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The Veil and This Blog

Just back from a terrific “Age of Discovery” conference hosted by ASERL… what a great time that was. Thanks to Karen Calhoun, I see us now rafting the river of information… a lovely midsummer image. Thanks to Andrew Pace, I have a few more jokes in my arsenal!

Sandy returns from two weeks of continuing ed tomorrow, which means today I have a whole lotta housework going on. I’ve been, um, casual… yeah, that’s it: casual.

You don’t see the messy side of my house — just as you don’t see the messy side of my work life (regardless of whether I’m freelancing or working for The Man). I am sometimes asked about my blog and its relationship to my work life, so I might as well spell it out.

At least for this Boomer, work has a certain private shape to it, not unlike family life. I don’t use this blog to complain about co-workers, reveal grants or other competitive activities in progress, vent about organizational deficiencies, or grouse about late reimbursement checks. I will rarely, if ever, refer to anyone I work with by name (unless they want me to!).

It’s not just a case of self-preservation, though I think “dumb, dumb, dumb” when I read about yet another dooced blogger. It would feel passive-aggressive to take a work issue out of the private domain and share it with several billion of my closest friends (for time immortal, no less). We all have challenges at work, and sometimes, whether we realize it or not, we are complicit in those challenges. Besides, if I can’t resolve a problem at work, how could I possibly resolve it by outing it to the world in a one-sided vent?

Not only that, but even the “good stuff” deserves some privacy. My jobs are not fodder for my writing activities.

I know people who grew up on the Web — the Net Generation — feel differently about disclosure and transparency, but I like the old model — yes, even for meetings. I think not everything needs to be hung out on the Web to be picked over out of context, I think some issues are best discussed confidentially, and I don’t see the face-to-face model as the source of dysfunction for most meetings. In this I disagree (though mildly) with Jane of A Wandering Eyre (online meetings can be dysfunctional, too; as one friend says, “the sickness does not lie in the sheets”), though this brings up a related problem.

A perverse outcome of my reticence about blogging job-related issues is that I rarely have an opportunity to write about broader work issues, since it would look as if I’m writing about my current position or clients. I really had to wait until I was “between jobs” (or self-employed, consulting, etc. — however you want to phrase it) to discuss my broad concern that in many organizations, the meeting seems to be the work product. This isn’t even a library-specific problem; it may be endemic in nonprofits, which are vulnerable to mission drift. But by inference, it would have looked as if I was writing about My Former Place Of Work.

For a long time — years, actually — maybe even decades – I’ve wanted to write a post about toxic and healthy work practices. Perhaps this is my golden opportunity… a good goal for next week, after I get my next article done for IT Managers’ Journal. (I’m writing about managing virtual workers — more on that in a separate post.)

Meanwhile, I’m donning my grungies and am about to tackle The World’s Dirtiest Microwave Oven. Don’t tell Sandy I trashed the house while she was gone — it’s a secret between me and several billion of my closest friends!

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