Seeking Advice on Blogging by Federal Employees

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This topic contains 12 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  David Dejewski 5 years, 9 months ago.

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  • #156198

    Curt Klun
    Participant

    I see the phenomenal potential to collaborate, advocate change, and to raise the bar of understanding by blogging on professionally related topics. However, I’m wary of doing so because I am concerned that my posts could be received as official government positions. I also do not want to get into hot water by inadvertently disclosing information or frustrations that may be perceived as critical to my organization.

    What advice or guidance would you give for Federal Employees who wish to blog with such purpose in mind?

  • #156222

    David Dejewski
    Participant

    Curt – I have very specific experience with what you’re talking about. As a former GS-15 civil servant working in the business of government Transformation, I was drawn to GovLoop for it’s collaboration and advocacy potential. I was also exposed to things that I would have found shocking and/or downright maddening within government when I was younger. There were many days when I wanted to stand up and shout about what I was seeing, but my desire to draw attention was tempered by knowledge of how the truth can easily get away from us once the press and/or the public get’s involved. Few people understand (or would understand) the implications, complexity, or relationships of what we have experienced unless they have experienced it themselves. Even simple, generic Blog posts will get interpreted in some surprising ways.

    There is a sense within government that the right thing to do is “keep it in the family.” No one wants to be tagged as a whistle blower or a traitor. No one wants to jeopardize their career by blabbing and getting themselves locked out of rooms. Trust is one of the most valuable assets we have. We don’t want to risk that over a Blog post that might not have the intended effect.

    I hung up my government job six months ago. I still don’t feel comfortable talking about many things. I don’t want the publicity.

    I’m a little disappointed in my own lack of courage or action, but here’s my thinking:

    1. I still feel a sense of loyalty
    2. I’m doubtful that my expose’ would have a positive effect. It would probably be a pain in the butt for a few senior bureaucrats for a little while, it would be entertaining for a few people, and it would end up hurting my character. Even the documentation I saved would be successfully refuted or ignored, and very little would change.
    3. As I’ve seen before, someone would become the fall guy – usually not the right person (s).

    So what’s my advice? Consider what I’ve already said and make your own decision. What’s right for me may not be what’s right for you.

    In my case, I have chosen to help people when they ask questions. I mentor other government employees. I Blog about generic issues and try to raise questions. When people read my stuff, I’m hopeful it makes them think. I’m big on moral compass; and try to infuse my leadership Blog materials with themes like being selfless, keeping an eye on the human side of leadership, Transparency, collaboration, and doing the right thing. The opposite, of course, is in my opinion, what caused the disasters I’ve seen.

    I think that as long as we use our experience to draw attention the positive, help people avoid traps, and help people become aware and grow, instead of using it to expose the negative and hurt people, what we do out here in the Blog space will be valuable. As an added bonus, we won’t have the press turning our world upside-down or an angry room full of bureaucrats trying to figure out how to make us look bad or go away.

  • #156220

    Deb Green
    Participant

    An excellent question. Here’s my take –

    First, do you know if your organization has a social media policy? There may be elements in there to help direct what you may or may not be ‘allowed’ or ‘advised’ to do by your agency. This is the first step to help you stay out of hot water.

    Second, before blogging, think about what you post and what the context is going to be perceived as. While we may not be the “official” representatives of our organizations, our position, our status, and our association with our agencies does make us ambassadors of our organization and their brand. Be mindful of what you write about, and how scathing you may want to be.

    Lastly, I’d be weary of “venting” on any forum. Expressing difficulties is one thing – but throwing people or orgs under the bus won’t win you any friends in any forum, public or private.

    Hope this helps!

  • #156218

    Julie Chase
    Participant

    If you are in “big” place where there are thousands of gov employees..you will be ignored. If you are in a little “burg” like me, you won’t use your real name or post your picture and you will be hazy on what you say. It’s an all out war on fed employees right now and the taxpayers are lining up their pitchforks and torches. They are saying “be thankful you have a job and keep quiet”. You won’t find much “frustration” on GovLoop, because there is nothing to see here, everything is just hunky dory. If you want frustration and what is going on in the real gov employee world, look to govexec, nextgov, federal times, fed daily or fedsmith. I come here to escape, learn a few things and ask alot of questions. Like,

    * who pays for your agency shirts with logo’s and we can’t afford safety vests or coveralls for our WG workers?

