Half a Person

Just finished talking to two of our lovely lawyers about the legal -- um -- issues surrounding the the cluster of activities that seem to all fall under the label "blogging." Should the company CEO blog? Ought an employee to blog? If so, then what? What are the rules of engagemement? There are oceans of examples to be found by a simple google, but it's the underlying juices that are interesting.

It's a lovely example of the split: "I work for you on work time" people vs. the "I work for you all the time" people. Now, really, which is a better value? People who work for you all the time don't understand why you should mind if they also play all the time. I am my doctor's patient all the time, even when I'm at work.

People who "work for you on work time" are selling you time, not self. And they feel justified in hiding things from their employers as a result. It's none of their business, after all, quite literally, if they didn't pay for that time.

On the other hand, we're talking about people who are neither punching a clock nor protected by law in their working hours. What is working time, anymore? I do so much work at home that the concept of "workers comp" (because it's an injury sustained "at work") is getting funny. Certainly weird, legally. It's all getting weird. Years ago, I made my peace with being paid for reaching goals, and made a practice of explaining that to each supervisor in turn. And as long as I kept reaching the goals, no one seemed to mind my disregard for routine.

But what about the people who do hold on to this notion of "work time" -- which is being bought and paid for and "my time" which is sacrosanct, private, personal, and hidden?

About thirty years ago, I wrote a paper on Privacy. A senior thesis, very bulky and full of references. What I learned from my work is that at that time, our "privacy" rested on the very thin support of the general inconvenience of paperwork. We had privacy because no one could be bothered to take the time and trouble to connect everything up. We'd already provided all the info needed to x-ray our lives, open to all in government files -- but the info was not integrated.

For years, I relaxed into the protection of process inconvenience. But that was then. Now it's not inconvenient, it's easy. If you think you have "Privacy" -- well, if you do it's now resting on the support of the honor and honesty of the people who have all your info at their fingertips. I'm okay with that, actually. I've been thinking about it for 30 years.

But about those people who have sold half their lives and think they can retain the other half...I suppose it can work if you're lucky. Lucky enough for no supervisor to order you to do something you can't in honor do -- but you now must because you've accepted this sort of gentleman's slavery. "I am not myself when I am at work -- I am the person they want to pay for my time..." I see those people around me. Heck, I did that once -- but really, never again. What a cost it was to fire a person when I would not have done it myself.

And what about the half of the life that isn't sold? Do they think the company won't notice what they do? Will the company have a point of view about it? You betcha. So it's no freedom anywhere if you try to sell your time rather than your commitment.

It seems like HR lags a bit in understanding this, but hey, they're probably doing something else with their time...


  1. First off, thank you for following my blog. Any feedback on what you like or do not like about it would be appreciated. Your blog is interesting, so I'm going to sign up as a follower of yours!

    Anyway, this *my time and work time thing". I had a work/blogging incident recently where I was warned off by my boss because some of the things I said about my attitude to work was seen to be objectionable and not commensurate or appropriate to my position as a manager. As a consequence, and valuing my job(!!!!), I completely deleted one posting and edited out from other postings anything which the uninitiated (amongst my work subordinates) might take as work subversive! The facts of the matter are that it was all tongue in cheek, and knock-about slap stick, though I still hold to the view that work is wage slavery and that personal freedom is an illusion. One of the great things about blogging (and I am a compulsive blogger) is that you can write any number of blogs and assume any identity you like. Then, you can say what you like so long as you don't reveal your true identity.........

  2. I think the really tricky part of all this is that they're also right. Knowledge is power and knowledge is walking around on two legs and we paid for you to get that knowledge and some of that knowledge is not actually yours, but we fed it to you, like it or not, but it was ours then and actually it's still ours, so stop publishing it out on the public web...Yeah, I see it both ways. And I can't do that "not my true identity" thing because I really really believe in the reputation web and the end of privacy and I want all the credit I can get for my ideas, so...


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