Soon to be applying to an office near you

At the high school level, it’s called “cyberbullying.”  At the collegiate level, as the Boston Globe reports, some students are using websites to spread malicious rumors, ridicule personal appearances, and otherwise try to make life miserable for their classmates:

http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/articles/2008/12/29/dorm_rumors/

What does this have to do with the workplace?  Well, take these lovely young folks and:

1.  Add 3-6 years.

2.  Put them in the workplace.

3.  These are your new colleagues.

4.  Uh oh.

But seriously, some of the posts and comments I’ve read from college students, not to mention graduate and professional students, on websites and online forums are so stunningly outrageous, mean-spirited, and self-revealing (in many ways) that I can only imagine what kinds of employees they will turn out to be.  Of course, many of us recall things we said in younger days (and maybe not-so-younger days) that we regret, but the Internet serves as a portal for the most reckless and destructive comments, with little accompanying sense of personal accountability.

2 responses

  1. I would suspect that if (when?) such blogs pop up in the workplace that employers will aggressively identify the posters, and take adverse action against them. (Presumably some employees will use company computers, and will be easily identified.) The comments described in the Globe are indefensible, and would be even more indefensible in the workplace. However, I will be interested to see the social and legal reaction to blog postings by employees who “trash talk” their bosses. While some such “trash talk” may be scurrilous and personal venom, what about postings that critique a boss’s supervising abilities, or that criticize management for not sufficiently curbing abusive co-workers? Even more interestingly, what if such critiques are implicit in otherwise venomous posts? Should such postings be protected as concerted, protected activity by employees (under the NLRA)? Even if inappropriate, should the employer play the role of censor at all? Pretty interesting stuff. Overall, a great new blog.

    • James, thank you for your comment and kind words. You’re on target in terms of employees trash talking their bosses and companies. I’ve read a number of career advice-type columns over the years that have warned of the perils of posting “anonymously” about employers to blogs and websites, apparently based on situations where people have found themselves “outed” and placed in (very) hot water.

      Readers, James is an attorney at one of the excellent labor law firms here in Boston, and his speculation about possible legal protections for workers who post about their employers is very interesting. My own read on that question is that while some protections may exist, in reality they are limited. Of course, this makes it all the more difficult to get word out on bad employers. But in this economy, having even a lousy job is usually better than none at all.

      -David

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