Opinion

Matalan sees facebook-comments as “Gross Misconduct”.

This post falls under the “more” category of this blog, and has nothing to do with Joomla. 

Last week, a little Twitter-bird told me the story of an man that got in trouble with his employer, U.K based clothing giant Matalan.  The reason?  A single comment on Facebook.  Since it’s an interesting story – and because of Matalans’ “gross overreaction” I thought I’d share the story. 

The story

The main character of this story, a certain L., had had a though day at work.  Working for a clothing retailer equals dealing with a lot of customers; and the customers were being particularly annoying that day.  Our friend L. could take a verbal beating or two, but that day he was so frustrated that he needed to “vent” on Facebook.

So he logged in, and changed his status to “Matalan customers are <<insert expletive here>>.  (That’s literally what he wrote FYI, not censorship)  One of his facebook friends, which happened to be a co-worker, thought it was a smart idea to “fill the gap” (let’s leave it at that; I’ve had complaints in the past for using “strong words” in my blogs)

No big deal, right? I mean, who doesn’t like to complain to his family and friends about how much work sucked?  I certainly do. 

Well, apparently it was a big deal.  A few days later, L. was summoned into the manager’s office. He was then told that, because of his comment, he was suspended with pay; and he’d have to attend a disciplinary hearing later on.  L.  still thought he’d get out of it with a warning, but alas. 

Malatan management labelled his “status” as “gross misconduct”; and he was fired on the spot.  His co-worker, the girl who ‘finished his sentence’ sort of speak, was also summoned to the office.  Good times!  She’s still awaiting her preliminary hearing, but L. told me that she’ll probably be fired as well. 

Shortly after being summoned to the manager office, L. had an online discussion with a few people about his “status fiasco”, and he feels that, while he recognizes that he did something that might have been wrong, he shouldn’t have been fired right then and there. 

His defence is that he “didn’t name his customers anything, or call them anything.”  Point taken.  His employer, however, claims it was an “open invitation” for his fellow co-workers to “do the same”.  Whatever that might be.  Maybe not calling your customers anything is a bad thing at Matalan? 

From what L. told me, he was a model employee.  Yes, I know that’s ‘easy to say’ about yourself and there’s no way for me to verify that claim.  But I know him as a honest and “good guy” so I give him the benefit of the doubt. 

He sees himself as a good employee, that never got in trouble, always did was right, and never kicked up a fuss.  He had a great relationship with his customers, as well.  Customers complimented him to the manager(s), and two managers recently praised him for his good work.   

Our opinion!

Disclaimer:  The text below is the opinion of “Joomla and More”.  If you think that we’re being too critical of your Social Media policy or think we’re damn liars; feel free to contact us.  We might not actually reply because we’re busy. 

Here’s the thing.  We agree that L. might have done something  that’s “juvenile”.  But let’s play advocate of the devil here for a sec. 

  • Contrary to what some corporations believe, Facebook is ‘not’ a public website.  Only people that knew and added L. could’ve ‘read’ the comment.  Unless they’re Matalan customers that now refuse to shop there any further, what harm was really done? 
  • If L. made that same comment while having a beer with his family / friends, and management would find out, would they’ve fired him as well?
  • From what I read online, L. is the ‘prototype’ of a Matalan employee.  Is it reasonable to fire good employees because of one sentence, written in frustration?
  • Is it reasonable to fire two employees over a “facebook-comment” when no fair warning was given?  When I asked L. about a ‘Social Media’ policy – something I assumed a corporation like Matalan would have – he told me that there was no such thing; until the day after he got fired. 
  • Does this really qualify as “gross misconduct”?  L. wasn’t at work when writing the comment.  He knew was wrong and would have posted an apology or removed the comment, when asked.  He insulted no-one in particular.  In fact, unless hundreds of Matalan customers have added him as a friend, I doubt that he insulted anyone at all. 

I believe that, in this case, the employer has overreacted.  Yes, social media is hot these days, but you don’t need to blow things out of proportion.  The chances that a single facebook-comment will damage the image of your company is pretty small.  Hell, the chances that anyone reads such a comment and thinks anything about Matalan are ridiculously small.  So a Matalan employee is pissed off?  Who cares?! 

This story is yet another fine example of companies that aren’t able to deal with the social media of today.  I can only suggest companies to learn from companies like Microsoft, Trend Micro or Intel that use social media to their benefit.  And, while you’re at it, write your “social media policy”.  I personally love Intel’s policy:  you can blog, Twitter, Facebook… about whatever you want – even during work, I believe – as long as you stick to “what you know”.  Unless you’ve got such a policy in place, and your employees are well informed, stay calm and be reasonable. 

L., if it’s any comfort:  you could be our Social Media Expert any time.  We hope you draw your conclusions from this story.  Here’s some conclusions we’ve drawn:

  • Don’t add your boss on Facebook.  It’s never, under any circumstance, a good idea. 
  • Even if your boss is a cool guy, don’t add him on Facebook.
  • People can use Facebook comments to get you sacked.  Be aware! 
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Categories: Opinion

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8 replies »

  1. Just discovered this. I myself was sacked over a year ago. I was given Gross Misconduct for scanning an item twice by accident as the customer put in a complaint. It’s an honest mistake so I went home (may I add NOT at this point suspended, which apparently gross misconduct requires you suspend the accused?) naturally fuming posted I status on Facebook about Matalan being run by idiots. I was informed by a colleague that I had been reported by another colleague. The next shift I was due in, I was hauled into the office and that was the first time I had ever seen any written policy on social networking. I was given a further charge of GM and this time WAS suspended. At the hearing, I simply stood my ground, accepting I shouldn’t have posted it out of professionalism but I wasn’t going to apologize to anyone for being angry and that I was the one who deserved an apology from Matalan. Needless to say, they looked at me like I had just killed a puppy in front of them and I was gone. I did send head office a snotty letter stating I wouldn’t appeal as I felt they were an appalling company to work for.

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  2. just found this ith browsing the net. this will explain why last year we all had to sign a new contract about social networking and the rules now are we can be sacked for even being on facebook during our breaks.

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  3. Well they maintain that it IS in there. The fact that nobody can find it means nothing to them I guess…

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    • If the majority of people doesn’t find it, it probably doesn’t exist… or isn’t very clearly written. The result will be the same either way… 😉

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  4. Hey, L. here. First of all, nice article dude. I wasn’t sure what you were gonna do with all the info I gave you, but you did a bang up job!

    I recently found out from two (very) reliable sources that a co-worker had seen the status in question and had actually gone to management in an attempt to get the person who commented (call her J.) in trouble. I just happened to be collateral damage. J. has been in trouble before with the company, and the management were apparently looking for any excuse to get rid of her, and this was the perfect chance. I’m guessing the fact that for her second offence they could fire her and just give me a written warning never occurred to them. They jumped the gun.

    I asked this person if it was true or not and she point blank denied it, but to be honest, I think she did complain as her and J. never got on.

    Couple of things though:

    – Apparently there was something in the employee handbook regarding social networking sites, but neither myself or any of my (ex) co-workers had seen it. I’ve since looked through said handbook and still haven’t found it.

    – It turns out that I WAS at work when I had wrote the status. I thought I was at home, but the printout of the status showed the time I posted it, and I was at work. I must have done it on my break time.

    But… like I have said many times, I have nobody to blame but myself and my own stupidity.

    But thanks dude… its nice to know someone is actually taking notice of my whining, haha

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    • At work or not, our point still stands. If you have to read through an entire manual and still don’t find their social media policy, I think a training would’ve been in order.
      After all, internet is serious business.

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