Monday, 3 November 2008

Fly me to the dole office

Oh dear, another hoo ha all about employees posting what some might think is inappropriate content on Facebook. This time Virgin Atlantic and British Airways staff saying mean things about passengers and planes.

(I have to say, I probably agree - a lot of passengers smell and yes, a lot are indeed "chavs". However, if your job is to deal with the general public on a daily basis, this may not come as a complete shock. And if this is a source of complaint, then maybe working in customer service is not an ideal career path. But I digress...)

What I find most interesting is that it's still making the news. Google had 121 sites listed today about the BA and Virgin cases for instance. Surely there have been enough similar instances for both employers and employees to understand how these things work - to know what is appropriate, and what is not; to know what is a reasonable response, and what is draconian.

The BA group on Facebook that seems to cause all the furore is actually a "closed" group, requiring moderated viewing. As it's not for general public consumption, and presumably closed off to non BA employees, does this make it a private work space? Arguably not, but BA's actions have made the whole issue a very public one, so have they managed to achieve at least some of their original objectives of reputational management?

To be honest, if I were BA I'd be a little more concerned with the group titled "STOP BRITISH AIRWAYS SELLING IT'S CABIN CREW!!!", a public group that is a bit of a focal point for Project Columbus, the apparent cabin crew outsourcing project. Or how about "British Airways Surfboard Ban" that currently has over 14,000 members and growing.

And while I'm up here on my soapbox, how about the groups "VIRGIN ATLANTIC HOSTIES", "The girls of Virgin Atlantic! On the ground and up in the skies!" or even "The Boys of Virgin Atlantic". Hoping that Virgin Atlantic HR and legal teams are scouring through the employee handbook about discrimination and fairness....

The point is the line between work and personal is becoming increasingly blurred: arguably it always was. But now, the blurring is much more publicly, and both companies and employees are finding it hard to define clear boundaries, and to handle (inadvertent) transgressions.

Maybe it would have been easier to ask the particular employees to delete their postings, reminding them of their work obligations, rather than fire them and feed the frenzy. Collaborative working through of these grey areas helps both parties define where their responsibilities lie, and should ultimately give a more workable code of conduct that everyone can understand and follow.

Well, enough from me. Am off to recommend "RIO SUCKS FOR BANNING FACEBOOK!" to all my colleagues.