    * why is so easy for some low level GS workers to get a blackberry, oops, I mean android?

    * why do some feds get to “stream” music through their work computers and others are “forbidden” even on “unclassified” machines?

    * why are some feds enjoying training after training experiences and conferences when other feds have no money for training, much less travel?

    * why is computer hardware and software so easy to purchase for some feds while others wait 2 months or more just to get approvals on “unclassified” machines and/or software needed to accomplish their mission?

    You are young, my friend, you will learn.

  • #156216

    Michael Bostwick
    Participant

    I would like to tag along with this question and advance what Deb suggested – social media policy. Our agency does not have one, and my team feels that in order for us to fully leverage the social media space, we will need to be proactive in generating a policy.

    Does anybody have something that they can share to give me some ideas? Thanks!

  • #156214

    Curt Klun
    Participant

    Thank you to everyone for responding so thoughtfully.

    I’ve done some research but found nothing department specific. I’ve found guidlines discussing the risks of social networking, such as this 2009 CIO document online: CIO.gov — “Guidelines for Secure Use of Social Media by Federal Departments and Agencies”. However, I haven’t had luck on guidance or restrictions, like the Hatch Act, on content.

    I’m thinking that it is clear that our disclosure and security clearance agreements would cover the prohibition of disclosing operational and classified content, but nothing in the realm that we are talking about.

    I had also the thought that agencies may not want to publish such policies, fearing a backlash over transparency.

  • #156212

    Corey McCarren
    Participant

    A lot of people who blog here and elsewhere will include a signature type deal at the end of their post informing readers that the blog represents only themselves.

  • #156210

    Christina Evans
    Participant

    I don’t blog myself, so I don’t have any direct experience. But I’m going to provide an example of a Canadian Federal Employee, Nick Charney, who regularly publishes a blog that is always interesting and usually thought-provoking. (He reposts his blogs on GovLoop as well.) You will see that his disclaimer is prominently displayed. My only additional suggestion would be to maybe speak to your supervisor about it before you start, just in case. I know the old saying that it’s easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission, but on the other hand, there’s the even older saying, better safe than sorry!

    http://www.cpsrenewal.ca/

  • #156208

    Elliot Volkman
    Participant

    I believe writing professional, but unaffiliated blog posts to your agency, would be and have been excellent in this realm. Personally I think Govloop is the idea place for govvies to post blogs, because the general audience here are in the same boat. Creating your own personal blog gives you a bit more freedom, but also means you need to build an audience from scratch.

  • #156206

    Deb Green
    Participant

    Michael, here’s a cornucopia of social media policies from around the world.

  • #156204

    Deb Green
    Participant

    Some more guiding principles:

    1. Write about what you know and what you’ve experienced and leave out names or agencies.

    2. Don’t throw anyone under the bus – make it positive, even if it came from a bad experience.

    3. Make it interesting and make it productive – Whining/complaining/venting should be non-existent, or limited, if used at all.

  • #156202

    Sterling Whitehead
    Participant

    The general rules I follow:

    1) My agency’s social media policy.

    2) Don’t post things that apply things about your agency.

    My bosses are usually concerned at first once they find out I have a blog. That is a natural concern. Their concerns moderate after a few months once they realize I don’t talk about the agency.

  • #156200

    Bonnie Zimmerman
    Participant

    Hi Curt,

    I would approach blogging with the same guidelines that you would approach complaining with; keep it resepctful, disect the process not a person, offer alternative solutions and not just a lashing of the current situation. I think there are many things that need to be improved in the government, from the way we recruit and retain employees, to the way conduct the day to day buisines. Technology is changing every day, and it seems we are the last to take advantage of it. So, I think having a conversation about these things could be very constructive. Maybe before you start blogging, you could also seek out advice from your Ethics officer?

    Good luck,
    Bonnie

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