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Waterstone’s sacks a blogger

Via Natalie Solent, I got to this Guardian report that Waterstone’s has sacked one of its staff, for blogging:

A bookseller has become the first blogger in Britain to be sacked from his job because he kept an online diary in which he occasionally mentioned bad days at work and satirised his “sandal-wearing” boss.

Joe Gordon, 37, worked for Waterstone’s in Edinburgh for 11 years but says he was dismissed without warning for “gross misconduct” and “bringing the company into disrepute” through the comments he posted on his weblog.

Published authors and some of the 5 million self-published bloggers around the globe said it was extraordinary that a company advertising itself as a bastion of freedom of speech had acted so swiftly to sack Mr Gordon, who mentions everything from the US elections to his home city of Edinburgh in the satirical blog he writes in his spare time.

My main opinion about this case is that, in a form of wording that I often use on these occasions, an employer should have the right to fire an employee if he has taken a dislike to the colour of her eyes, provided there is no contract which between them which says otherwise. It is their money. If they want to stop giving it to an employee, fair enough.

But what you are, or should be, entitled to do legally is not the same as what is managerially advisable. Which leads me to my second opinion about this case, again a generic one rather than specific to it, which says that there may be more to this case than meets the eye, and more reasons for the Waterstone’s decision than have so far been made public. This is also (in connection with my opinings here) what I think when I hear that some child has been chucked out of a school for flicking a rubber band at a another pupil. Maybe there was more to it than that, and the rubber band was just the final straw, so to speak. And maybe this blogger has been a pain in the arse to his bosses for years, and a useless bookseller, and they finally said: get rid of the tosser.

(And maybe – just maybe you understand – this chap really does need therapy.)

For me, one of the big arguments in favour of the free society is that people are allowed to make their own decisions about who they associate with, instead of having such decisions made for them by a mob, or by a tyrant, acting on the basis of more or less misleading scraps of information about the case that the contending parties have squirted into the public realm. As part of the mob, we in the blogosphere can beat our drums and argue about cases like this in loud voices, but in the end, we should not be deciding these things.

Nevertheless … (and you saw that coming a mile away, did you not?) … nevertheless … if a bookshop chain is not the kind of enterprise which ought to have employees blogging up a storm, about books, about the pleasures of literacy, and about anything else on their minds, with all the arguing and occasional public rows that this would inevitably involve when the storminess got too stormy … what I am saying is: bookshops and blogging ought to go very well together.

Maybe Waterstone’s regard employee bloggers as a menace to their interests far more profound any menace to their interests presented by this one blogger, and they made a huge decision of principle here. Maybe, but I doubt it. My guess would be that they had no idea what a s***storm would explode around them. I think they have no conception of what a force the Internet could be, for their business or against it.

I hope the blogosphere gets Waterstone’s to think through – rethink through – what they really think about blogging, and about the Internet in general. If they do not, they could find themselves at war with the Internet out of sheer carelessness. And thus miss a big chance to sell lots of books.

As it is, I can see a lot of people switching to Amazon because of this, and that too would be their perfect legal right.

56 comments to Waterstone’s sacks a blogger

  • I’m not sure what to make of this. If we were in a libertarian society, I’d state that the employers had a right to sack him. But we don’t currently live in a libertarian society.

    I agree that this simply may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak.

  • twisted merkin

    “bookshops and blogging ought to go very well together”

    Why would you not expect contradictions from an establishment named “Waterstone?” If they sell books, why should I not take their name literally?

  • Euan Gray

    I think you over-react.

    I take it as understood that I do not discuss in a public forum how I feel about my work or my employer. I post under my real name, but I do not mention the name of the company I work for. Still less do I say anything about bad days or bad experiences at work (or the good ones, for that matter). I think this is appropriate.

    It would be inappropriate for me to discuss how I feel about my job or my employer in, say, a newspaper column. Even if I said only positive things, I am quite sure I would be asked to explain myself had I done it without permission. I think this is right and proper, but would add that if my company was breaking the law or treating its staff inhumanely I should have the right to speak out about it.

    A blog is a public forum. In the context of this thread, it is the same basic thing as a newspaper, and I think it is inappropriate to bleat on about one’s employer in either forum. I have no sympathy for this man, however good or bad a bookseller he is, nor do I have any sympathy for other bloggers who have been dismissed by their employer for doing similar things.

