HR under fire – how can you put out the flames? Part one

by Tammy Buckley14 Oct 2013

Sometimes bad publicity can lead to calls for the person responsible to be axed from their position. But in some situations, McCarthy said the calls should be ignored.

“People are not hired and fired by popular opinion, they are hired and fired on the basis of their capabilities and their performance and everybody makes a mistake,” he said. “As soon as you punish somebody too much at an organisation for making a mistake you’re beginning to develop a blame culture.”

This can lead to a fear making mistakes being installed in the company. McCarthy calls this a perfectionistic culture where an organisation emphasises never making a mistake.  He refers to a research project carried out in New Zealand on 24 manufacturing companies around the country showed that the more they had a perfectionistic culture the more mistakes they made. In this type of culture people do not admit to their mistakes which can mean instead of being picked up internally it’s discovered externally.

Therefore, McCarthy concludes, it would not be advisable to fire something purely on the calls of the public as it sends out the wrong message to the rest of the company.

However, it pays not to ignore it either Howells adds.

“That’s where it comes together in terms of that trust and communication to come back and say what does this mean? Why are people saying that?” she said. “Sometimes it’s good to bring it up so it’s not burying it or creating gossip around it.”

Keep an eye on Wednesday for more advice on how to cope with bad publicity.


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