Should You Keep Your Blog a Secret at Work?

Should You Keep Your Blog a Secret at Work? | CorporetteIf you have a personal blog that’s not work-related, should you keep your blog a secret at work? When does your company need to know? Reader K wonders…

As a fellow lawyer, I followed your blog closely back in my NYC law firm days. I now have a more flexible legal position. (I often work remotely as my primary job is meeting with clients.) My question is concerning blogging — as I can’t express much creativity in my day job, I’ve been blogging at night and on weekends (on my own non-work laptop). It’s a personal non-money making blog — in fact it’s more of a money pit. My blog has nothing to do with work, I never even mention work — nor is it controversial. (It’s about shopping & travel.) What is the etiquette concerning letting people at work know about my blog? (My work FB friends know, but I don’t offer the info to anyone unless asked.) I know you blogged anonymously for a long time — I thought about doing this but it seemed like it might hold me back (Google authorship, guest posting, etc.). Should I worry about work “finding out”?

Great question, K. I “came out” to my law firm a month or two after I started Corporette because, even though I wasn’t making much, I had started the blog as a business and was worried about running afoul of an ethics rule my firm had regarding disclosing business connections. Still, there can be a big difference between a handful of HR people knowing about your blog, and attaching your name to the blog publicly — both for professional and personal reasons — so let’s get into it.

If you’re trying to monetize your blog at all — regardless of whether you’re succeeding — I would mention it to someone who would most likely be aware of company policy on such things. For example, HR might need to know — but your immediate boss might not need to know.  (Know your office, though, as well as your boss.  If he or she would be upset to find out second hand, tell him or her at the same time.) Make it clear that you are not blogging on work time or about work-related issues — you may also want to post a visible disclaimer on the blog that “all opinions are my own” or something like that. I’d also be aware of your dual roles in your online interactions — don’t get into a heated argument on Twitter or Instagram if your accounts link to your blog/your real name. In other words, be professional in all of your interactions.

Blogging has come a long way, but I think there can still be professional ramifications for blogging.  As a fashion blogger, I was worried about being seen as a flibbertigibbet — I’d worked hard to get to where I was in the legal world, and didn’t want people to think I was easily distracted by shiny sparkly things.  Even if you’re not blogging about fashion, though, I’d be wary of telling people too widely, because it can be a bit like telling people you’re interviewing for another job, even if you only intend the blog to be a hobby.  Finally, personally there can be ramifications when you attach your name to a blog, because when people Google you the blog will often be the first thing that comes up.  Every choice you make on the blog, from the font to the pictures to the content to the ads — is something that people will possibly judge you for.

As far as telling your work friends, I wouldn’t worry about it — don’t go out of your way to do it, but bring it up like you would any other hobby. Examples of normal, natural ways to talk about it might be: “Oooh, I can’t wait to blog this!” or “I spent all weekend trying to figure out the footer on my blog!” (I kid you not, I once spent an entire weekend working on the footer on my blog.) You can also link to it on your FB page; some of my blogger friends also post links to individual posts on their personal newsfeeds.  (I usually don’t, but that’s me.)

Readers, how would you go about disclosing a blog to your employer or coworkers? Are you hesitant to start a personal or hobby blog because of the potential professional ramifications?

Pictured at top: BLOG, originally uploaded to Flickr by Thomas Hawk

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Comments

  1. I’m a lawyer in private practice with a travel and food blog. No one at work knows but I wouldn’t be horrified if anyone found out because, as you said, it’s not controversial and I never mention work. I’m not FB friends with colleagues and don’t post blog stuff on Facebook anyway. I also have a common full name so wouldn’t worry about the blog coming up in Google results for my name. It never even occurred to me that I would need to disclose the blog to HR, but I don’t earn money from it. I hope to someday earn free/discounted travel but that’s not the same thing as cash.

    • Amelia Bedelia :

      I understand you don’t plan on earning “cash,” but free/discounted travel is still a form of compensation and might need to be disclosed to your firm. Just an FYI.

      • Anonymous :

        Interesting. I’m still not really clear why it would have to be disclosed. I don’t recall ever signing something to that effect and am not sure why I would have to share in the absence of some policy requiring that. Anyway it’s all very hypothetical as I have no expectation of earning anything anytime soon.

  2. Amelia Earhart :

    I have been keeping a blog about a specific health-related issue and treatment. I sometimes link posts on my facebook (where I am friends with co-workers), but they all know what has been going on. However, no one has ever mentioned it and the blog is fairly anonymous, with no mention of work. It’s also not monetized as I’ve used it mostly to network.

  3. I haven’t told anyone at work about my food blog. My blog has my full name on it, and it will come up along with my LinkedIn, Facebook etc. when you Google me, so you can clearly tell it’s the same person. It’s not a secret, but someone would have to actively Google me to make the connection. There is a natural barrier to it coming up in conversation because if someone wanted to ask me about it, they’d have to admit they were google stalking me, which would probably seem weird.

    It’s just a hobby/creative outlet so I don’t feel like discussing it at work and wouldn’t want anyone to think I was trying to turn it into a business. But if someone happens upon it that’s fine too, it’s not controversial.

  4. My job specifically states that I cannot blog at work, I think mostly because it would be a conflict to be getting paid for the blog while I’m getting a salary through my real job. I avoid this by not earning any money for my house-related blog and not blogging at work. I haven’t told my HR person or bosses, and don’t advertise to my work friends. I don’t blog about work stuff, and generally don’t ever do anything unprofessional on social media. It’s basically the same as any other hobby I have – I don’t see why my job should know as long as I’m not doing anything problematic.

