Monday 27 June 2016

To blog or not to blog about work...

I used to blog about work a lot. This was back in 2007, when I was a new librarian and would blog about my experiences as a new professional, the successes and setbacks, aspirations and frustrations. I was also very careful not to directly criticise my employer - if there was criticism, it was always directed at the industry at large, which also seemed to work, since many of the endemic problems of the industry are common across the sector.

Also, through my studies, there has been a growing trend for LIS students to be tasked with writing a blog, as a means of reflecting on professional topics, and critiquing them against their own personal and professional findings. Similarly, in the wildly successful "23 things" e-learning program, librarians were encouraged to blog as a means of actively reflecting on and sharing their learning experience, in the context of the application of new technologies in their own work. This is certainly most effective when critiquing their own work environment, and evaluating the relevance / feasibility of introducing of such technologies to their workplace.

However, through recent years, I've had progressively diminishing license to reflect and critique my professional work in practice, through a blog. During my assignments with the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program, participants were instructed to refrain from posting anything on social media that might bring the program, the host country, or the host organisation into disrepute. Now, being in a developing country, there are going to be an assortment of challenges, whether it be the local approach to professional practices, social barriers, lack of resources, and the list goes on. And, given that miscommunication and misunderstanding is also easy in this context, if one of my colleagues were to discover a blog where I describe all the problems of working in said country, it may not be received well by my host organisation or country. So, that much is understandable, and if I ever blogged about my work in the AVID program, it would focus on the positive experiences.

Most recently, though, I've been in a position where I don't blog about work at all. I don't even mention my current employer's name on social media; the only connection I have to my employer is through my LinkedIn page. To blog about work would be to jeopardise my entire future career in the sector, and the only time that any real critical discourse comes into the public sphere is when a high-level official retires and their parting gift is a damning testimonial. Again, I understand that operational information can be sensitive, and criticism can bring the organisation into disrepute, but I still do believe that having open discourse on professional practices is a healthy way to address some of the issues in the industry. On the other hand, by creating insular bubbles, there is the risk that the critical evaluation of practices will be, at best, discouraged, and at worst, result in negative repercussions.

This, of course, is pure speculation - I'm not exactly at liberty to blog about these issues to more specific detail. I wish I could - it would certainly be of interest to others working in information management who might be interested in entering my sector.

Do you blog about work? If so, what limitations do you set about what you will or won't blog about?

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