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HRM Assignment: Case Analysis Of The Perils Of Social Networking


Task: The Perils of Social Networking
Jade is a recent graduate working in HR for a large government agency, the Department of Economic Development. It is her first job in HR and is enjoying the challenges and learning a lot about how HR works in practice. She is also an active social networker and has many friends on Facebook, including about 15 from within the department.
One morning when she checks her Facebook page, Jade discovers that one of her workplace friends, Melissa, has just posted an angry comment about an incident at work that says:

“Yesterday I got into trouble for laughing in the workplace – what the ...? No wonder so many people leave after only a couple of months?”
Another friend from outside the organisation had responded”
“They should call it the Department of Grumpy Old Bastards!!!”
There followed over the course of the morning a series of responses from friends both within and outside the department which included comments like:
“Life’s too short, Melissa – get out of there while you still have a sense of humour.”
“What a crap place to work!”
“I bet it was Colin Baxter who told you off – he is such an idiot!”
Jade refrains from adding to the conversation herself. She has mixed feelings about what she has just read. On the one hand, she sympathises with Melissa’s frustration – being disciplined for being happy, seems silly to her too. On the other hand, as a HR person she can see that the comments are potentially damaging to the department, especially as HR has been grappling with issues like the high turnover rate and the difficulty in recruiting and retaining good people. She also worries that a particular manager in the department, Colin Baxter, has been named and spoken of in unflattering terms.
Melissa has 256 friends on Facebook who could all potentially read those comments. Then, of course there are friends of friends who might also read them. Potentially a very large number of people, mostly outside the organisation, might read the comments and form a negative view of the department as a place to work.
Analyse the above case and prepare the HRM assignmentanswering the following questions:
1. Has Melissa done anything wrong by making negative comments about her employer on Facebook?
2. What might be the consequences if the comments became widely known within the department?
3. What might the consequences if the comments became widely known outside the department?
4. Should Jade alert her HR manager to the comments? Does she have a professional obligation to do this at overrides her friendship with Melissa?
5. Should Melissa be subject to disciplinary action for publishing the comments? Should the employee who made the comment about Colin Baxter be disciplined?


1. Has Melissa done anything wrong by making negative comments about her employer on Facebook?
As per the case analysed in this HRM assignment, it is stated that Melissa indeed has not committed any crime by making her concern public by posting on Facebook what seems to be a negative comment about an incident that happened with her in the workplace. The concern is what followed later in the following replies that were made by certain individuals or co-workers who directly tarnished the reputation of the governmental department of economic development manager. As it is a governmental department concerned, if the department feels necessary, proper actions can be taken irrespective of whether it was right or wrong to publicise the situation with Melissa. The way Colin Baxter was called an idiot on a public platform like Facebook may have significant repercussions in the future should the department choose to pursue the case legally. As Jade, Melissa, Colin are all present on Facebook with a considerable number of people being friends with them, such issues and defamatory statements may cause reputation damage for an essential department in the governmental agency. Therefore, the employer or the HR concerned has the right to review such statements and similarly, they can make sure that the name, brand, and online reputation are not improperly tarnished. Melissa here has the right to post information about her working condition, wages, and hours online, and those are considered broad categories. Therefore, grievances or complaints are protected under federal law and various state laws but what is not covered is violence, threats, or hate speech on online platforms. Due to the presence of both Jade and Melissa large friend circle, the message may have transmitted far from what was initially thought, making the whole situation quite uncomfortable for both the department and the governmental institution.

2. What might be the consequences if the comments became widely known within the department?
As Melissa and the person who commented in the following sequence of replies regarding the departmental manager Colin Baxter, it can be fair to say that if not imminently spread, it is certain that the issue will be widely known within the co-workers the department at a later stage. At the heat of the moment, Melissa did not think rationally enough before publicising the issue. Still, sooner than later, she realised that her comments might have an impact on her professional life or the reputation of the department concerned. As the concerned department is a governmental institution, the repercussions can be significant when the management takes notice, and it can even lead to legal issues with the employee. What is more concerning is the fact that a co-worker directly tampered with the reputation of the departmental manager Colin Baxter by calling him an idiot on the social media platform? Such an influential person can legally sue the concerned person and may have issues with Melissa as she is the one that instigated the case publicly without the knowledge of the manager. It is always better to keep the details of the workplace private unless necessary to convey. When the co-workers and department come to know about the issue, they may get negatively affected by the company's work culture, and some might even lose faith in the ethics of the workplace. Melissa and the person who called the manager will certainly give themselves a bad name. A red flag might be associated with them until they secure the faith and assurances of the concerned department and person whose reputation got damaged. Here the HR might even be bound to pursue the case legally if bound by the company's protocols without her wishes.

