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Leaks, Snitches and Company Responses in the Age of Transparency...

It's scary out there folks.  Remember the old days when people had to pick up the phone and identify themselves to a human being in order to file a complaint on your company culture?  Well...I don't remember those days either, but I'm told they used to exist, and it was SWEET.  Companies held all the power.

Then this web thing happened.  Then the web took performance enhancing drugs and became social media and...BAM!  Everyone's an editor, everyone's a content providerSteve phillips and if things go wrong or are messed up in your company....everyone's a snitch via glassdoor or just dropping an anonymous email to their favorite blogger.

Can't we stop these employees from being so transparent?  Can't we put the genie back in the bottle?

Probably not.  But if the leaks or full disclosure from your company gets out of hand, you can always put out a memo saying that those who talk about your culture in an unauthorized way are subject to the "immediate termination" provision in your handbook.  More on such a note that recently went out at ESPN from Deadspin:

"A Message from George Bodenheimer

Top Story 10/23/09 @ 4:19 PM

ESPN is clearly one of the most dynamic companies in the world and we take great pride in our work. Our success often leads to media stories about our business and people. Those stories are often very positive, but not always.

During the last few days, we have received a fair amount of unwanted media coverage, including a series of Internet posts where the editor expressly stated that many of these items were based on rumor and that they had not attempted to verify their accuracy. Compounding this issue is my disgust that some of our own unidentified employees are leaking materials to the media thereby contributing in a significant way to these destructive efforts. As you know, we have policies that govern how and who should be in contact with the media regarding the company. I feel it is very important to make clear to all employees that violating these policies is a serious offense which can, and very likely will, result in the immediate termination of employment of the offending employee.

ESPN has a hard working, creative culture that produces outstanding content every day. Our culture and our people are the keys to our continuing success. I also want to reaffirm our commitment to maintaining a workplace where all employees have the opportunity to grow, are free from harassment of any kind and are respectful and positive toward each other.

If anyone feels that we are not living up to our commitment or that your work environment, either in our offices or at any remote location, is of concern, you can and should bring that to the attention of your supervisor, your HR business partner, our HR Leader Paul Richardson, Ed Durso or to me personally.

Our mission is to serve sports fans. Our values call for us to show care and respect for all employees. I want to assure you the leadership of ESPN is committed to achieving both."

The memo is in response to Deadspin getting tons of info regarding the Steve Phillips' saga directly from tips originating from the ESPN campus.  Read this on that situation if you haven't already.  ESPN did a nice job of working the "environment free of harassment" language in.  Is the threat of termination regarding leaks fair or foul?

I'm not sure.  Regardless of your view, you can bet the leaks will continue in the age of transparency.  It's a brave new world for companies out there...


Lance Haun

I just found it entertaining given how much ESPN exploits other organization's leaks and snitches to sell their news.

Sucks to be on the other side now. And don't you think they'd be reporting if a once porous organization that they used to get leads from all of the sudden tightened up and sent out a similar memo?

Yeah, we all know the answer on that one. Only crocodiles cry for ESPN.

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