it. Nasty things are sometimes said by the water cooler as well.
posted by xammerboy at 8:59 PM on September 8, 2008

I'd print out the blog and take a highligther to the spicy bits.

Then, if I like the blog owner better than the targets I would anonymously slider it under their door/ put on their desk. Just so they know that someone is watching. Next step is theirs.

If I like like the targets better I'd slip them the copies the same way and let them decide what to do. Anything else seems like tattling. I know, you're not eight years old and this isn't a playground, but they're not talking about you. The furthest extent of your responsibility is to let the targets know.

I prefer a print out over an anonymous email. An anon email can come from anywhere, even someone who doesn't know anyone involved. When you put something on my desk I know you're close and not just a crazy on teh internets.

posted by Ookseer at 12:12 AM on September 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

"And employers have the right to terminate them over it."

Sure. But ratting out someone who isn't actually hurting you so that they get fired is not what I would call classy behaviour.

The classy thing to do is to tip them off, via a comment on their blog or similar non-confrontation means, that they are observed and identifiable, and then to stop reading it. Lots of people have the mistake notion that their online activities are untraceable and unnoticed; this person may well be mortified and stop immediately. Or not. In which case the boss can find it on their own.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:18 AM on September 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Don't go to HR unless the blogger is giving up trade secrets or something. They can't do anything about it that isn't illegal or unethical. People have a right to blog about work and say Very Ugly things, however childish it is.

What? Most of the States are at-will, and your employer can fire you for no reason at all. Unprofessional conduct or not-playing-well-with-others is certainly a valid reason. Running your mouth on a blog isn't a protected class.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:32 AM on September 9, 2008

Most of the States are at-will

If Anonymous works in the civilized world, where keeping employees in a state of constant fear for their jobs is considered poor for morale and performance, and such concepts as "unfair dismissal" and a right not to be fired without good reason and a prior written warning exist, then HR may not be able to fire the blogger simply for negative blogging.

Seconding the advice to print out a page and leave it where the blogger (and preferably no-one else) will see it. Blogs, LJs, Facebooks etc are easy enough to make friends-only or account-required private content or something. Unless they're a complete tool, they'll take the hint. If they are a complete tool, they'll no doubt do something else eventually that will provoke a fair and reasonable dismissal.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:21 AM on September 9, 2008

True, aeschenkarnos, but this doesn't seem like that kind of case. The blogger's negativity is extending to their coworkers.

Fire someone because they badmouth the company might be tricky, but I think not firing someone who badmouths their colleagues in public is probably worse for morale.
posted by JaredSeth at 6:14 AM on September 9, 2008

Fire Firing. Too damn early.
posted by JaredSeth at 6:14 AM on September 9, 2008

Unless they're a complete tool, they'll take the hint.

Oh and I'd say that someone who badmouths their colleagues in public has already established themselves as a complete tool.
posted by JaredSeth at 6:15 AM on September 9, 2008

I just talked to my HR person about this and had to make perfectly clear that really, no, this is not about here. She has just taken a course about harassment and company liability that literally had her waking up in cold sweats. Surprisingly enough, there is nothing that needs to be done from the company's point of view. If they want to be an asshat in public, that's their prerogative. It is, however, in the company's best interest to approach the individual and suggest that maybe there's a better way to address conflict.
posted by plinth at 8:14 AM on September 9, 2008

I'd print it and keep it for blackmail. Well, no, not really. Blackmail takes planning and can be taxing.

I would stop reading the blog or do the anonymous warning "hey, people can read your blog, ease up". I actually can't stop reading blogs unless I sever the tie. The e-mail might help.

How bad are the entries? It could lead to a defamation suit.
posted by abdulf at 12:24 AM on September 20, 2008

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