Nothing like a solid HR policy to get in the way of some good natured 'bashing the boss on Facebook' antics.
Turns out, at least in the case of the employee fired by American Medical Response of Connecticut, even an all-encompassing and overly broad policy, ('don't say anything at all negative about the company in any way on the internet), was still not enough of a deterrent to stop this employee from exercising what the NLRB contends is her right, and that is not significantly different from water cooler or happy hour commiserating with co-workers.
I've been thinking about policy development, application, and enforcement lately, not really so much about the above mentioned 'Facebook Firing' case, but in the broader context of what the overall set of policies, (and the attitude towards enforcing them) say about an organization's culture, and how the organization is perceived by new entrants to the fold.
Most of the time review and communication of an organization's policies and norms is kind of an individual exercise. We make sure each new hire is aware of and (sort of) knows how to comply with our policies, (at least the important ones). We confirm that every employee knows where to find the documentation about our policies. But most companies don't host open employee forums or implement interactive tech tools to discuss, create, modify, or even eliminate policies. Questions and answers about policies are usually private discussions.
And employee investigations of alleged policy violations also tend to examine and evaluate policies on a one-off kind of basis. Unless an employee really goes crazy, transgressions tend to be limited to a single policy violation (attendance, dress code, internet use, etc.). Usually the HR pro focuses on the demonstrated behavior compared to the policy, (or at least the expectations) for that one area only.
This individual or isolated focus is necessary really; if a random new hire doesn't like the company travel policy; well, too bad. And when an employee needs to be disciplined for taking too many three hour lunches, there usually isn't a call or need for a careful review of the travel expense policies.
Where it starts to get interesting, and I think much more illuminating, is when an organization is compelled to to make a more comprehensive review of its policies in a broad context. The kind of review that companies undergo when having to assimilate a newly acquired company.
Questions from the new group abound. Whose benefit plans are better? How much vacation will I get? Can I work from home? Is my dog still welcome in the office?
And on and on.
The thing is most companies believe they have a kind of unique and special and winning culture. And that the policies they have established help to outline and support their wonderful culture. But once they are put in place they tend not to get much revision or consideration, at least not on a holistic level.
Until you have to assimilate a few hundred or thousand people from another company, one that believes that they too, have a unique and special and winning culture it is easy to kind of revel in your own 'specialness'. In these exercises your culture gets put under the kind of scrutiny that is typically just not practical or possible in the course of normal business.
Sure, your company is special, and fantastic, and progressive and all that. I'm sure of it.
But the folks who aren't so sure are the newest few thousand colleagues that just found out puppies aren't welcome in the workplace anymore.