More discussion online here at Diverse Books and also on Edinburgers (where opinion is mixed, so let no-one accuse me of not putting in links which include people who do not agree with me – that is in the nature of free speech after all).
In response to some of those there who consider that I am to blame for my current woes, I would re-iterate once more that this is an incredibly heavy-handed response. I did not set out to attack the company in some systematic manner – if I had wished to do so then I could have; I did not. In fact I have over eleven years done much to publicise the company in a variety of ways, nor has my work quality been questioned. You would think therefore that someone with so many years of service would be treated a little more fairly.
Surely the sensible thing would have been for my manager to have a word with me and warn me that the company found this unacceptable? Bearing in mind there is no specific policy on blogs etc, only a very vague ‘bringing the company into disrepute’ which could be interpreted in any way the company sees fit. I and the union offered to cease if it caused such offence and to accept a warning and suggested a clearer policy be issued to guide other staff in the future, but this was disregarded.
There is also the issue of how the company became aware of a minor blog. They would not tell us, even at the hearing, who made the complaint and the nature of it. I think I should know who my accuser is and what they took exception to. Especially since the blog clearly states that it is satirical in nature. It raises issues such as why are companies monitoring their employee’s personal time online (the union has told me of another case where the same company has dealt harshly with a staff member over a web issue (not a blog)) and does a work contract hold sway over your personal life outside of work. I also asked if I were to repeat such a tale in the pub to a friend and the wrong person overheard it would that be a disciplinary breach? By the way they are interpreting the rules, it would seem to me it would, which would be a shameless invasion of your freedom of expression. In the event I did not receive an answer to that question either.
Regardless of personal feelings however, it was a very silly action to dismiss me in this manner since it has made things far more visible, which given the company did not want online discussion to begin with is ironic. If this has been dealt with in a quieter manner I would not now be urgently trying to find a new job and Waterstone’s could have saved themselves from bad publicity and from losing a long-serving and experienced member of staff who always tried to increase the diversity of the range, support good, new writers and encourage others to read them via reviews, author events, nmedia appearances and a book group. Now does that sound like the actions of someone who was setting out to really rip apart the company image? Complaining in a humorous way about a bad day at work is not exactly high treason now, is it?