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Bank scorched by stupid Facebook policy

'Who picked this coffee?' 'You’re sacked!'

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Instead of crafting a social media policy that threatens staff with termination over what they say on social media sites, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia could consider mass-sacking the claque of lawyers, human resources professionals and social media experts that brought down a media firestorm on the financial giant.

For some reason, according to reports all over both local and international media, the CBA thought it a good idea to invite control-freaks to write the policy

As a result, according to Australia’s Finance Sector Union, any staff complaint – down to the colour of the coffee-cups – would expose an employee to disciplinary action including dismissal.

The policy as written reportedly tried to reach all the way to the friends and associates of staff members. For example, if someone used a staffer’s Facebook page to say something nasty about the bank, the staffer was required to delete the remark and report it to the bank.

In other words, the policy went beyond stupid to land in a kind of social media East Germany, in which friends should spy on friends, family on family, and reports would pass upwards to the cronies of whoever actually ran the policy.

As the FSU rightly said, the policy interfered with every staff member’s freedom to associate. But it went far beyond that. A policy so wide and unenforceable is wide open to workplace bullying, corruption and favouritism.

Does anyone really believe, for example, that a high flyer would be punished because a friend’s post said “CBA sucks?” Of course not.

Transgressions against the social media policy would merely be added to other perceived sins committed by lowly frontline staff – the ones who get yelled at about interest rate rises, have to deal with whatever customer walks in the door, have to accept whatever whims flow down upon them from above, and have to live with either the uncertainty of casual employment or the certainty that there will be another round of fulltime redundancies some time this year.

That’s what I mean about bullying, favouritism and corruption. Quite probably, there is a corporate lawyer or HR manager who considered themselves brilliant for conceiving a new, easy way to weed out malcontents of their choice.

At least until the media storm arose, and the CBA’s fat cats found themselves egg-faced, backpedalling, reconsidering, redrafting and apologizing.

If any CBA executive thought a Facebook gripe with an audience of a few hundred people should be considered a sacking offence, what does he or she now think of a high-profile news story that bespatters its brand with mud in front of millions? ®

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