    I also think you overstate the potential effect of the blog in cases like this. Exposing inadequate fact-checking my major news outlets is one thing, but expecting the blogosphere to rally round some idiot who badmouthed his employer in public is a bit much.


  • Ken

    I’ve read a bit about this, and it seems that he never actually mentioned his boss by name, or did much more than complain about having bad days, refusals to have time off, and so on. That said, he wasn’t particularly discreet when he called his employers “Bastardstone’s”.

    I think to be honest this is wrong. I haven’t checked the archives and so I don’t know exactly what he has written, but it sounds like he’s just vented a bit on his blog, and I think that’s fine.

  • Doug Collins

    Without (like Brian) knowing anything about the particulars in this case, a couple of observations:

    In a libertarian society, the employer’s actions are constrained by the necessity of pleasing the customers. His liberty to sack anyone he pleases is, as a practical rather than theoretical matter, subordinate to this higher necessity. That, after all is one of the great virtues of capitalism and private property – contrary to the socialist view – it can lead to both liberty and civic virtue at the same time.

    An employer is free to be an S.O.B. if he pleases, but over time he will become a very poor S.O.B. compared to those who subordinate their impulses to the common taste. If the common taste is virtuous, so will the businesses tend to be. (If the common taste is not…..)

    Aspects of this situation also remind me of one of Bismarck’s more clever political manuevers. As one would expect, he was forever trying to support the interests of the conservative Junker class against the political efforts of first the liberals and later the socialists. To the horror of the right and the delight of the left, he repeatedly enlarged the initially limited franchise, bringing voting rights to a greater and greater part of the population. The left was beaten at the polls repeatedly.

    What Bismarck realized was that the average man tends to be conservative, all the leftist rhetoric about the “People” notwithstanding.

    What does this have to do with bookstores? My experience has been that most people in the book business tend to be leftwing. I don’t know why this is. Certainly many people of rightish tastes are bookish, but they don’t seem to go into the business as much. I suspect that there is an analogy to the Bismarck situation here: The people who are trying to influence opinion (by influencing which books are sold) are much mistaken about the politics of their ‘constituents’. I know that I have been repeatedly surprised by the comments made to me during chats with booksellers. They just assume that I must agree with them on some very controversial matters. When I indicate that I do not, then the fun begins.

    The advent of the internet -and blogging especially- is the expansion of the West’s intellectual franchise. One hopes that it will end better than the expansion of the Prussian franchise, which was first co-opted by the hard right in one war, then by the disguised left in another.

  • Worth reading Charlie Stross’ comments on the matter; since he knows the blogger in question.

  • mike

    Yeah well even though the particular branch concerned is a conveniently close to where I live, they will no longer benefit from my custom – amazon from now on.

    I do not think employers should have the carte blanche right to sack someone for any reason . I mean this guy has not apparently named any particular employees in his blogging, and thus could not have hurt them (and I do not think one guy slagging off unnamed coworkers at the company he works for is at all going to hurt the actual company at all). If that was the pure and only reason they sacked him I’m disgusted.

  • Euan Gray

    Worth reading Charlie Stross’ comments on the matter

    He over-reacts too. That I can see, it’s nothing to do with writing outside work, nor is it about censorship. It’s about not badmouthing your employer in public.

    Venting steam to your friends over a beer is one thing, and most people do it now and then. The problem here appears to be venting steam to the whole world and not even taking the trouble to be remotely subtle about it. Waterstones’ appear to have a problem with this, and frankly so would I if any employee of mine did the same thing.

    I’d also say that as a resident of Edinburgh and a keen reader of SF/Fantasy fiction, I have not seen any reduction in the amount or variety of such work sold in their branches here. I was there only last weekend, and they have just as much as they have had before. It is true to say that some of the shelves have been re-arranged and moved, but the good stuff is still there.


  • Verity

    Waterstones has an absolute right to sack anyone it feels like sacking – or would in a world run by libertarians (and what a frightening and sloppily run world that would be!). This fellow published his nickname for his employer, Bastardstones, over the internet. He wasn’t letting off steam in a pub or at a party. He intentionally tried to degrade his employer in public. And he expects loyalty from the employer? Why? Was he such a productive employee that his employers should excuse him for gross disloyalty? I doubt it. He sounds like an inadequate little twerp with a grievance to me. He was taking their money, after all.

  • mike

    Oh get out of it Verity! Gross disloyalty my arse! And actually from what he recounts of the affair yes I would say he was such a productive employee as to reasonably expect to be treated better than this.

