Case Study Report on the Use of Social Media at the Workplace

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • The use of social media among employees
    Case study scenario
  • Alternative solutions
  • Conclusion and recommendations

This report will seek to lay out the best actions to take against an employee who has been disparaging negative opinions about his employer company, Downcity. Susan Winslow, the general manager at Downcity, is in a dilemma on what cause of action to take against James Kenton, who is the said employer, and who has been previously warned about his reckless action in the use of social media to taint the image of the company. In as much as Susan’s Father, Dell Winslow, and the HR manger Toby Diller both want him fired as they had already given him a second chance, Susan still wants to weigh all her options. Being the most successful salesperson at Downcity, letting go of James Kenton could not be an easy decision for her. Plus, she believes that all Kenton needs is a little guidance, not to be fired.

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This report will lay groundwork to the use of social media at the workplace in the world today then go ahead to argue the three alternatives Susan has in the cause of action: ignore the post, discipline him or fire him. The three alternatives will be thoroughly analyzed based on theories relevant to employee management to expose the advantages and impacts of each cause of action. The recommended action and justification for it will then be given to help Susan in her decision making.


Susan Winslow, the general manager at Downcity, is in a dilemma on what cause of action to take against James Kenton, an employee who has used Facebook to disparage degratory comments about the company, and who has been previously warned about his reckless action in the use of social media to taint the image of the company. In as much as Susan’s Father, Dell Winslow, and the HR manger Toby Diller both want him fired as they had already given him a second chance, Susan still wants to weigh all her options. Being the most successful salesperson at Downcity, letting go of James Kenton could not be an easy decision for her. Plus, she believes that all Kenton needs is a little guidance, not to be fired.

This report will therefore lay down all the facts for Susan, to help her determine her cause of action. The legal repercussions and impacts of the various stakeholders of the company such as employees and clients, will be analyzed. The ethical and moral implications of the various alternatives for action will also be discussed at length. Susan basically has three alternatives for action, dismiss Kenton’s actions as a misdemeanor since he did not do the posting during company hours or from their computers, take disciplinary measures against him to discourage such reckless action among the other employees, or fire him as he is proving to be a liability. There is pressure of course on Susan to make the decision, their contact at BMW, Greg Coucher, her father Dell and Toby, the HR manager think that Kenton should be fired, and on the other hand there is Tyson Beck, the Mercedes Dealership manager and Rachel, one of the employees who think that Kenton should just be disciplined and guided. This report will analyze both sides of the case and suggest recommendations for the best cause of action.

The use of social media among employees

Technological advancements in the world today have placed social media at the center of almost everything that there is. These social interaction platforms via the Internet like Facebook, twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and others have ruled most social interactions including those at the workplace. People have taken to social media to expose bad practices, as well as showcase good behavior and trends. The transparency and openness exhibited by these platforms have both negatively and positively affected the performances of businesses and companies.

It is not uncommon to find employees talking about their employer company’s in a positive way on these platforms in an effort to advertise them and improve the reputation of the company. It has actually become almost mandatory to have a social media account by companies to advertise themselves as well as create a platform whereby customers can give feedback on the company’s products or services.

Social media platforms have facilitated a kind of way for angry employees or those who have been fired to get back at their employers by divulging company’s secrets to the public or even spreading defaming rumors in an effort to negatively affect their performances. It has therefore become necessary that employers introduce or impose certain regulations to prevent or control the defamation of the company’s image through social media use by the employees. Some have even gone to completely restrict the mention of the company in social media platforms by its employees.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), has provisions to what these regulations by employers may limit. For example it prohibits the restriction of regulations to what may be termed as “protected concerted activity”. These are efforts by employees as a group (in a union or not) to try and improve their working conditions or their payment terms. The NLRB is very firm on actions by employees that are not solely based on their own self-views but also concern other employees, it stipulates clearly that the employer cannot take disciplinary action against such. It has therefore become important that employers come up with social media policies that escape the loopholes of the NLRB, and as such protect the companies. Also, it has become important that employers improve the workplace conditions and environment at the workplace, as these are the main motivators behind the negative use of social media by employees. Facilitating a platform that allows employees to air out their opinions within the company, and not in the public through social media use, could also prove helpful in the prevention of degratory comments by employees in social media.

Case study scenario

James Kenton, an employee at Downcity recently went on to put out a comment on Facebook that is degratory to the name of its Mercedes Dealership. The comment, put out on Friday the previous week from his own personal account, from a non-office computer and at non-office hours, sarcastically remarked on the use of plastic tablecloths and soda pop on their recent Mercedes launch. This was a second use of degratory comments by Kenton on social media since he had previously commented on a picture of seven cars in a line up with a caption critiquing why they were not going to a mechanic first, and another one showing a BMW that had been driven into a pool by a 16-year old client’s son. This, he had been warned against and told not to post anything that defamed the company’s image.

