MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
And it's time for our Monday feature, All Tech Considered.
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BLOCK: This week, we're hitting the Web at the office. It used to be that if you wanted to gossip about your employer, the place to go was the water cooler. But these days employees are increasingly going online to find out what's really going on at their company, as well as to let off steam about the frustrations of corporate life. Well, we're joined, once again, by our tech expert Omar Gallaga of the Austin-American Statesman. Omar, welcome back.
OMAR GALLAGA: Hi, thanks for having me.
BLOCK: And Omar, you've been sneaking a peak or maybe eavesdropping on some of these sites, what have you been hearing and seeing?
GALLAGA: Yeah, well, it seems like there is a Web site for pretty much any industry you might be a part of, whether you work for the government, whether you're a truck driver or maybe if you work for Target, there is a Web site or Web forum devoted to griping about things that they may not like about their jobs.
BLOCK: What are some of the most interesting sites you found?
GALLAGA: Well, here in Austin, Texas one of our biggest employers is a Round Rock-based Dell, Inc. And they - there's actually a site that's been around for a while called, IHateDell.net. And it's a place where ex-employees, current employees, customers, anyone who has gripe with Dell or any kind of information to share, they go there, and they post on this message board.
They're constantly talking about plant closings, layoffs or any other news from the company, whether it's in the news or kind of inside information that they're getting from people who still work there. So, lately, they've been keeping a pretty close eye on the company stock price. They're posting stories in the media about how the company has been doing the last two years since Michael Dell got back in charge in the CEO position.
And most recently, one thing I saw over the weekend was somebody posted a scathing letter to a manager they supposedly sent upon leading the company. They wrote things like, in all the years I have worked I can honestly say you are the absolute worst manager, quote, "manager," I have ever seen. It is obvious to everyone on the team that you have zero people skills, no clue on how to manage people and are in way over your head. It's the kind of thing you'd expect to see on "The Office," but not something you generally are privy to in the real world.
BLOCK: Was the manager actually named in that letter?
GALLAGA: Yes, the manager was named. And, you know, I don't have any information on whether that was an actual letter that was really delivered or if it was just a fantasy that somebody posted on the site. But there were other people who responded to it who said, yeah, they definitely have had managers like that.
BLOCK: You know, it seems like this raises all sorts of questions for managers if they're coming across this kind of venting and frustration. And in some cases, you know, aspersions being cast on other employees. What do they do?
GALLAGA: Well, because a lot of it is anonymous and if you're in a company that's spread all over the country, you may not know who the employee is that posted it or even what specific part of the company they're talking about. But one executive coach I talked to said this kind of negative online venting can actually be an opportunity in disguise for companies that use that feedback to get a kind of an unfiltered view of what their employees really think.
To use the Dell example I gave earlier, the company a couple of years ago started really closely monitoring what forums and blogs were saying about the company, and in some cases, responding directly to those complaints or comments. They also created an internal network for employees called, Idea Storm to post feedback. And it's not anonymous, but it does give workers another avenue to communicate about their company and share their ideas.
So if a company acts on those suggestions, it can make employees feel more invested in the workplace if those suggestions are taken seriously or lead to some kind of action. And especially in these tough economic times, companies really need to know what they can do to keep morale up. And there's also Web sites like Glassdoor.com and Jobvent.com where employees actually post reviews of their company. They actually can score their company on its working conditions, salary.
They post a lot of information that you might not get through the normal hiring process and even kind of give advice what they would do if they were the CEO of the company.
BLOCK: It would seem, Omar, that this could be dangerous thing if an employee were able to be traced and management found out who exactly might have been saying some really negative nasty things.
GALLAGA: Yeah, it's definitely dangerous, especially on Web sites where your identity is revealed, like, say, on Facebook. There was a Facebook group for airline employees where they were griping about the passengers. And a group of them on, I believe it was Virgin Atlantic, were fired because of that, because of what they were posting online.
BLOCK: So, they are definitely perils to the online venting mechanism for employees.
GALLAGA: Yeah, I mean, definitely. That's why people post on most of these sites anonymously because they don't want it to get back to their employers and anything you post online, there's a danger of that happening.
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BLOCK: We've been talking with Omar Gallaga who covers technology for the Austin-American Statesman. Omar, thanks very much.
GALLAGA: Thanks very much for having me.