  • Verity

    Waterstones has a right to sack anyone who has tried to bring his employer into disrepute. This silly man had been building up a grievance for 11 years and called his employers bastards in a public, not a private, forum. Such extravagent lack of judgement is not something employers value. He was trying to damage their profits.

    Everyone mouths of about their employers to their friends from time to time, especially after a few drinks. But this isn’t what this mighty atom did. He exploded his own job. So what?

    Mike, you are a young chap without much work experience and I would caution you about any temptations to follow this fool’s example. Any putative future employers can google him, after all. He has probably rendered himself unemployable – except in the public sector. A book outreach coordinator for the Grimsby council might be a possibility.

  • mike

    Well thank you Verity, but really I have no immediate plans to follow suit. Could you explain to me how you infer that the guy actually intended to damage the company’s profits??? Are you sure you’re not being a little over the top – you know, like Al Pacino in Scarface?

  • Snorre

    Heh. Seems it was a bit worse, what happened to Gudmundson in Sweden–he worked as a tv journalist, and after he told his boss about his blog (who, it seemed, had no idea about the blog, being ranked fourth most influential in Sweden). The reason? He had the audacity not to be a socialist, not to mention pro-Iraq-war.
    Crazy neighbour country.


  • Rob

    Via Natalie Solent, I got to this Guardian report that Waterstone’s has sacked one of its staff, for blogging:

    I think we need better definition of the word “blogging”.

    If we take “blogging” to mean “writing [on a blog]” then, whilst technically correct, the sentence doesn’t give the whole picture. For example, if he had stood in the street and shouted “Waterstones are bastards”, he would not have been sacked for shouting; it would have been what he shouted that he was sacked for.

    In this instance, he was not sacked for blogging. He was sacked for the content of his blog, which was critical of his employer and not consistent with the level of loyalty which Waterstones expect. Whether they are right to expect such loyalty, or whether they should be more tolerant, is a matter of personal preference (personally I favour the latter).

    The point is that the employee was not “sacked for blogging”. The fact that he criticised his employers on his blog is entirely irrelevant, and the suggestion that the blogosphere should show some kind of solidarity with this wounded brother in arms is somewhat puzzling. Is it ok for people to say whatever they like if they use a blog, but not if they do it in a newspaper or on TV?

    Pretty much any employer would sack an employee who publicly criticises it. Since blogging is now accepted as “proper” media, the consequences of what you say in your blog now have to be considered. It’s not just for your internet geek mates any more; real people read what’s on there, and actually take it seriously. I wouldn’t change my view of Waterstones if they fired an employee for a newspaper article he wrote, so why should I care if the article was in a blog?

  • Verity

    This jerk demonstrated the kind of poor judgement one does not want in an employee. Waterstones should now have an investigation underway into how he clung onto employment for 11 years in a company he hated. Surely he had shown signs of disapproving of his employer before?

  • ernest young

    1. I have yet to meet anyone who is irreplaceable…

    2. There seems to be very few employees who have any positive feelings, respect or appreciation for their employers, let alone be thankful for having a market in which to sell their skills…

    3. Quite sad really that there are so many people who have so little of that thing called ‘job satisfaction’.

    But then – hasn’t this more often than not, always been so in the UK?…

  • Companies tend to want to control their own public relations and to that end they tend to include terms in the employment contract about not speaking to the media about the company.

    While I doubt very much if any employment contract includes reference to writing a blog, it looks to me as if blogging would be a breach of the spirit of this kind of clause, if not the letter of it. Obviously I can’t know what the specifics of a Waterstone’s contract are though.

  • Daveon

    Reading Charlie Stross’s account of the perason in question Verity, he appears to have been particularly productive. He organised many readings at the shop, had review cards out covering huge numbers of the SF stock and so forth.

    I think Waterstones have dropped a huge clanger here. It’s one thing to have an employee making comments in a blog a few hundred or thousand people read, quite another to have a debate like this stirred up.

    From my perspective I’ll take my business elsewhere, which is, of course, the sensible course of action.

  • Pete_London


    So he was merely doing his job. I think I’ll be taking my business to Waterstone’s more often in future. Sacking employees for calling the employer a bastard is wholly reasonable.

  • sesquipedalian

    Just reading the guy’s blog is enough for me
    to have sympathy with his employers. They probably
    couldn’t wait to get rid of him and had finally found a good opportunity. I /seriously/ doubt the blog is the real reason.

