Article (July-2021)


Employer brand damage control measures should be taken quickly

Mihir Gosalia

Designation : -  

Organization : -  Mumbai


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1. Kewal is a carrot & stick type of manager who feels that it is the only way of getting work done from his junior colleagues. Although he is well aware of the pitfalls of such a managerial working style, when he sees it working for him and producing results, he has very well continued with it and has gotten into the habit of it and probably is into a comfort zone with his this working style such that he has now become blissfully aware of the fraught risks associated with it and the harm that it could bring to his reputation and also to that of the organisation for which he is working for.

Yes, there is a resonance between the management style of Kewal and the organisation culture as seen in the case study where the processes were disorganized, unethical practices prevalent, vendors were appointed by the MD and the employees were left to fend on their own to get their work done from the vendors as seen by the example of Naveen having to spend his nights at the vendors workshops that ensured minimum parts are manufactured to feed the next day production. Basically cut throat politics of survival existed in the organisation. In such a scenario where an employee sees no future for himself, no professional and educated, qualified person would be willing to work in such an organisation. So it will attract employees of the type of nature that Kewal has and both the organisation & Kewal have no other option but to join hands and work as the organisation needs manpower to continue meeting it's daily production requirements but is unable to hire professionals due to prevalent toxic culture and Kewal because of managerial working style will be unable to get jobs in good & professionally managed organisations. So in a way, it is a resonance or you can say marriage of sorts between the management style of Kewal and the organisation culture.

2. No, it was not at all required for Naveen & the other executives to write mail to their boss and posting the video call recording on social media. As in this way, they are bad-mouthing their current employer. And any future employer will also think twice before hiring them as they would not want to risk their reputation due to organisational immaturity displayed by Naveen and other executives. These steps also show lack of EQ on behalf of them, lack of ability to tolerate work pressure and stress and also shows lack of patience. Such things ideally should be sorted out via 1 - 1 verbal confrontations and discussions. Initially there might be venting of frustrations, lots of heat & anger between both the warring parties. But it will die down eventually once it's let out & who knows that it may have led to cordial relationships between Kewal, Naveen & the other executives. Naveen and his fellow colleagues being junior in terms of work experience thereby lack organisation maturity. But one can understand the ordeal that they were going through. So they decided to come together as a team, use the social media platform to express themselves and have their one - up on Kewal by writing email to their immediate head, HR head & MD about their ordeal and also by posting the video recording of the call on social media platforms so that it would go viral and they would gain some much needed public empathy and sympathy when none of it was coming from the organisation. This act by Naveen and his other colleagues also shows lack of emotional and mental well-being practices in place in the organisation that is the need of the times in these pandemic times. But then who would expect such practices in place in this organisation when its basic processes are only not in place and the work culture is toxic. So part blame for this incident lies on the organisation too who doesn't care too much on how it's functioning and how the employees are feeling about it as long as daily production schedule is not hampered with and revenue/business is ongoing. So people management takes a backseat. Hence the organisation will also be functioning with such people related risks and will wake up only when the incident has happened.

3. Social media is fortunately & unfortunately is eyes and ears for any organisation today. If employees have something negative to say or are going to make a threat in any way, then they will do so most likely to an upper management person without warning. Hence the proactive approach says that HR should stay closer to its staff than the norm. Employees should not be treated just like a boss and subordinate. Or treat them like just a number. This does not imply to be their best friend but treating them like you want to be treated. By taking the time to listen by and giving them all of your attention without interruptions. This will help prevent any type of behaviours later.

Secondly HR should have policies in place that bar employees from breaking confidentiality of internal discussions or against such acts of employees that may spoil its image. Had this been in place and strongly enforced, then Naveen and Co. may have thought twice before taking those steps. Employees clearly have a right to online freedom of speech. Generally, the organisation shouldn't tolerate an employee's postings that are offensive or of ridiculing the company or its services. The company generally shouldn't tolerate social media activities that compromise or threaten their legitimate business interests. HR can and should assess an employee's social media activity as it relates to its set policies and the risk to its business and reputation.

Having a separate and robust social media policy can be especially important. It adds an additional layer of protection to the organisation. The policy should advise employees that they're responsible for their postings and they also must refrain from using social media at work. With so many employees using social media, now may be a good time to review or implement a company policy. The Policy should include a prohibition on the posting of negative comments about the company, its employees, business contacts or competitors. Communicate the Policy clearly to all employees and spell out the consequences for breach of the Policy. HR should ensure the policy provides the organisation with the protection needed to enforce its current rules, including anti harassment, anti discrimination, anti violence, and trade secret protections. A good policy should let employees know they'll be held accountable for posts falling outside of the company's values and policies up to and including termination.

4. Firstly, the company management should be quick to react. On becoming aware of a negative posting on social media, take steps to have that posting removed from the social media site. A derogatory posting on a social networking site will be defamatory if it contains an untruth and serves to undermine or damage the reputation of the company. Host site can also be written to requesting immediate removal of the video. Then immediately release a first response. Let the flabbergasted public know the serious measures they were taking to correct the wrongs that were committed. Say, Communicate that "We're aware of the situation, we're looking into it, and we will release a full statement once we know more", this will have reversed all additional and unnecessary damage caused throughout the crisis. A social media crisis will not go away on its own. It will continue to build momentum, escalating to a point beyond control. Management could also consider launching a communication strategy that will save their brand from potential ruins. Considering getting a good PR firm on board that will handle their communication, both internal and external. Release an official statement, a brilliant official response to the crisis that responds to the crisis on the same social media channel it broke out on explaining the measures they were taking to correct the unfortunate situation, how seriously they were taking the crisis. 

Another option for company management is to initiate disciplinary action against Naveen & rest of the team members who posted the video thereby ensuring that the disciplinary procedure is followed. A committee can be formed to investigate this matter & recommend suitable actions to management. Inform to both Naveen, his three other colleagues and also to Kewal Khurana, carry out an investigation to gather all the facts and invite all of them to attend a disciplinary hearing. This will ensure fair hearing for all and faith in the system. Communicate the findings of the committee to all stakeholders. This can also be a part of the management's communication strategy.

Mihir Gosalia