Dave Sifry, Technorati's founder/CEO, writes tonight about his point of view on a conflict between him and an employee (Niall Kennedy) of Technorati had. Niall gave his point of view on his own blog. I know both of them and like both of them a lot.
Some things I've learned, or have been reinforced:
1) When you are identifyable in public as part of a company you must be much more careful with using corporate imagery than other people need to be. People get very nervous whenever you talk about competitors or partners in anything but the most glowing terms.
2) Always be sensitive to your boss and what he/she expects to see in public. Seeing that Dave's mom survived the holocaust (something I didn't know, so Niall probably didn't know that either) probably made Dave more sensitive to this imagery than other people would have been. But, whenever I post I think about how I'll justify my post to my boss, my wife, my readers, the execs, my coworkers. I imagine how that post will look on the front of the New York Times.
3) When people are yelling at you and you aren't sure what to do, stop. Stop posting. Don't push back. Listen. Get in the person's shoes who is yelling at you. Even if you decide that they are an idiot and you'll go ahead anyway, at least understand the other person's point of view and understand the consequences of continuing down a certain path.
4) Don't post when you're pissed. It's too easy to have a snarky post make a situation even worse. People are good pattern recognizers. They can see subtle hints even where you thought you weren't putting anything out there.
5) If you posted it and you pull it down, it's too late. Someone will have seen it. Search engines will have cached it. News aggregators will display it. In fact, I had Niall's original post that he pulled down. Yes, do pull it down, but put up a message explaining that it was the author that voluntarily pulled it down.
6) If you make a mistake, admit it. Say you're sorry. Fix it. Make a penance. Link to people who are talking about you or the mistake.
7) Make sure you properly represent all the points of view. In times like these it's not good to be selfish and try to make yourself look correct. In fact, a good thing for Niall to do would have been to do a Q&A with his boss on his weblog.
8) Get into real space as fast as possible. Text is so easily misunderstood. Why not do an audio or video podcast? That way we can see just how sorry you are, you can cover a lot more ground, we can hear your sincerity in your voice.
9) Overcommunicate. The more you communicate, the less serious these problems will be. With a lack of communication people start making things up. Or at minimum they start rattling the cage to see what's up behind all the silence.
10) Offer yourself up for additional questions. Dave did just that.
Anyway, sorry to see Niall and Dave go through this, but I came away respecting both Dave and Niall more at the end of this. Now, back to work!