Did you hear? Now you don’t have to strain to eavesdrop on your colleagues who are gabbing in the break room.
The website Office Leaks provides workers nationwide a virtual haven to anonymously discuss the ups and downs of their jobs.
Most of the posts, organized by company, are private and can only be accessed by fellow employees. In recent public posts, users seek confirmation of rumors about layoffs and 401K cuts and grumble about salary discrepancies and colleagues who are slacking off. One user takes an opportunity to protest the oppressive office dress code that prohibits open-toed sandals: “I spend $50 a month on a pedicure, I want to show that off!”
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So far, Office Leaks boasts nearly 500 users and more than 280 companies since it was launched on April 1, founder Ryan Masanz told NewsFeed in an email. Best Buy, Target, eBay, Google, Microsoft, and Thomson Reuters are just some of the major companies on the site.
Curious managers and human resources representatives, however, can pay $99 a month to “sponsor” their organization’s community and see what employees are buzzing about. Sponsors can even delete up to five posts per week, but only ones that violate the site’s Terms of Service. This program is the site’s main source of revenue and will be supplemented by ads on the public part of the site, Masanz says.
But lawyers warn that posts could come to back to haunt employees. As Sandra Jezierski, a partner in the law firm Nilan Johnson Lewis, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “The biggest problem is that it’s a document. It makes very good evidence in litigation. It’s pretty much indisputable if it’s in writing or printed out.”
That is why Office Leaks takes pains to protect its users, who are literally “just a number.” Their account numbers do not even appear on posts. Likewise, to maximize anonymity, the site’s privacy terms stress that individuals should also keep themselves anonymous and avoid accessing the site from their work computers, or revealing any recognizable information about themselves.
In the past, gossip sites have had short life spans. Office Leaks seems like a cleaner, more grown-up version of the website Juicy Campus, which attracted users from more than 500 colleges and universities and a million unique visitors each month. The online gossip forum started out as an outlet for the college set to compare classes and share campus news, but it turned into a nasty venue where students trashed each other. Dialogue was so acrimonious that a Colgate University student threatened to shoot up the school in a post and was later arrested. The site ended up shutting down a year later, citing financial difficulties.
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But Masanz says his site promotes more useful and sophisticated conversation:
Office Leaks is genuinely ‘pro-employee’ in an economy that is not. Every day we hear about layoffs, foreclosures, and a bill targeting workers’ rights…This stress changes the workplace because people can’t afford to lose their jobs. The decision to stand up and speak your mind is now harder, and it’s safer just to be apathetic. Office Leaks levels the playing field to encourage challenging ideas and honest criticism–which is needed now more than ever.