Dear all knowing Internet,
Yes, I know its been two weeks since my last post. But after surviving the flooding of Hurricane Irene then Lee, consoling a dying computer, moving to a new apartment, and dealing with a puppy, I have returned to my blog. Don’t worry, I’m still frustrated.
Over the past two weeks, I have shared my blogged with some close friends and family who also work in government. They brought to my attention the repercussions of bringing work place issues (I claim they are universal issues) into the blogosphere.
They mentioned several possible repercussions to me which included being marginalized, micromanaged to the point of insanity, and other nasty things not even the civil service code or public employee unions can protect you from.
So how are we (frustrated individuals) supposed to meet others who share our problems if we aren’t supposed to do it online? Do we accept the risk that a co-worker may read a blog post about something that happened at work that day?
More importantly, how can managers create an environment where people feel they can freely express frustration without fear of reprisal?
I don’t know the answer, but my public management training has taught me that to bring change you have to be brave. Maybe this my form of bravery.
Let me know what you think.
Young and Frustrated
When it comes to blogging about frustrations at work, I feel like you are walking on ice. If you are blogging and just outright complaining about whatever is happening in the office, that is one thing. However, if you are looking to find advice on how to make your situation better, and your post has a POSITIVE tone, then its completely different. Obviously, writing an essay about how much you hate your boss is going to get you nowhere, but I think asking “what are qualities of a good boss?” or “tips on improving relationships with your boss” in a forum is slightly more acceptable if you are looking for advice/companionship from the community.
On the other hand, before there was Internet people were still social and were able to find companionship! You won’t have to worry about this if you just don’t blog in the first place 🙂
I honestly think that is one of the coolest things about GovLoop. Here is a community of people who work in the same field, and can bounce ideas off of one another.
Andrew, anyone can hurt your career. Those in competition with you for assignments, promotion, awards, etc may chose to interpret your blog as criticism of your office and spin it into something negative about you to leadership. Be VERY careful. Instead, I would would discuss issues with non work friends (do we even really have true FRIENDS at work?) or a mentor.
Most men lead lives of quiet desparation – Henry David Thoreau
Blogging is a way of not staying quiet. Using your interactions here at GovLoop to better your life is a way of not submitting to desparation. That’s one way to look at it.
Blog as a release rather than a vent. You’ll find discussing other unrelated topics will decrease your frustration levels you bring home with you. Blogging about work is like putting information out in writing for someone to find. If you think they’re out to get you, they are. Someone has an agenda. Use your energy to build credibility in another area you can blog about. I agree with the comments posted here so far. Be very careful. My supervisor actually found out I was retiring before I made it official because she had more interest online than I thought she did. No harm since it was a matter of time, but I had been blogging for a year and a half. I let that one slip on purpose. Other than that I never spoke about work, rarely about government, although I did talk about business as a way of talking without talking about some things. Still dangerous. Better use as a pressure release valve, and I swear that alone helped me.
I’ll add my two cents to the prevailing opinion I’ve seen in the comments so far.
Do not blog about work-related issues as a venting mechanism. The little perceived good you’ll get out of it for releasing some steam will be far overwhelmed by potential repercussions. Look, you’d be providing written evidence – the best kind to use against you – for reprimands, even termination if egregious.
A sign of maturity is to formulate your frustrations into meaningful and actionable feedback and provide that to your management team.
Any management team worth its salt (in my opinion) will provide mechanisms to give a voice to its workforce, even if the feedback is contrary to the prevailing opinions. At the least, I’ll presume you have performance appraisal meetings with your direct supervisor. Those make great opportunities for giving feedback. There are also options for short circuiting the chain of command, be it through the ombudsman, skip-level meetings, tiger teams or other similar mechanisms.
Finally, and to put it bluntly, if you find that your organization stifles the mechanisms for providing or is hostile to receiving meaningful and actionable feedback, you really ought to ask yourself if that is the right organization for you.
