Sunday, January 09, 2005

All work and no play

The Woolamaloo digest is the decendant of a newsletter a guy started in 1992. Ancient in the world of the internet. He went from newsletter to blogging and now he is unemployeed. Turns out the bookstore, Waterstone's, he worked for did not like his satire.
Over the course of the Woolamaloo Gazette I have posted on a wide variety of subjects; sometimes on books, movies or simply the city of Edinburgh; often on topical and troublesome ones. This however is one of the most difficult I have ever had to write. Shortly before Christmas, in the spirit of that season, my manager at Waterstone’s asked me to come into the office. Within a few, short moments I was told that for comments I had posted on this web site I was now subject to an enquiry to determine if I should face a disciplinary hearing for ‘gross misconduct’ because I had ‘brought the company into disrepute’. I was informed (more than once) that this could cause my dismissal. I was suspended on pay and escorted from the premises of the bookstore I had worked in for eleven years.

Because of the holidays the disciplinary hearing was not held until yesterday, Wednesday 5th. I could not really talk about it here while the process was ongoing – I am now free to discuss what happened for the brutally simple reason that Waterstone’s dismissed me from my job yesterday. They took great exception to my mentioning of work on my blog. They said I had violated the rules and brought the company into disrepute. I think by their actions they have brought the UK’s biggest book chain into disrepute.
Nothing said about this being done on work time, just that they did not like it. I have found in life that people who do not understand satire are humorless to start with and I never even try to joke. Corperations are like that.

What makes this more sad is the two faced nature of business
I pointed out that Waterstone’s has stated publicly several times in the past that as a bookseller they believe in the freedom of expression and not in censorship. In fact a campaign was mounted a few years back which had banners along the lines of ‘what did Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot have in common? They feared the power of the written word. Celebrate Freedom of expression with us.’ Some folks may recall it. I asked if this was actually meant or was it simply cynical marketing? I was not answered.
They celebrate freedom of speech, untill they do not like it. The company has really made themselves look bad here.

I did like this one section that he wrote.
I am not a serf; I am not an indentured servant. I am a free man with the right of freedom of expression. The company does not own me, body and soul – conforming to their rules at work is to be expected, but in your own time and space? How can anyone be expected to go through their personal life in fear of saying the wrong thing? No-one should.
Some will say that this is a prime example of why you should self censor yourself. Maybe that is true, but if censoring yourself becomes the norm then when does freedom die?

Waterstone's new motto
Celebrate Freedom of expression with us, but mention us and you're screwed

HERE and HERE are two posts that go into some detail of other people being fired and effected by their jobs, but mostly fired. Can anyone give me an example of company policy that directly makes reference to blogging in the company rules/handbook?

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To damn lazy

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