  • Verity

    He organised many readings at the shop, had review cards out covering huge numbers of the SF stock and so forth.

    Presumably that is what he was being paid to do, so I don’t think he’s earned a medal or special dispensation. He has been venomously disloyal to the people who employed him and have enabled him to pay his bills for eleven years. Assuming he was paid monthly, my calculator says that he took 132 pay cheques from an organisation he despised. What does that say about the quality of this individual? Why didn’t he just quit and find an employer he approved of? Did he try, and fail, to find another job for 11 years?

    If there’s a Waterstone’s around here, I will show solidarity with the capitalist class and their right to employ whomever they please by shopping there.

  • mike

    Verity: I agree that what Daveon lists are things the guy was probably being paid to do, and as such he deserves no special treatment for doing them. Daveon has merely given bad examples – the guy went out of his way in his own time when not being paid to promote Waterstone’s image in numerous radio and print interviews over the years. I do not think your inference that he despised Waterstone’s is valid; so what if he called them a naughty name?? I think the opposite is more likely true; that he probably enjoyed working there and even liked the company (what else would explain his going out on his own time to promote them?).

    You know I love to read your comments from time to time because of their sheer vivid apocolyptic and unsurpassed utter damningness, but honestly just sometimesyou ring so hollow I can hear the echo of your furious typing all the way over here in Edinburgh!!!

  • Maybe they were upset at him for taking people’s limited time with is blog when they could be reading books (from Waterstone’s).

  • Daveon

    Mike, yes, in part. Verity, organising readings and such like aren’t actually part of the job. The stuff he did like promoted Waterstones and particularly the SF section in Edinburgh, a city with a strong local block of SF authors (Stross, Banks, McLeod etc…) – as far as I understand it from what Charlie Stross has said, he did a lot of this stuff on his own time above and beyond what he was paid to do.

    I get the impression he quite licked the work but had issues with his boss. That’s hardly unique in my experience.

  • Verity

    Daveon – well, maybe he should have had issues with the work and licked his boss.

  • mike

    Right on Daveon!

  • mike

    Verity I do hope your spelling of ‘liked’ above was unintentional!

  • ernest young


    Do you wear glasses? and if so, were you wearing them when you read Daveon’s comment?…

  • Vrity

    Thank you, Ernest.

  • Julian Taylor

    The fact that Waterstone’s fired him for gross misconduct leads one to think that maybe there is more to this than anyone is prepared to confess. As I am sure that most people on here are aware the sacking of what appears to have been a rather valued member of staff is not something done lightly by any standard, and Waterstone’s certainly do have a quite good record with regard to their employee relations. Perhaps Joe Gordon could publish the Waterstone’s letter of dismissal in full on his blog and clarify for us exactly what the reasons given by them were.

    In the cases quoted by The Grauniad there have again been instances where the employee pretty much flagrantly disregarded company policy – Ellen Simonetti and her modelling photos taken aboard a Delta jet, as an example.

  • I buy quite a lot of books, and I used to shop at the branch where the guy was sacked. I don’t any more.

    This week I spent over £40 on books. Waterstones got none of that money, and they aren’t likely to in future; there are plenty of other bookshops in Edinburgh.

  • So we’re not supposed to criticize our employers? We’re supposed to be loyal?

    This doesn’t wash. Employers — like states — are fallible. Some more so than others. Silencing employees will more likely lead to problems going unsolved — thus destroying the business.

    There is, to be blunt about, an exchange going on. Employees work in exchange for money. Without the contributions of the employees, the employers would be out of business.

    The notion that the employer — having money — should necessarily have greater power is repugnant to my view of liberty.

    Ah, but the employer is taking the risk, you say. So is the employee. The business can fail. A poor manager can take over — and get rid of anyone who he or she considers a threat to their power.

    I suspect libertarianism will remain a fringe philosophy until libertarians wake up to the fact that liberty is for everyone, not just those who have power in private enterprises.

  • Pete_London


    Of course you can criticise your employer. I do, behind closed doors, in the right environment, constructively and respectfully. Its all about improvement and a valuable, thinking employee will do that. You’re suggesting that employees should be forced to tolerate an employee calling them bastards in public. Well thanks, if I ever see the name ‘Chuck Devine’ on a CV you’re going in the bin.

    There is, to be blunt about, an exchange going on. Employees work in exchange for money. Without the contributions of the employees, the employers would be out of business.