3. What might be the consequences if the comments became widely known outside the department?
Melissa has 256 friends on her Facebook profile, so it remains a huge possibility that these people could all potentially read the concerned comments of the people involved in the situation about Melissa and her peers. As Facebook is an open and accessible platform, friends of friends might also read or access the post that Melissa made. Consequently, potentially a large number of people outside the department or the organisation might read the comment and form a negative view of the work culture or the department concerned. Jade has mixed feelings on the issue that Melissa highlighted as, on the one hand, she sympathises with Melissa. On the other hand, she knows that the comments made by Melissa and her peers are potentially damaging to the concerned department as HR is already going through issues like high turnover ratio and difficulty in retaining and recruiting good people. Therefore, potential people who were interested in joining the department may now give a second thought due to the negative reputation that the company has gathered and also due to the manner in which the departmental manager is handling the work culture by scapegoating an employee over having a chit chat or a laugh in the workplace. Outside the department, Colin Baxter also has high-level peers who may be present either in the management or in the senior position in the other departments. These people now witness the negative flow of sentiments among the employees. The HR may not sort out the issue as it requires proper legal protocols or a mutual settlement between the concerned parties. Therefore, the consequences of the Melissa incident may have significant effects when it becomes widely known outside the department due to the nature of the incident becoming public.

4. Should Jade alert her HR manager to the comments? Does she have a professional obligation to do this that overrides her friendship with Melissa?
Jade should alert the HR manager about the comments about the department in the organisation. It is her duty as an employee of the company to tell the HR managers about the misconduct made by Melissa. Still, she should keep in mind that the decision she took will impact Melissa's job by implementing effective behavioural and organisational HR management. I think Melissa has a professional obligation to alert the HR manager about the comments made by Melissa. By telling the boss about the things that are happening, Jade will demonstrate that Jade was not participating in that kind of behaviour. Most of the HR managers are interested to know about the things that are going on in the company. Therefore, HR managers need to implement the organisational management theory of HR management while handling these conflicts. The organisational and behavioural theory states how an HR manages employees and their behaviours related to the organisation. At any given stage of the life cycle, organisations are impacted by external and internal factors such as this Melissa incident with her manager Colin Baxter. Organisations are bound by the strategic contingency theory of HR management, which may be described as a collection of departments or activities that work together to cope with conflict and uncertainty. Managers appreciate it if they are aware of the situations that are going on in the company, which could potentially harm the company. It is a very likely situation that the HR manager is going to be the last one to know about the things that are happening in the organisation. If Jade lets the HR manager know about the things going on, then the HR manager would appreciate what Jade has to say. Melissa contributed to making the workplace a toxic environment; snitching on Melissa irrespective of their friendship will improve the office environment. Snitching on people about the person who is dragging down the morale in the workplace will lead towards a positive change for everyone.

5. Should Melissa be subject to disciplinary action for publishing the comments? Should the employee who made the comment about Colin Baxter be disciplined?
The employees are given a handbook containing a code of conduct in the work place. An employee's conduct on social media. The employees code of conduct states that there should not be any bullying or post any taunting comment to any other co-worker. Doing so will be the violation of the code. The code of conduct prohibits a person form saying bad things in public against a co-worker. Melissa is in violation of the code of conduct and is subjected to disciplinary action for publishing negative comments which is damaging to the department. The purpose of the code of conduct is to maintain a standard of behaviour that is acceptable to the rest of the employees and aligns with the ethics and values of the organisation. These policies are set in such a way that it will remind the employees that their personal actions within or outside the organisation is accredited to the employer for their personal actions regarding the organisation which could lead to disciplinary action or in some cases termination. Social media is a place to express, share opinions and engage in controversy. But a person's activity is accessible to all in public and everyone has the freedom to express his or her thoughts. An employee contents are visible to all. Melissa is free to express her feeling, if it does not damage the reputation of the department.

The incidents focused in this HRM assignment signifies that the employee who had made the comments about Colin Baxter also had to be disciplined because he or she is in violation of the code of conduct. The other employee had defamed Colin Baxter publicly. The comments he or she made are public and could be viewed by people outside the organisation which would ultimately harm the department and portray a negative image about the organisation.


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