  5. My daughter has a birthday this weekend and I was supposed to take her and her friends (all in 2nd grade) to the movies to see The Peanuts Movie. Of course, our local movie theater isn’t showing it anymore! The other PG options are “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip” and “The Good Dinosaur,” which is a Pixar movie. Which one would you choose?

    • I heard good things about the Good Dinosaur from friends with kids.

    • Actually, I heard the Good Dinosaur was super-sad — like a not-as-good version of the Lion King. Have not seen either myself. Why don’t you let the birthday girl choose?

    • KateMiddletown :

      Never chipmunks.

    • Shopping challenged :

      is it too early for the Peanuts movie to be in the dollar theaters yet?

    • My second grade boy is more excited to see Chipmunks than Star Wars. I would totally take them to Chipmunks. We haven’t seen the dinosaur one but the trailer looks too sad for me.

  6. Moonstone :

    I just learned of a colleague’s Twitter, which is HI-larious and makes me like her even better. She does not have her name on attached to it and she does comment about our workplace. I had to tell her I was following her, because I felt like I was reading her mail, but she said she doesn’t mind. She’s pretty candid and I am little surprised at what she posts but I do like reading it.

    • I was thinkeing of haveing a WC Blog, where I could provide work related tip’s to other practioner’s. Dad says there should be a way for me to MONATIZE my skills and leagal abilities (over and above being a partner at work). He was the one who suggested that I set up a for profit BLOG that I could get ADVERTIZERS for.

      Does the HIVE think this would be a good idea? Is any one interested in goeing in with me to set up a BLOG or a websight? YAY!!!

  7. I’m looking to purchase an “investment” type coat. I was thinking something along the lines of one of Burberry’s wool coats. Anyone have any particular Burberry wool coat that they love, or any other similarly priced wool coat? TIA.

  8. Also, what is the difference between the various Burberry lines?

  9. Anonymous :

    I have a neighbor who writes trashy novels (she has a contract and has had a small book tour and a bit of success) . I’d love to do that, but am worried that the copyright (even if you do it under a pen name, the copyright application is public and lists your real name) would out me. Is there a way to for-real publish and not have it track back to you?

    If so, I would drop all prentense of exercising to devote my free time to writing.

    • Diana Barry :

      NOTE that I know nothing about this, but wouldn’t it be possible to hold the copyright in the name of your trust instead and give the trust some kind of anonymous name and a third-party trustee?

    • My former firm had something in writing (can’t remember if it was in a manual or contract) that said something like any monies made by publishing a book belonged to the firm or they got the rights… I don’t remember what exactly, other than I didn’t like it

      • Anonymous :

        My firm has a similar statement (like they own all IP that you create), but I don’t think that it would hold up. All IP would mean that they own all of the photographs you take, all of the doodles you draw, all of the letters you write to people, etc.

        I’m not an IP lawyer, but my understanding is that the only time the creator does not have a copyright in their work is if it is a work for hire. It is pretty clear that a lawyer hired by a law firm to do basic legal work (like ERISA) does not own the copyright in a musical composition that the ERISA lawyer composes.

        Anyone? I understand that there are lawyers on this board . . .

        • IP lawyer :

          Generally agreed. Something assigning anything you create unrelated to your work is overly broad and wouldn’t stand up. If there was anything related to it – like, if wrote some sort of ‘inspired by true events’ type of thing, that could get stickier. But as a general statement if you are a tax lawyer and write a children’s book about a sad dragon who breathes fire on all of his friends, you should be fine.

  10. I have a cooking blog where I post recipes for office parties and good dinner dishes to make while working long days. People at my office know about it and in fact, I have told a few clients about it (I represent a lot of businesses in the food and retail industries). In my experience, both my colleagues (including my boss) and my clients have been pretty interested and receptive. They see it as something humanizing and it’s a good way to keep up relations as clients will ask me what I am planning on making, etc. maybe because I am in a smaller legal market so it’s more laid back but I find it a great conversation piece!

  11. If I do mention my current job on my double secret probation blog, it is always a positive reference, which is easy because I really like my job, my boss, and my coworkers.

    However, I would never tell any of them about my blog because I talk about really personal stuff – my husband’s parents, their deaths, husband’s discovery of his dad’s sex diary, their drinking, their hating me for how I eat bacon, etc, etc. It’s all kinds of things I would never mention at work .(Although after the discovery of the sex diary and the – umm – toys, I did advise my work friends that if they have anything they do not want their adult children to find upon their death then perhaps come up with a plan.)

  12. I started a blog in 2008 that was, at the time, top secret from all my coworkers. I used my real first name and some photos of myself, but I was very careful to NEVER use my (unique) last name, so you wouldn’t know I had it unless you stumbled across it. However, in 2010 I got a lot of publicity for a running accomplishment, and a lot of interviews with the press cited my full name and linked to my blog – so it then became easy to find via Google. I didn’t revise any old posts, even though there are a lot that are kind of embarrassing stream-of-consciousness posts from my 23 year old self; my writing is a little more circumspect these days. I’m particularly mindful that a lot of my coworkers and clients read my blog – not necessarily all the time, but on occasion. I also try to mix the personal posts with how-to/research posts, so that it holds up a little bit as a part of my resume.

    As SA said, I think my blog is generally seen as a humanizing hobby. I *occasionally* write about work-related things, but only in broad terms and not describing specific situations. I also share a weekly link roundup of things that I’ve been reading across various categories (two of which are at related to my work), which I think provides a good representation of who I am and what my interests are.

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