Does anyone blog the really bad stuff on a work blog?

Well do they? It is great to use blogs to share good practice, bounce ideas around and formulate new policies. But what about the negative stuff? There are many issues in a large organisation like mine (East Lothian Council) that might act to impede the development of effective learning and teaching. Is anyone brave enough to air such issues in a blog managed by their employer? Might they be in breach of their contracts of employment if they did? I have always been under the impressions that we are not allowed to go directly to the press with concerns. If not, will we really be allowed to air those concerns in such a public arena as Exc-el? What is more, should we be allowed to?

Now don't get me wrong - I think Exc-el is a great tool, and the fact that blogs tend towards the positive is also good. It would be pretty pointless if it just became a place to moan. But without the ability to discuss the real nitty gritty of the problems we face, it runs the risk of just being a place to show-off and to dream.

To give you one example of the kind of thing I'm talking about, I read an East Lothian publication over the Summer that described a visit by the First Minister to see how PPP had gone. He described it as a resounding success and a model for other authorities to follow. How quickly we have forgotten this,this,this...
[rest of post self-censored to avoid risk of disciplinary action]

Comments

  1. This is actually pretty common in the US. If you google the "Carnival of Education" you should find some relevant links.

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  2. Thanks Tom - lots of honesty on display! But from my cursory scan of the long list of blogs, it didn't look as if any of them were on official authority sites. That's what I meant by a "work blog". That's where I suspect there'll be a lack of openness about problems.

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  3. Hi Robert, just come across your blog - nice!

    As for 'blogging about the bad stuff', I'm often sorely tempted to. But I don't think it would be professional to do so. I see my blog as a place for me to reflect, to develop professionally and to network in order to further my career. Negativity, unless accompanied by a positive plan on how to change it, is likely to be a destructive force.

    So I wouldn't go slagging off your employers on here - it always comes back to haunt you... :-o

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  4. Hi Doug. I have, of course, visited your extensive blog - it's an amazing resource. Thanks for the wise advice. I agree completely about negativity, but would have to say that by the same argument, positivity without a willingness to be open about failures and challenges is unlikely to be a very creative force.

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  5. I'd hope that people can be honest about how they feel but with regard for other people's feelings. Having a blog doesn't mean that it gives you the right to have a go at will. Having kept a blog about professional issues for over two years I haven't felt compromised by having to take account of other's feelings, yet, I hope, raising some important and challenging issues. For me the guideline has to be mutual respect.

    If it's just about asking about why something isn't working, or suggesting a better way of doing something then I believe that should be encouraged and there are lots of examples in Exc-el of practice being influenced by such comments. If we can create such an open culture then people are much less likely to feel the need to sound off just to release some steam!!!

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  6. Hi Don. Being "honest about how they feel but with regard for other people's feelings" captures very well what good blogging should be about. And from experience over the last year I can vouch for the fact that you really walk the walk when it comes to being open to hearing about problems and dissatisfaction amongst staff.

    The SNAFU principle comes into play here though. ELC is a hierarchy, no matter how much we would like to think otherwise, and those beneath you in the hierarchy will prefer to agree with you than to disagree with you. You must have seen this. I guess I am just saying that we need to be aware that professional blog posts will on average understate people's concerns and overstate their enthusiasms, simply because the authors know that their posts are being read by those above them in the hierarchy.

    Don't get me wrong though - I think that Exc-el has already shown its power to reduce the feeling of hierarchy, and to facilitate better communication between the chalk face and the education department. The fact that you are posting a comment on my blog, and I feel able to reply in a manner which could hardly be described as toadying vouches for this ;)

    We should have the electronic equivalent of an anonymous suggestions box - anonymous comments that are not displayed online. This would be an interesting experiment - to see how this anonymous feedback compared with the public forum of the blogosphere.

    [NOTE - Don Ledingham is Head of Education for East Lothian Council. Some of the above doesn't make much sense without that bit of information]

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  7. I agree that people's perceptions about hierarchy do influence how they communicate. However, I think we need to actively this challenge this notion of hierarchy. For me the only difference between myself and anybody else in the organisation is that I have a different level of accountability, but I'd argue that accountability is different from power, i.e. I could be held responsible if you did something bad professionaly - you wouldn't be held responsible if I did something bad.

    I reckon that if we all share the same goals and intentions then it's up to me to enable people to participate as equals in the change process as opposed to them being told what to do by the leader.

    I do subscribe to the SNAFU principle i.e. if leaders are disconnected from reality then there is very little likelihood of change being successfully implemented. That's why it's so important that I read other people's blogs - and why it's important that they are honest, whilst at the same taking into account people's feelings and attempting to see both sides of every issue.

    Last point - reversed hierarchies? see

    http://www.exc-el.org.uk/content/index.php/main/content/search?SearchText=hierarchies

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  8. [...] From personal experience I would like to reassure people that blogging, from a manager’s perspective, is perhaps one of the most important things a manager could to do have positive impact upon their organisation. The problem with most organisations is that managers are seen to be remote from their colleagues - and even if they’re close the SNAFU principle often means they don’t hear the truth. [...]

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  9. [...] I’ve been reading some really interesting blogs and discussions recently, Don’s management blogging post and the debate about blogging negatively have really made me think about my own position in relation to whether or not blogging ‘negatively’ serves any purpose.  I’m of the opinion that yes, if something is wrong with a system or way of working we all have a right to express our concern on that subject, but also believe that in doing so we need to examine our own motivations very carefully. [...]

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