    Yep, employers pay money in exchange for someone’s labour and not to have that someone call them out as bastards in public.

    The notion that the employer — having money — should necessarily have greater power is repugnant to my view of liberty.

    So the employee should have the power to force the employer to employ and pay him, even though he has insulted them publicly? That’s socialism, not libertarianism.

    I suspect libertarianism will remain a fringe philosophy until libertarians wake up to the fact that liberty is for everyone, not just those who have power in private enterprises.

    Of course liberty is for everyone; our chum the rude bookseller had the liberty to hand in his notice and get a job somewhere else if he didn’t fancy it where he was.

  • Verity

    Exactly what Pete_London said. Of course this fellow could say his employers were bastards and toe-rags to his friends, although even then, such indiscretions sometimes come back to haunt people who hadn’t realised that someone in the party went to school with the person they’ve just trashed.

    But the point is, he published his contempt for his employers on his blog, for the world to read. It wasn’t an off-the-cuff remark in a pub and it wasn’t private correspondence. This ex-employee had sat down and chosen his words carefully and published them on the www.

    People assume inside knowledge on the part of those who work for a company. The assumption is, they know something the public doesn’t know. So if this individual publishes the comment that Waterstones are bastards, people are liable to think he possibly knows of underhand or unreasonable behaviour on the part of the officers of the company.

    Of course he is free to state that, as an employee, he thinks Waterstones are bastards. By the same token, Waterstones is also free to state that this individual is no longer on the payroll.

  • mike

    Oh dear I have had a fantastic day up until now.

    Ernest Young: no I do not wear glasses and I realise daveon made the same mistake in his comment, my point was not in drawing attention to Verity’s spelling per se, but in what, in a lighthearted sardonic fashion it could be taken to mean.

    Julian: I agree, the chap should publish the dismissal letter from Waterstone’s so we can be sure.

    Verity: how can you know the guy actually hated the company as you have stated above? You’re just wrong aren’t you? Come on admit it…

  • Verity

    Poor, fragile Mike. Daveon didn’t make “the same mistake”. There was only one mistake and he made it. Du-uh. This is not a trainer-blog.

  • ernest young


    What bizarro world do you live in? where you call someone you like, ‘ a bastard’… There is a vast difference in two friends using that expression in a comradely sort of way, and the way that it was used on that guy’s blog.

    I think it can be assumed that he was less than enthralled with his employer and the manager…

    If, he was so good, how comes, after eleven years he was not promoted to manager?

    Looks like a case of bad feelings all round.

  • Daveon

    No Verity, nice to see you charming and polite as ever.

    I don’t see them as “mistakes”. Those activities are not what he was paid to do by his employer. They are things he chose to do *for* his employer on his own time. Things he enjoyed and that also increased value to his employer.

    Based on other reading I’ve done on this, it looks to me like the new manager has a downer on the particular sub-genre that the person in question liked; Science Fiction.

    However, I think Verity is entirely wrong to claim that this guy was just doing his job. He appears to have been doing far above and beyond it.

    There may be far more to this, and it will be interesting to see the outcome of the appeals process.

  • ernest young

    The appeals process, – you mean that farce played out regularly by the government to try and appease the unions, and to attempt to convince the public just how ‘progressive’ they are.

    The farce that is supposed to demonstrate, what is eupemistically called ‘social justice’, and of human rights,but is no more than a state regulated opportunity to intimidate any employer, whether large or small, into submitting to the State.

    Just another tactic in the march towards Facism where penalties for such supposed civil or social ‘crime’, are far more severe than for any criminal or malicious behaviour.

  • mike

    “What bizarro world do you live in? where you call someone you like, ‘ a bastard’…”

    Ernest Young: oh you know even the best of friends occassionally have arguments and fall outs in which name-calling is frequent and normal. What are you saying – you don’t recognise a universe in which that is possible?! This guy!

    Oh, and perhaps he wasn’t promoted to manager because – haha! – he liked his position so much?!

    You and Verity have not bothered to show a single line of clean reasoning to support the inference that the guy hated his job. Instead you’ve just had a bit of a laugh spraying a lot of muck around. A right pair of moldy olives you two are…

  • Julian Taylor

    Having now read through his blog back to about September I have to say that in all honesty I can fully understand Waterstone’s position. Some of Mr Gordon’s posts on The Woolamaloo Gazette are extremely vicious in their attack on both his employer and his immediate boss, to whit this from November 16th, 2004:

    Return to shift working as Evil Boss decrees even those now in stockroom must do late and early shifts, which is a waste of time for that post.

