Careless blogs cost jobs

You may think you're just letting off steam but what you write online about your employers could cost you dear. Do bloggers have any say? Michael Pollitt investigates

Joe Gordon knows what it's like to be dooced. He is one of a small but growing number of bloggers whose lives have been changed by it. In the strange world of urban slang, being dooced means losing your job for something you wrote on your blog or website.

Joe Gordon knows what it's like to be dooced. He is one of a small but growing number of bloggers whose lives have been changed by it. In the strange world of urban slang, being dooced means losing your job for something you wrote on your blog or website.

Surprised? Don't be. Getting fired for what you've said about work has happened before. A bad day at the office, a remark overheard in the pub and, before you know it, your job is on the line. What makes Gordon different is that, rather then simply making an ill-considered aside to a colleague, he commented about his working conditions for months before his employer found out and he was dismissed.

Gordon's Woolamaloo Gazette ( brought him into conflict with Waterstone's booksellers. Shortly before Christmas, he was called to his manager's office and informed of an investigation for gross misconduct. "I was suspended on pay and escorted from the premises of the bookstore I had worked in for 11 years," Gordon wrote. He was dismissed in January for bringing the company into disrepute.

Gordon first started the gazette as a satirical newspaper in 1992 (the name comes from a Monty Python sketch) in the form of an e-mail. "I like writing and I like expressing myself," he says of the decision to blog. "It's an interesting way of interacting with people. The blog was mostly stuff of the 'I'd had a crap day at work' variety." Not surprisingly, however, his descriptions of the company as "Bastardstones" and "Evil Boss" failed to humour his employers. Luckily, Gordon's story has a happy ending. As a result of the publicity, he now has a new job in Edinburgh with the specialist book and comic seller Forbidden Planet.

But not everyone is so lucky. Jason (who wants to remain anonymous) was dooced after he was found to have written a blog while working for a financial services company. "I've always written a journal, like a diary," he says. "I've done that for over 10 years. But writing it down on paper just wasn't working any more." So he opted for a blog.

Jason's former blogs can be accessed, with a little rummaging, at The offending blog is highly personal, sometimes shocking and often hilarious. It documents his interests in football, music, going out, his worries about his exams and his work.

To write about work and his colleagues was probably foolish. Mentioning his bosses in an offhand, derogatory or critical way was even riskier. But it was only when he named his firm's clients that Jason was finally called to see the boss. "I went into work and was suspended for a week, pending a hearing," says Jason, who suspects that it was a client who found the blog late last year.

After the hearing, he was given a starkly worded dismissal letter that said his "personal website" contained content of an "inappropriate nature". Added to that, it was suggested that references to employees, partners, and clients were "severely prejudicial" to the firm's good name. He was eventually fired for gross misconduct. The hearing also accused Jason of not devoting histime and attention to his duties during working hours.

Why take the risk? "I didn't start out blogging about work. It just naturally became included," he says. "I think the blog was fairly balanced and makes some good points about my job, points that previously fell on deaf ears ... Blogging just became a form of catharsis and the best way of dealing with work stress." And the dismissal? "I do think it was heavy handed."

His former employers say they were "very shocked, saddened, and disturbed by the discovery of Jason's blogging". After taking legal advice, the firm says, the dismissal was justified because Jason "breached client confidentiality and was also very rude about one of the partners". Because serious statements were published, a warning was not sufficient. "Employees must not breach client confidentiality. This was placed in the public domain and was totally unacceptable," the firm says. "We believe both employers and employees should be brought up to speed on the dangers that this sort of behaviour can bring."

Finding a new job was hard and Jason found it difficult to explain his unusual dismissal. However, he's now working in another industry. "My new job is a lot closer to my heart than the job I was dismissed from. But, put it this way, I won't lose any more jobs because of a blog."

The message is clear. If you write a blog, think carefully before you mention work. Clare Griffiths, a partner at the London-based legal firm Be, says: "Most employment contracts will contain sweeping confidentiality clauses to ensure that any information relating to the employer gleaned by the employee in the course of employment must be kept confidential... By writing a blog, the employee publishes their gripes in a way that is accessible by the employer and admissible in court proceedings." In other words: stick to mouthing off in the pub in the company of close mates, because the Human Rights Act offers small comfort for those who breach confidentiality or damage reputations.

It's also important for employers to devise blogger strategies. Adriana Cronin-Lukas, a partner in The Big Blog Company, is an ardent blogger who also helps companies set up blogs. "I want employers to understand that employees are individuals and they have their freedoms," she says. "If the company doesn't have a blogging policy, it's very hard for employees who have personal blogs. If an employer has a very strong opinion about blogs, then they should have a policy and give bloggers a chance to decide for themselves."

Blogs are growing in influence within and beyond the "blogosphere". But most bloggers are not aware of the dangers they face when casually turning in what they think is a harmless account of their day at work. No matter how well intentioned, the blogger is usually the loser. And bloggers and employers clearly need to understand each other better before the word dooced is heard more often.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Performance Consultant Trainee

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Consultant trainee opportunit...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - (Full marketing mix) - Knutsford

£22000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Knu...

Ashdown Group: Web Developer - ASP.NET, C#, MVC - London

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Web Developer -...

Day In a Page

Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

Election 2015

Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May
Countdown to the election: Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear as the SNP target his Commons seat

Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t forget his Highland roots in the Budget. But the SNP is after his Commons seat
The US economy is under threat because of its neglected infrastructure

The US is getting frayed at the edges

Public spending on infrastructure is only half of Europe’s, and some say the nation’s very prosperity is threatened, says Rupert Cornwell
Mad Men final episodes: Museum exhibition just part of the hoopla greeting end of 1960s-set TV hit

New Yorkers raise a glass to Mad Men

A museum exhibition is just part of the hoopla greeting the final run of the 1960s-set TV hit
Land speed record: British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new standard in South Africa's Kalahari desert
Housebuilders go back to basics by using traditional methods and materials

Housebuilders go back to basics - throwing mud at the wall until it sticks

Traditional materials are ticking all the construction boxes: they are cheap, green – and anyone can use them
Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'

Daniel Brühl: 'Envy is very German'

He's got stick for his golden acting career and for his beloved restaurant - but Daniel Brühl is staying put in Berlin (where at least the grannies love him)
How Leica transformed photography for ever: Celebrating 100 years of the famous camera

Celebrating 100 years of Leica

A new book reveals how this elegant, lightweight box of tricks would transform the way we saw life on the street and in fashion, on the battlefield and across the world