Two phrases work for me:
* no pic
* different name or anonymous
And yes, if you work for Uncle Sam be careful what you spill. No names, no dates, change the circumstance in the story if you must rant/vent/discuss.
Problems at work? You have problems at work? My workplace is perfect, serene and always pleasant. I’m sorry you have all those issues!!!!
(psssst…. Can someone send this link to my boss?) 🙂
This is a very fine line that you’re walking Andrew. All of the helpful hints below would apply. Obviously, you’re on the radar for your organization. You may want to consider;
Just my thoughts. Keep in mind, this is in addition to the quality information in this post already.
As time goes on, and we live more and more online, sharing negative experiences will be less threatening because everyone will have done so.
Till then…you’ll figure something out. Good luck.
I must say that I never had even thought about this until Government Executive magazine quoted a section of my blog a couple of years ago and named me. Well, that got read by everyone and a blanket statement on blogging did go out in an everyone e-mail. Luckily I had named no names and wasn’t really critical of any agency. Actually I got a lot of congrats all round; but it did make a me more circumspect in what I said and how I said it. You always have to keep in mind that you do get “googled” and everything you have ever said online is likely to come up.
These are all good comments. Just want to add some more specific thoughts as it seems like a lot of people (inside or outside government) have the same concern:
1. Focus on a broader issue and use your personal experience (very generalized) to highlight why it’s a real problem.
2. Link your experience to an article, a book, a study, etc. – put it in context and show how it’s a common experience
3. Do not insult, embarrass, or violate anybody’s trust…my favorite blogger blogs about every fight with her husband and although it is interesting reading, it is also inappropriate.
4. Offer a solution rather than dwelling on the problem – give us options and hope
5. Turn the frustration into your brand. Own it. Make it humorous. Make it something that your agency can brag about – e.g. “Even the most frustrated govies can work here.” This is a risky strategy but ultimately could have a huge payoff – book, TV show, etc. Or you could wind up meeting the Governor or the President – who will ask you to solve the problems your fellow govies face. Think big!
But whatever you do, don’t stop writing. We need to know and share what is wrong so that we can fix it.
Sharing what is real for people is not a sign of weakness, rather it is one of strength, or as I would say, leadership. We have become a society that fears the “power” of large organizations without fully understanding that it is “we the people” that empower them. The only way things will change is for people to speak their truth, so that we can create needed change.
That being said, it is essential to be mindful, respectful, and meaningful in your critiques. It is possible to make important observations without being mean, nasty and disrespectful. One of the best resources I use with my clients and students is Marshall Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication . . . which provides a very clear path for making difficult points and is great for everyday conversations as well!
@Andrew, Technology is very seductive in that we sometimes think we are anonymous. I put in my profile a specific statement that my opinions expressed within GovLoop are mine and do not represent any position of my agency. I blog here as an individual and not in my official capacity as a federal employee. There is a big difference. When you blog here, present the matter abstractly. Take heed of Ed’s experience that he related in his post. Anyone can read this website, draw inferences and conclusions. People tend to interpret situations through their own lenses and sometimes misinterpret what is written. Be careful about what you write. My advice is to not post anything here that you would not want to see in the Washington Post.
Thanks everyone for all of your advice! I will keep all it in mind as continue my blog. I will try to keep everything as general as possible. I look forward to hearing from you in the future!
I agree with Danielle’s comments. And whether or not anyone wants to admit it in your org, frustration and stress is a part of every day work life. The one thing I really love about virtual spaces and communities is how they can facilitate collaboration and problem-solving. I think it’s one thing to write a blog that vents versus a blog that is seeking opinions, guidance, reassurance that you’re doing the right thing in your job and for the public.
I was just talking today with my coworkers about this very issue: everyone has frustrations and issues that stop them from doing the things they need to do or want to do – whether that is time, bureaucracy, project priorities, etc. Pretending those things don’t exist doesn’t mean that those challenges go away; it just means you don’t get the benefit of other people’s points of view.