    Xmas working hours brought in early – first shift now starts at 7.30 bloody am which is fucking ridiculous.

    Evil Boss fucking me off by refusing my requests for a day’s holiday on the 31st of December for my birthday and the first week of January off as I have taken for hte last few years. Nope, it’s still to close to ‘peak trading period’. As both are after Xmas and the 31st is a crap day for business as the whole of Princes Street is closed to traffic that day in preparation for the world’s biggest Hogmanay party it makes no sense.

    Evil Boss then has cheek to ask me to work one of the bloody bank holidays in the week he refused me off. Cheeky smegger. Said no.

    Noticing he has put me down for one of those days anyway, the sandal-wearing bastard. Words will be exhanged – if he gives me my birthday off I will do his bank holiday day. If not he can kiss my magnificent Celtic ass, since it is voluntary.

    Nuff said?

  • Verity

    Julian Taylor, if he had spoken like this at home or among his close friends, it would still have been awfully vicious as he was free at any time to seek an employer more suited to his exacting requirements.

    But to publish this on a public forum is outrageous and he certainly deserves to be dismissed. He was attempting to bring his employers into disrepute and hold them up to ridicule. That he is even going to an “employment tribunal” (see Ernest Young) is a measure of this fellow’s judgement. Does he really think what he did was OK? Oh, and “Evil boss”. How adolescent. He doesn’t appear to have a very large vocabulary.

  • ernest young


    Ah! don’t forget – he is a ‘victim’….

    That it is of his own stupidity uncivilised language and rhetoric, is besides the point. Nanny says he has to be pandered to…. hence the outcry from like minded ingrates.

  • Verity

    ernest young – You are right! He is a victim of ruthless capitalists and they are picking on him! They were forcing him to work on his birthday! And he always gets the first week in January off and this year it has been denied! Well, it’s an open and shut case as far as I’m concerned. Waterstones has been treating him like a medieval serf.

  • mike

    Julian Taylor: no – your quote does not of itself obviously substantiate your favourable view of Waterstone’s actions.

    Verity and Ernest: while, with you, I do not think the chap has serious cause to complain at his employers’ behaviour in the above quote, I do not think that (a) this means that he hated his company, or (b) that the action Waterstone’s took was justified. Do you disagree that just action has anything to do with it? Or do you disagree simply with my conclusion? In any event, if you would like to disagree then kindly spell out your reasoning as if you really believe what you’re saying.

  • ernest young


    I do not think the chap has serious cause to complain at his employers’ behaviour in the above quote, I do not think that (a) this means that he hated his company,

    You mean that Waterstones should wait until he ‘goes postal’, and does some real, and possibly, physical damage, to the Manager, the store, or worse still, to a customer…

    b) that the action Waterstone’s took was justified.

    How else are they supposed to reprimand such reprehensible behaviour? – give him a raise, cut his hours for the same pay, promote him? They did the only thing possible – cut his hours completely, now he has all the freedom he could wish for.

    Of course I disagree with your conclusion, and as you seem to be incapable of comprehending the written word, or of expressing yourself in a cogent manner, I see no reason to attempt to educate you in the ways of the real world, by explaining my reasoning to you.

    Grow up, get a life, and stop thinking like a victim….

  • Pete_London,

    Or maybe I should address you as Peat_Londen since you can’t seem to spell my name correctly.

    Who do you work for? I’ll be glad to not apply there.

    I just pulled a book off my shelf — “The Whiz Kids” by John A. Byrne. It’s a saddening story about how a group of supposedly rational businessmen did real damage to first Ford Motor and then spread their damaging ideas all around the United States. There are many other such books.

    Employees are always supposed to “respectfully” address problems behind closed doors? What happens when that doesn’t work? People who assume those who control businesses are always thoughtful and rational, eager to listen to ways to make things better, hiring and promoting the best people they can, etc., aren’t living in the same universe as I am.

    The list of dysfunctional practices abroad in our world is long and depressing. Many Americans view “Dilbert” and “Sally Forth” more as documentaries than as comic strips.

    People who actually know the man in question have sided with him. Shouldn’t that give people on this blog some pause?