Susan Winslow, the general manager at Downcity, is faced with a dilemma on what action to take against him, since this was his second time to do this but he was the top salesperson at the company and had been working in the company for years now. Moreover, she personally believed, against her father’s and HR manager’s opinion that all Kenton needed was a little guidance. Rachel, one of the employees had also expressly told her that whatever Kenton had posted was not a self-opinion as most of the other employees agreed with what he had said. She has been given three alternatives for the cause of action by Toby Diller the HR manager, one, to ignore the post, two, to take disciplinary measures and three, to fire him. All these actions have impacts and repercussions as shown below.

Alternative solutions

  1. Ignore the post
  2. Susan Winslow could choose to ignore the post by Kenton as whatever was posted he did not do at company’s time or from a company’s computer. He therefore was expressing his own personal opinion as an individual and not as an employee of Downcity. Since this was his second time doing so, this will not suffice in handling of the problem as he might keep on posting such negative comments of the company on social media. Furthermore, his account was not set to private and as such clients whom he had befriended may have seen the post, and as such the post may have defamed the company’s image and ultimately affecting its performance. Tyson Beck, the Mercedes dealership manager suggests this and even defends him saying that reminding Kenton his actions were wrong would suffice.

    The impact on the other employees would be one that encourages such degratory comments and reckless behavior in the use of social media. They would see that the administration is ignorant of their behavior and very lenient on such behavior, and so encourage them to pursue the same actions as Kenton. The impact on Greg Coucher, their informant at BMW, would be one that shows inefficiency and leniency in the administration as he had specifically implied that they keep a tighter rein on their staff in the telephone message. The impact on clients would be one that shows that may be Downcity is not a good dealership as employees are spreading degratory messages about the company and they are not doing anything about it.

  3. Take disciplinary measures
  4. Susan Winslow could take disciplinary measures against Kenton to reprimand such conduct among the employees. Toby Diller, the company’s HR manager suggests either putting down his uncooperativeness and stubbornness in his personal file, asking him to revoke the post or even suspending Kenton from work, with payment or not. Since the first time he had used Facebook negatively they had dismissed him with a warning, a disciplinary action would suffice this time, more stern warning and harsher disciplinary action would be effective in handling Kenton.

    The impact of this action on the other employees would be one that showed that the company is intolerant to such reckless use of social media and as such motivate them towards more careful use of social media. This would reduce future happenings of the same, and this correctly handle the problem effectively. The impact on Greg Coucher, their informant at BMW would show that Downcity really has a rein on its employees. The impact on clients would be one that reassures them, as they would see that may be the comment was negatively intentioned by an angry employee, who was then disciplined. This would make sure Downcity does not lose any more clients as such reckless behavior from employees would desist.

  5. Fire him
  6. Susan Winslow could decide to let go of James Kenton, fire him since he was clearly uncooperative. He had been warned the first time and given a second chance. He was clearly undermining authority by choosing to defy the instruction he was given. In as much as he is the top salesperson at Downcity and has been working there for years, he is a liability, and threatens to completely defame the reputation of the company through his posts. Dell Winslow, Susan’s father, and Toby Diller, the HR manager believe that this is the best cause of action. Dell expressly says he would not mind if he was gone by the end of the day.

The impact on the other employees would be one that completely and effectively discourages the use of social media to spread degratory comments that defame the company’s image. The other employees would understand that Downcity is firm on its policies and warnings, and would not tolerate any employee who undermines authority or threatens to affect their performance. The impact on the public and clients would be one that negatively portrays the company. The public and clients would indeed see that may be Kenton was a whistleblower to some mismanagement and issue at the company, and was fired due to such. This would draw too much attention on them and draw the spotlight on Downcity. This action could also realize legal consequences as Kenton could sue on the grounds that his actions were on the grounds of the protected concerted efforts, that he was not expressly saying his own opinion but the opinion of most of the employees.

Conclusion and recommendations

The best cause of action for Susan to take is to take disciplinary action against Kenton. Suspending Kenton without pay would clearly show him that he was on the wrong here and therefore elicit change in him. This would also discourage the other employees from being reckless in their social media use. This action would also reassure clients and other stakeholders like Coucher at BMW that Downcity is stern in the handling of its employees and takes serious measures on employees who do not follow warnings.

The theory of “Just Cause”, applies in this case as the disciplinary measure taken is not in violation of the employee’s rights and will be effective in demonstrating a reprimand by the administration. Kenton clearly refused to heed warning from his first post, and as such disciplinary action against him is “just” to be taken against him. Also, the goal of this disciplinary action is not to destroy the employ or depress him, but improve his performance through eliciting change. Furthermore, firing or termination is termed not as a final measure to take in disciplinary action, but as a failure of the disciplinary action system. Firing Kenton would therefore not be effective in changing his behavior, but taking disciplinary action prescribed above (Suspending him without pay) would prove effective in eliciting his change.

I would recommend the revision of the employee manual to include social media policy to better equip Downcity against such actions by employees in the future. This will make sure the employees understand the prohibitions of social media usage and their repercussions relating to the company.

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