The recent brouhaha regarding Hung actress (that sounds weird, doesn’t it?) Jane Adams and the LA waiter getting fired over tweets about a situation with her should be a wakeup call to all waiters. If you haven’t thought about the potential ramifications of tweeting and blogging, now would be a good time to take safeguards.
Remember, the world is watching, and this includes your bosses. If you follow some fairly commonsense guidelines, you’ll minimize the possibility that you could be outed by your bosses, co-workers and guests. Nothing is fail-safe though – you’ve got to keep that in mind, especially if legal issues get involved.
First – assume that everything is permanent. Even if you go back after the fact and delete a blog post, Google has probably cached the original post and it can be retrieved if someone is determined to find it. In this sprit, remember the old email or PM rule, pause before you hit send. Take a breath. Ask yourself, “Do I really want to send this?
Second – don’t tell your co-workers that you are blogging. As much as you’d like to, this is a security breach. Rumors get started and the person who promised to keep your blog a secret today is the person who tells another trusted friend about it, who tells another, etc. Once management knows about your blog, all bets are off. They might not mind it at the time, but they will probably monitor it and who knows what kind of comment that you make will be considered out-of-bounds. Plus, you never know when some higher-up objects to any sort of blog that can be tied to your operation. Sucks, but you take a pretty serious risk if you out yourself at work.
Mask the restaurant, situations, names, etc. Don’t be too specific. Steve at Waiter Rant did a pretty good job at keeping his place of employment a secret by being vague about the location, the name and the particulars of the restaurant. His “bistro” could have been any of many in the NYC area. He was able to give a flavor of the personalities that he encountered without giving anything away. He always changed the names and descriptions of the guests (presumably), with the exception of a couple of celebrity name-dropping occasions where he was extremely positive about them (Alec Baldwin comes to mind, although he once mentioned French actor Jean Reno is a funny description of a telephone conversation). He always altered the situations slightly as not to telegraph something that could be identified later by a guest.
Tweets are permanent. Remember, there’s a record of your tweets. The LA waiter found this out the hard way. And remember this, tweets are time-stamped – the mere act of tweeting during a shift could be cause for discipline. More and more companies in all fields are cracking down on this. And don’t forget, your tweets are public, viewable not only to your followers but anyone who can access the Twitter page.
Consider the fact that tweets are “published” material. This makes you liable for libel actions. While “truth” is an absolute defense to libel, keep in mind that “truth” is pretty hard to outline in 140 characters and is likely open to interpretation. Plus, vindication doesn’t keep you from having to waste time in the legal system. Many lawyers salivate at the opportunity to simply file suit – they hope for a quick settlement. And they can go after your place of employment, which has deep pockets, giving them further incentive to use your innocent little snarky tweet about a specific person as entry.
Don’t let your tweet name, accessable email or username give you away. While they make it easy for friends and family, consider setting up a separate account for any venue where you dish about your job.
Be careful about connecting the dots. Let’s say you work in one of the few tequila bars in town. Plus, you happen to raise Dobermans. You’re a 6′ 4″ redhead with a lisp or a lady who is the spitting image of Renee Zellwiger . Your boss is a former Marine who happens to be gay. Your co-worker actually went into labor in the middle of the rush. The restaurant’s Ansel system went off because there was a grease fire and you were closed for 2 days while you cleaned fire-retardant powder out of every nook and cranny of the kitchen. Taken separately, none of these things might give you away. But there’s a cumulative effect, especially if something triggers something familiar and someone starts sniffing around, putting the pieces together. While it’s details that makes your blog come to life, be very careful about those details. Maybe you raise Chows. Maybe you’re a redhead or tall but not both. Maybe you wait a month or two before you talk about the fire. Maybe you work in a “Mexican” place or change the setting to a “martini” bar. Whatever you have to do to blur the lines and break possible connections that people can make that will mark you. The larger the town or city that you live in, or the less specific you are about the part of town you work in, the more plausable deniability you’ll have in the event that someone gets suspicious.
Cross-platforms can give you away. You might be fine blogging but promoting your blog on Facebook can give you away if your FB profile is public (and if there are legal issues involved, even this might not protect you). Remember, a determined and savvy person has a better chance of connecting the dots the more access to your various accounts you give them. Consider going private on social network services, especially if your interests, subscribed groups or self-promotions telegraph your workplace.
Try not to forget that people have a reasonable right to a certain amount of privacy, even when in public. Addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, Social Security Numbers – all off limits. No matter how much revenge you want to inflict on someone, this is a no-no, if only for your own protection.
Be careful about admitting wrongdoing of any kind. This could be anything from discussing not claiming tips to altering food. Commonsense I know. But I see it all of the time. someone who thinks that they are anonymous feel free to take credit for legally and morally ambiguous behavior. Might not in and of itself be dangerous. But remember, you’ve made it part of the record. If you’re outed, you could very well be sitting in front of a superior who’s waving a sheath of printouts of your own words in your face. and they could include such “admissions of guilt”. And they might not even be the thing that you’re getting reamed for.
Yes, all of the is “Deputy Downer” sort of stuff. Half the fun of snarking is sharing the snark. Just remember that it’s your job that’s on the line. If you blur the lines in the right ways, you can still vent safely.