Incite by Design

Caustic visions and shared thoughts on design, marketing, creativity, philanthropy, pop culture and business philosophy by Toronto design firm, Ricksticks Inc.

2005-01-10

Authenticity at all costs?

"Rebel * Rebel," yelled Bowie, and many of us fell in love with the idea of personal expression, being true to oneself.

Blogging can be an act of rebellion. Blogging, like other mediums, provides a platform for the expression of personal beliefs, ideas, and day-to-day observations.

But as we have learned over the past few weeks, freedom of expression can come with a hefty price tag - like your job.

When you are an employee, you agree to act as an agent and as a promoter of your company's brand. Whether you are a VP or an entry level employee, the manner in which you conduct yourself is a reflection upon the overall value of the company.

Problem is, most employees do not know this, or care for the most part. Oh, they know to show up to work on time, be friendly with customers, and dress the part - but what percentage of employees even know what the concept of corporate identity or brand is?

Some very savvy, well constructed brands are driven by businesses that have figured out how to infiltrate the staff by treating them with the same respect given to higher level staff. Think Starbucks and the seriousness with which they treat the hiring process of even counter help.

Most medium sized companies have yet to figure this out - New employees are hired with the impression that their job description is the "weight" and they know that they must perform specific tasks within the description, and with a level of competence.

Easy enough.

They are given an employee handbook - no cussing, hitting, showing up smashed, running over the boss, etc - simple enough, right?

Most of us go to work and think, "I'll be the employee until 5 pm, then I can go back to being the real me."

All of that was pretty fine and good until the Net starting making it possible to announce our antics globally.

Before, Jimmy may have ended up in the slammer for DUI and it may have impacted his having a job to return to - But now Jimmy is blogging about what a giant wiener the company's president is ... We know the outcome.

This brings up a number of problems.

* When is your private life truly private?

Is it reasonable to monitor someone's behavior after they leave company property?

* What can a company legally do during off-hours if an employee is speaking about his/her experience there?

I'm sure current laws are being amended as I type this...

* If people cannot feel comfortable speaking candidly about their employers, how many potentially criminal activities will be concealed; how will employee satisfaction / productivity change if a person can't vent their frustrations; how will working conditions change?

The fear of being "fired" has always been a possible liability, but now it's even more invasive, the way companies can peer into our communications.

As freelancers or business owners, our "boss" is our client base. With every blog post, we take the chance that what we say may not be well received. Some of us have stepped lightly or taken the high road by keeping our thoughts benign. Some have opted to speak openly about numerous smoking barrels - nevermind the aftermath.

I'd like to think in the quest for wisdom and enlightenment, truth shall prevail. Problem is, everyone has his / her own version of that truth.

Will you take the chance just to speak from the heart, or are you confidently rail sitting to avoid ostracizing clients or being fired?
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