The feedback function on this blog requires that I approve a comment before it appears on the site. I added that extra degree of protection a few weeks ago after an influx of spam.
That seemed a reasonable measure, and one that I am glad I took.
But this week a different sort of comment appeared in my in-box, awaiting approval. And although I opted not to publish it, I'm not convinced I made the right move.
First, I should note that the comment contained some foul language. And one of my rules is that I don't publish obscenities. But even if the language in the comment had been clean, I doubt I would have published it.
It came from a former editor at a well-known B2B publisher. He wanted to tell me and the readers of this blog what he thought about his former bosses. And none of what he thought about them was good. He complained that the editorial department was underfunded. He complained about unprofessionalism, cronyism and long hours.
Most of his complaints were vague. "Management ...firmly believes that the editorial product is secondary - and it shows" and that the "editorial staff suffers at the expense of the almighty sales staff."
But some of the complaints were more specific. He gave the names of some senior staff and said that they engaged in unethical and unprofessional behavior. He also gave the names of a number of editors that he claims have left the company in outrage.
My first reaction was as a journalist. I read the comment as if it were a story. And although that may not be a fair way to judge a comment, it was clear to me that this "story" wasn't publishable. It contained a number of unsubstantiated personal attacks but not a single provable fact. And I knew that neither I nor the editor who wrote it would have published it in a magazine -- either as a story, an opinion piece or a letter to the editor -- if it had come from a source in a company we covered.
My second reaction was as an ENFJ personality type. ENFJs are teachers by nature. We have a parental style. We tend to engage in mentoring relationships. And I found myself wanting to protect the writer of the comment from himself. The comment made him look weak, foolish, overly emotional and childish. And I knew that publishing it would hurt his career.
So what's the lesson in this?
First, be cautious about what you put in writing. It's unlikely that you want to be known in your chosen profession as a bitter and nasty person...even if bitterness and nastiness are justified.
Second, if you're in management, ask yourself honestly if you know what morale is like on your staff. Have the talented people you hired become angry children on your watch? Is it your fault? What is the effect on people's feelings, not just on the balance sheet, when you make a decision? And then ask yourself if it's possible, even likely, that the comment I opted not to publish was about you.