Censoring blog comments

I’ve been blogging for nearly five years now and I’d like to think that I’ve seen and handled most things. As a blogger you’ll always get the odd weird comment coming in to moderation and you need to work out whether to publish or not. In most cases I say “yes”.

I’ve had my fair share of anonymous comments. I’ve had my fair share of abuse. I’ve also seen my fair share of controversy.

That’s the way it rolls.  You can’t try to provoke debate and then avoid it.

But this Saturday morning, I woke up to find a comment made in the very early hours that made me question my approach.

It was made by an employee.

Now that on its own isn’t really a big deal. I don’t hide the fact that I’m a blogger or on Twitter. But at the same time, I don’t write about my own work or organisation.  I try to keep the two things relatively separate.

But it was also both anonymous and using the anonymous email service www.sharklasers.com. And it made comments about work and specifically someone at work, albeit vaguely in the context of the original post about inter generational issues.

And so I didn’t publish it.

Was I right? I don’t know. I took the decision because I thought the approach was a little cowardly, but also because it just didn’t feel right to do so. And I tend to trust my instincts.

I’m all in favour of two way communication, I’m in favour of feedback, I’m in favour of being open and honest. But to do that, you need to be both open and honest.

So to “disappointedemployee” I’d say this. Drop me an email, come and see me, let’s talk. We’re very open as an organisation, we can talk about anything and I’m happy to explain any decision that I’ve made. Or if you don’t feel able to, you can speak to your employee representative, your Trade Union representative or use the “Whistleblowing line” too.

We can even agree to disagree. That’s ok.

But let’s keep it at work and keep it above the line. That seems the right place for it.

15 comments

  1. Doug Shaw · September 9, 2013

    Re: to publish or not to publish; Your blog – your rules (copyright @onatrainagain – I think?).

    There could be many reasons why the employee chose this unusual method of communication. It’s very easy for a member of senior management to say ‘we’re very open as an organisation’, or something similar, and mean it. People at the top are usually in possession of lots of useful information which helps them feel very open as an organisation. And it can feel very very different depending on where the receiver of that message sits, and what is going on around them, and other things too.

    One of my clients who is a CEO uses ‘My door is always open’ and though he is an affable conversational guy, hardly anyone crosses the threshold for a conversation. When we talk about the scope of my remit, he has previously said to me, ‘I’m the CEO therefore I don’t really know what is going on around here. So you talk to who you want to, about whatever you want to’. Some people might recoil from such an admission – but I understand where he is coming from, there is a tendency for people to reflect what they think the person above them wants to hear, rather than what they need to hear.

    I’ve learned by experience having been on the wrong end of bullying before now – that things can and do feel very differently to us all. I’m not making excuses for ‘disappointedemployee’, and I hope your invitation to talk is accepted – and I hope that work gets better as a result.

    Good post thanks – Doug

    • Neil · September 29, 2013

      Thanks Doug, absolutely agree that communication needs to be open and honest in a good organisation.

  2. Wowzer! In some ways I think this is every HR department or HR Blogger’s social media nightmare realised – unhappy employee taking a very public avenue to share a problem that could and should be resolved elsewhere.

    In saying that, I think the way you handled it showed the opportunity social media can provide us – sure, you might have censored the comment here, but you have made it very clear what alternative routes they can take to try and remedy the situation.

    Fair play, I hope it works out for them and for your organisation – you have done all you can at this stage. I suppose if it does not get resolved we can see if any other random comments appear! 🙂

    • Neil · September 29, 2013

      I have to say, I was pretty surprised to see it…hence reaching out to hear other people’s thoughts on it.

  3. Mitch Sullivan · September 9, 2013

    I suspect most employees see their HR department as being significantly more sympathetic to the needs of the senior management than the general workforce.

    • Neil · September 29, 2013

      I suspect you’re right.

  4. Steve Hearsum (@stevehearsum) · September 9, 2013

    Thought provoking post, and not sure what I would have done differently. What keeps going through my head is consequences: what, real or imagined, does “disappointedemployee” believe the consequences will be if they speak openly? And, systemically, how safe is it to speak the truth in the organisation? As Doug says, what is espoused may not be lived or experienced as such in practice, in spite of every effort being made at a senior level to make the culture open.

    And I would really love to hear what happens next: will you get a visit from said employee, and if not, what can you do in response? If they ‘go to ground’, what will the impact be on relationships within the organisation if the conversation is left unfinished?…

    Best wishes,

    Steve

    • Neil · September 29, 2013

      Thanks Steve, let’s see. But whatever happens, I won’t be writing about it here!

  5. Mat Davies · September 9, 2013

    Tough one Neil. I think on balance you have got it right by inviting the future discussion and I hope it gets taken up. do let us know 🙂

    • Neil · September 29, 2013

      Thanks Mat.

  6. Meg Peppin · September 9, 2013

    Could you also suggest an alternative contact other than yourself? If an individual doesn’t have the courage, confidence, belief they will be heard etc, although they have reached out to you via the blog, they may feel inhibitions viz your position as Doug says.

    • Neil · September 29, 2013

      I think I have done that haven’t I?

  7. jamieleonard · September 10, 2013

    I think if it was made in the very early hours you may have done them a favour and saved them from themselves.

    • Natalia Thomson (@N_Thomson) · September 10, 2013

      I think I agree with Jamie on this one… although you can’t ‘unknow’ something that you’ve learned. Whether it was through traditional communication routes or not. Your invitation for them to connect was the right thing to do, and hopefully they will – after all… you’re not so scary : )

      • Neil · September 29, 2013

        Thanks both…..I think you might be right Jamie. And you’re definitely right Natalia! 🙂

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