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To Complain Is Human. But to Blog About It . . .

By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 1, 2006

The BearingPoint blogger may or may not actually work for the McLean consulting company that he targets in his Web postings.

He will not provide his name or title and takes pains to mask his phone number and location when he calls a newspaper reporter. But if he is what he claims, then he was sour on the company even before he was hired, complaining about the salary he was offered during his interviews and firing away since then about everything from corporate malfeasance to the absurdities of company "marketspiel . "

"It's all too stale," the blogger opines about a corporate pitch he says BearingPoint employees are expected to memorize. The company, he said, "can't even keep it fresh. Not even the coffee."

For McLean-based BearingPoint Inc., which is trying to rebuild its business after an accounting scandal and with a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation still underway, the musings of a disgruntled blogger might be a small problem. But it's a reminder that in the information age, no viewpoint is private, no slight unavenged and no joke too tasteless.

Like anonymous blogs supposedly written by employees of Microsoft Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the BearingPoint blog is, in many ways, just like happy-hour conversations that employees are apt to hold after work. They gripe about inane training programs, grouse about absurd corporate policies and ruminate about management incompetence.

But transferred to cyberspace, where the audience is global, the management headaches associated with such grumblings become instantly more severe.

"It's not the same as talking to their co-worker about what a jerk their boss might be. . . . [Blogs] are available to anyone in the world," said James Erwin, a lawyer who advises companies on blogging policies.

That means anyone in the world can read the BearingPoint blogger skewering the company for its accounting, overcrowded offices and expense account policies. Many of the posts are bitingly sarcastic and often take aim at chief executive Harry L. You. In a mocking pitch to be added to a certain team, the blogger promises to "use technology jargon to sound knowledgeable," to "use 'reply-all' when responding to team emails" and to "hold hands with Harry whenever he is near."

Elliot Sloane, a spokesman for the consulting firm, refused to comment on the specific allegations laid out in the blog but said, "Just because someone says something on a blog doesn't make it true." Company officials don't know who the blogger is, Sloane said, but they will seek out his identity and "take actions as appropriate," if the postings are deemed to violate the law or company policies.

The blogger said during a phone conversation with a Washington Post reporter that he had not thought much about whether he could be fired for his disparaging posts.

The conclusion of several employment lawyers: Duh. Of course.


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