Sprint to fire any employee that blogs or writes anywhere online

Whoa! Talk about draconian measures! I put this in my linkblog, but I think it deserves a post of its own, and maybe a little conversation.

According to a post at Consumerist, Sprint/Nextel’s head lawyer, Len Kennedy, sent the whole company an email stating that they’ll be fired for commenting on or contributing to any online service, including blogs, consumer report venues, etc. Ouch! They say that they’re worried that any leaks online could “compromise Sprint’s competitive positioning”, and they have a team of people dedicated to monitoring online sites for contributions by Sprint employees, so they can be tracked down and fired.

I understand the intention of such a move – to protect proprietary information, and be competitive. But this is SO not the way to accomplish it! Some of the problems I see with this policy:

  1. You’re basically telling your employees that you have absolutely zero trust or confidence in them. May as well have mandatory strip searches every morning when they come into the office, and search them again when they leave. Way to kill morale, and the goodwill that your employees had toward you.
  2. The policy (which admitedly, we haven’t seen in detail) sounds way too vague. What about employees posting after hours, from home, to try to HELP customers? Acceptable use policy is one thing, this sounds like quite another. Go read chapter 3 of The Cluetrain, the story about the Saturn employee, and then think about whether this is a good idea.
  3. This is an unenforceable policy. If someone wants to “leak” something, without a being caught, there are a million ways to do it. All you did was warn those who are inclined to such activity to be extra stealthy. Are you sure your “internet adroit sleuths” are as good as you think they are?
  4. Do you think this is going to attract and retain the smart geeks that you need to get and keep that precious “competitive positioning”? Way to create crappy PR for yourself, Sprint.
  5. As mentioned in one of the Consumerist comments, it’s not clear if this is breaks “whistleblower laws” – it might not even be legal.

Like I said, I’m not saying that an employer is wrong for trying to keep sensitive information out of the wrong hands online. Heck, I work for a giant corporation (Intel) whose founder, Andy Grove, wrote a book called “Only the Paranoid Survive“! But Intel, and lots of other big corporations, has sensibly adopted a policy of telling your employees what’s acceptable and what’s not regarding online posting and behavior (basically, don’t give away the recipe to the secret sauce, and don’t be stupid), and holding them responsible for following those rules.

In short, a kinder, gentler way to accomplish what Sprint is trying to accomplish – Trust Your Employees, and Give Them a Reason to Want to Protect You Instead of Hurt You. Whose side do you want them on?

Though I guess doing it that way is much harder than the zero tolerance firing squad approach. Path of least resistance and all that… 🙄

What’s your company’s policy about blogging and online participation, and how do you feel about it? Am I way off the mark here – just a crazy blogger ranting about free speech rights, and raging against the machine? Let me know in the comments.


5 thoughts on “Sprint to fire any employee that blogs or writes anywhere online

  1. Pingback: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

  2. Wow, that’s a little over the top! 😯

    My standard contract with my employer includes an NDA covering all the work I do for our clients. However, everyone seems to be pretty lenient when it comes to spreading information on technical stuff that might be useful for everyone: monitoring scripts, Unix advice, stuff like that.

    Either that, or it’s just a matter of letting sleeping dogs lie. 😎

  3. Obviously we haven’t seen the policy, but what I’ve read thus far seems to be very vague. It’s being reported as though Sprint employees can’t do anything online at all, not just things where proprietary or damaging information is being disseminated. So I with my own personal Web site could not post to it about anything if I worked for Sprint? Sorry, but that can’t possibly be legal. I would love to see something like this stand up against the first amendment in court.

    If the policy applies only to people who leak product, service, or other internal information, I could support that, but the way this is being reported so far is just far too broad.

  4. What if you have a personal blog and never talk about Sprint, or don’t mention that you work for Sprint? Can you still get fired? Can they even do this?

    I blog, but never mention where I work, or talk about stuff that goes on at work. We don’t have a blogger policy at work or even people that monitor what is said about my particular work place on-line.

  5. Pingback: Should Company Policy Require Employees Use Full and Accurate Names when Posting? - Rob Enderle

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