Another fired blogger

The BBC Technology reports:

Bookseller Joe Gordon, 37, had worked for Waterstone’s book chain for 11 years and was based at its Princes Street store. In his blog, the Woolamaloo Gazette, Mr Gordon said he was dismissed for gross misconduct after the firm said his writings had brought it into disrepute. […] Mr Gordon went on to say that he would occasionally mention his work life online, coining phrases such as “Bastardstone’s” and referring to his manager as “Evil Boss”.

“I pointed out that I had not set out to deliberately ruin the company’s image. In fact I don’t think I have even inadvertently; if I had wished to do that then I would have been running less satirical and far more biting comments on a rather more regular basis, rather than commenting from time to time about a bad day at work, a grumpy manager or the like. You’d think I had run a sustained propaganda campaign of subversion.” Mr Gordon claimed his dismissal breached his right to free speech. He said that Waterstone’s had no clear policy on blogging and had not accepted his offer to stop writing and accept a warning.

I usually have sympathy for bloggers who get mistreated by employers when they really can’t see it coming, like in Queen of Sky’s case (where she was fired for having photos in uniform on her site, even though male employees had been doing for years without problems). But this chappie made his own identity public, his employer’s identity public and slandered the company’s name on a somewhat regular basis. Ok, at this point, you can assume there are chances a coworker, employer or customer will see the blog in question and be somewhat bothered by the comments.

There was no surprise then that the management chose to bring up the issue with Mr. Gordon when they found out about it. Now, he wasn’t fired on the spot like Ellen aka Queen of Sky was. He was given the choice between toning down/stopping his comments about work when blogging or leaving his job. He HAD A CHOICE! Then he keeps complaining! It’s almost worthy of a non-deadly Darwin Award.

At least, sit down with the employer, agree to stop slandering work on the blog until an agreement on what is acceptable and what isn’t is drawn up with the employer.

Writing a blog is a responsibility as much as a right of expression. Actions have reactions, calling your supervisor an “Evil Boss” and your company “Bastardstone’s” IS likely to piss off the company.

Using the excuse that talking about the company in a blog isn’t written in their contract is a poor excuse. Pure common sense says that no matter how you express it, too much complaining about your employer in a public environment will innevitably lead to discontentment on their part! In the nascent blogging world, people really need to learn to use their common sense.

So a gun doesn’t come with an indication expressedly saying you shouldn’t use it to shoot yourself in the foot, does that mean you should do it??

Click on “(more)” to see what my comment on his blog was.

I may go slightly against the masses here by saying, as much as I agree with freedom of expression, I think we’ve got responsibilities as bloggers, just as we do as human beings. The Internet affects our everyday life now – It isn’t some disconnected world where you can act without causing a reaction.

To be perfectly honest, if you disliked your job so much, why were you staying? I work in publishing, and I’m sure if I were to start openly bashing my employer, identifying them AND myself, I would be asking for trouble. You have the option of remaining anonymous and b*tching to your heart’s content, or identifying yourself and watching your mouth. A blog does more damage than a complaining session between friends over beers because it’s in written form and it’s public.

When taking those two factors in consideration, it only seems common sense to avoid bashing your employer beyond reason.

Assuming you were a good employee (with quite a good knowledge of books if you’ve worked there so long!), I think it’s a shame for Waterstone’s to lose your experience, but as any company must do, if employees behave unreasonably, they have to give a warning. From what I understand, they gave you a warning and you refused to stop blogging about your employer. What are they to do? Keep an employee that won’t stop airing his dirty laundry in public?

So although I believe in freedom of speech, I also believe in using common sense when blogging.


3 thoughts on “Another fired blogger

  1. KenC

    Hey Vero, I think you have your facts wrong about Mr. Gordon.
    In a disciplinary meeting he had with management, he told them he wouldn’t mention work anymore – which he didn’t – and yet they fired him anyway. However, regardless of that, I think you’ve missed the point about the freedom of expression entirely. Whether he’s happy in the job or not, he shouldn’t get canned for his thoughts on the matter, even if they’re made public.

  2. Vero

    Ok, if I did get that wrong, then it changes the story a lot. If he agreed to stop bashing work, then they should’ve accepted that as sufficient.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree, because I think freedom of expression and respect for your place of employment both have a place in a blogger’s rights/responsibilities.

  3. Dave Yearsley UK


    Joe did not say anything bad about Waterstones. Just expressed his mood about work on very few occasions. Joe is a bookseller (and an expert on Sci Fi). Waterstone is the selling of mass publishing (and no doubt get their profit margins through certain book campaigns). Joe was in the wrong place at the wrong time and the wrong situation. Local boss sacked him. National organisation would not have – but culture of pile them high sell them quick was opposite to Joe. But if Waterstones has an image of pile them high sell them quick they lose their image of being a bookseller (one might as well buy cheaper in supermarket). Dodgy territory for Waterstones and tangled up in freedom of speech it will damage their brand. The brand needs to promote the idiosyncratic image of key workers like Joe so as not to be seen as an organisation of clones.

    Joe has done nothing wrong. He has not been silly. He has not flamed his employer. He has serious support and everyone knows that Waterstones has made a silly mistake. The situation is like middle manager following corporate line and sacking worker who does not fit – but the corporate line derives from corporate bosses who vary the line as and when suits.

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