    I live in a real world where employers fall well short of perfection. Some — perhaps most — do try to improve. Others do not. To simply say if you don’t like something you just move along is not helpful advice. Perhaps the alternatives are worse. One of the reasons I, while I am clearly sympathetic to libertarianism, I haven’t bought into it fully is this attitude that employees should shut up and take it. That isn’t liberty to me — it’s a probusiness authoritarianism. Interestingly enough, lots of well run businesses seem to agree. Waterstone’s could well be at fault here because they drove a man they employed for a number of years to speak out in such a public fashion. Expecting “respect” and “rationality” from an employee who is not treated in reasonable ways seems a bit dodgy to me.

  • This has nothing to do with blogging.

    Say bad things in public about your boss or the company which pays your salary, yer gonna get fired.


  • Daveon

    The appeals process, – you mean that farce played out regularly by the government to try and appease the unions, and to attempt to convince the public just how ‘progressive’ they are.

    Nope, the internal one referred to in the response emails you get from Waterstones HQ if you email them regarding this case.

    I’ll have to remember only to employ people who are regulars here in future, it must be nice to have such compliant staff.

  • Julian Taylor

    Waterstone’s could well be at fault here because they drove a man they employed for a number of years to speak out in such a public fashion.

    Yes Chuck maybe they did. The point I have tried to make, at the apparent risk that I be seen as ‘siding’ with Waterstone’s against Mr Gordon, is that there are always two sides to an argument.

    One of the very basic clauses put into anyone’s Contract of Employment, and I would estimate that this holds true in just about any country, is that you may not bring your employer into disrepute in any form or manner whatsoever. It is one thing to sound off against your boss or other fellow employees to friends, either over a drink in a pub, over MSM, ICQ or even via an email; yet it is something totally different to do this either as a letter to a local newspaper, on a public internet forum or through your own blog.

  • Verity

    Well, I see “Daveon”‘s back at his desk, blogging on company time.

  • ernest young


    That is unlikely to arise, I only work for people, or companies that I respect. I cerainly wouldn’t work for a fool…

  • Kim,

    That is a contribution from the real world. Calling your boss an incompetent, irrational idiot who commits various crimes does increase your chances of being fired. The question is — given our imperfect world — what should libertarians do about it.


    Yes, that is a frequently appearing term of employment. Now libertarians should ask — is this right? I’ve been struck by the notion that if you substituted “state” for “employer” large numbers of people posting here would be howling at the top of their lungs about the evils of statism. Even suggesting that disagreements with Prime Minister Blair or President Bush be done “behind closed doors” and “respectfully” would get you looked at like you’ve just arrived from another planet.

    Advice given by libertarians about dysfunctional corporations all too often has a ring of unreality about it. Just because socialists (advocates of another philosophy with severe shortcomings) say something doesn’t make it a lie. Just because the proposals by socialists have their own sets of shortcomings doesn’t mean they aren’t addressing a real problem, however poorly.

    Libertarians need to recognize there are many forms of power, all subject to abuse. Addressing government’s shortcomings while ignoring the problems caused by unchecked power of corporations, educational institutions (governmental and independent), religions, etc. doesn’t make you a friend of liberty.

    Libertarians have much to teach the world — that’s why I bother at all reading boards like this. It’s also why I’ve called my personal political philosophy “progressive conservative democratic libertarianism.” Sometimes I add other terms as well.

    But too many libertarians also have much to learn as well. I remember reading a Reason magazine review of a book about the FDA in which the reviewer seemed to be surprised that the FDA was actually created to address a real problem. I couldn’t stop laughing to myself.

    Good companies do try to address their shortcomings. So do other worthwhile institutions. Unfortunately, there are those that would prefer to get rid of people who point out shortcomings rather than responding reasonably.

  • fruit of the vine

    Julian Taylor,
    are you the same person who manages the Waterstones Huddersfield bookshop ?
    Participating in a blog website relating to your employers ?

    nuff said

  • I know Julian well and I assure you he is not a bookstore manager!


    Libertarians need to recognize there are many forms of power, all subject to abuse.

    But ultimatly it comes down to those forms of power which involve the use of physical force and those which do not. A company cannot lock you up for displeasing it the way a state can and so acting as if they were materially the same thing is simply incorrect. Sure, companies can act badly because people can act badly, but the capacity of a company to come even close to the evil state can do is not bourse out by history.

  • Freakbeat

    Julian Taylor a bookstore manager?! LOL, he wasn’t at Bolton either.

    No he was alright really. Damn sight better than who he replaced. Now she is a shit manager…