When HR becomes PR nightmare

by Stephanie Zillman10 Jul 2012

A Melbourne organisation has expressed disappointment at an incident which occurred over the weekend – a disgruntled former or current staff member posted a fake job advertisement for the CEO’s position.

The ad, which was posted and removed on Saturday, was a stinging attack on the management style of the current CEO. The fake ad included a list of attributes not sought in a new CEO and included defamatory remarks which implied the current chief was sulky, self-centred, dishonourable and disrespectful of staff, The Age reported. “Are you single-minded, arrogant and unable to keep your staff engaged? Then we don't want you!” the ad read.

Following media reports of the ad’s existence, the CEO expressed her disappointment that the disgruntled individual had not come to her first with the complaints. The current chief said she has no intention of stepping aside and told The Age that an investigation was under way to identify the guilty party. The chief exec added that whoever posted the advertisement had access to the organisation's Seek account and password. “There's three possibilities,” she added. “It is a former staff member, a current staff member or someone who has given the password to someone outside the organisation.”

The incident highlights the importance of two-way communication in employment relationships. HR consultants at EmployeeConnect previously told HC that the importance of regularly conducting culture surveys should never be overlooked. Critically, they must be voluntary, because forcing people to complete it may do more harm than good.

Key takeaways

  • The privacy of employees when they are making potentially negative or even damning information needs to be addressed. It should be clearly stated what the information will be used for, how it’s going to be used and who will be managing the information.
  • Anonymity ensures results will be honest and hopefully results in constructive feedback. Most larger organisations use an external third party to handle the information and reporting of information, that way there’s no identification and no recourse from it.
  • If you discover that there has been a low uptake in anonymous feedback, this can also reveal some underlying issues – perhaps that people are mistrusting and uncertain about what will happen to them if the information is provided. Transparency is therefore vital.
  • For HR to be a truly strategic business partner (and for the survey process to be a success), it needs to engage with the CEO and senior executives to take ownership of the survey.
  • Once the results are back, the ‘cards on the table’ policy needs to continue. Indeed, the success of the management team will be demonstrated by their ability to effect positive action.


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