Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Unvarnished: Cyber-Bullying Made Simple?


Workplace grudges. Whilst I would like to say that we all have them, the vast majority of us do not. I genuinely like (or at the very least respect) every person I have worked with on a professional level, and I would have no problem with saying that. After all, what's the point in harbouring bitterness, or even a grudge? Somebody once said that bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Everybody loses.

But in the online world, a world that frees us from our traditional roles and responsibilities to be polite, respectful and courteous, we are free to say and do as we please (within reason). Whilst on certain levels this may be A Good Thing, a new site that has been launched could bring some of the carnage, flaming and trolling of the internet into our home and professional lives.

The sites name is Unvarnished, and it ended it's Beta testing last week. Launched by veterans of sites such as LinkedIn and eBay, the site allows users to rate their co-workers and bosses positively or negatively. Comments cannot be deleted from an account, but if the person in question does find one of these comments, they can take ownership of their profile and respond to the criticism. reviews are rounded up, and you are given a rating out of five, not unlike a video on Youtube, a track on iTunes or a DVD on Amazon. And it's really easy to do, as you can use Facebook Connect to sign in, adding that all important social media element to the whole, malignant process.

I'm sure when bosses or HR departments hear about this, they are going to go crazy. Finally, a reputation-gauge that goes beyond a person's CV, or their references! AMAZING! This is what people really think of them, so this is how good or bad they really are at their job! BRILLIANT, RIGHT?

Wrong.

With the rise in cyber-bullying amongst school children, and the water-cooler toxic culture of the workplace, is giving people the option to anonymously slate their peers or their boss really such a good idea? Whilst I understand the need to at least have a conversation about work practises, surely they should be had face-to-face? And when does a work gripe become a personal grudge? Since when has it been justified to sit there, glass of wine in hand, laptop on your knees, happily writing anonymous braodsides about somebody at work you just don't like. Wrong hair? Funny smell? Doesn't take part in your shitty chain emails? Then why not post a comment saying they failed to deliver on a major project. After all, it's totally anonymous. Head to head for a promotion with a colleague? Then just give them a bad write up on Unvarnished, then hope your bosses read it. Simples.

In the music industry, there is a lot of back-biting, back-stabbing and office politics. In short, it's pretty much the same as any other industry. I have worked for some cracking people in my time (my current employers are an example of this - I really enjoy working at Ministry of Sound), but I have also worked at some terrible places, where workplace bullying is the norm, and certainly places where this form of passive-aggressive bullying would be welcomed with open arms.

Who are the good guys, and who are the bad guys? That's not for me to say, it's not my place to slate or berate people online. It's immature. But I personally hope that everybody who posts a bad review about somebody on unvarnished feels a little bit dirty for doing so.

I'm very concerned that a site like this. Whilst giving you a certain degree of control over the conversations that are being had about you online, you cannot control your own profile, or delete comments that aren't true.

And although it may never take off in the UK, there are still plenty of reasons for concern for people the world over.

Unvarnished claim to be opening up a space for candid discussion. Well, let me put this challenge to you. If you are not essentially a front for cyber-bullying, then allow people to control what is said about them on their own profiles, and do not allow anonymous posting. If you care about the truth as much as you say you do, then honesty should not be an option, it should be mandatory.

I stand by everything I say, and I would expect others to do the same.

Unvarnished: Truth in Reputation?

Cyber-bullying for grown-ups more like.

For help and information about workplace bullying, visit read this Advicenow guide, and contact ACAS if you feel you are a victim. Nobody needs to, or deserves to be in this day and age.

PS: I'm not linking to the site, as I refuse to have anything to do with it!