Fiona Smith Columnist

Fiona writes on workplace issues, including management, psychology, workplace design, human resources and recruitment. She is a former Work Space editor at The Australian Financial Review and has also covered property, technology, architecture and general news.

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“Mass execution”: HMV staff tweets expose a failure to plan

Published 04 February 2013 12:25, Updated 06 February 2013 17:29

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“Mass execution”: HMV staff tweets expose a failure to plan

In Britain HMV paid the price for its lack of social media planning. Photo: Reuters

People who work at music retailer HMV are a passionate bunch. Who can blame them? There are not many ways you can work in the music industry and get a wage.

So it is not surprising that HMV intern, Poppy Rose Cleere, started tweeting her distress as 60 employees were informed that they were being retrenched from the London head office.

“There are over 60 of us being fired at once! Mass execution of loyal employees who love the brand,” she broadcast to the account’s 60,000 followers.

More intriguing was the fact that the administrators of the struggling company had not ensured that the person in charge of their Twitter account (who was also being fired) had not handed over the password first.

It is common practise, these days, for the hapless people at the sharp end of a retrenchment campaign to come back to their desks after the announcements to find that they are locked out of their computers and that there is a security guard collecting mobile phones and security passes.

But in this case, HMV’s administrators had not factored in the risk of reputational damage through social media.

This can’t have been a total surprise to Cleere. As she explained in her tweets, the company had never quite “got” social media. Her dedication to her job was such that she had previously offered to continue her work as the social media planner for free, but she made the retrenchment hit list anyway.

And after the embarrassing spectacle of executives pleading for the help of surviving staffers to close down the Twitter account, Cleere helped them out by providing the password and instructions on how to remove her as the administrator of the account.

The company is certainly an authority on music, but the digital world has left it (and, to be fair, most other music retailers) in the dust.

Despite the company’s befuddlement about social media, their online response to Cleere’s tweets was pretty classy: “One of our departing colleagues was understandably upset. We’re still here thou, thx for supporting hmv thro these challenging times”, said the official Twitter feed.

If reports are to be believed, Cleere has been “inundated” with job offers since she became Twitter-famous.

The incident is a reminder that, as companies realise they cannot afford to ignore social media, they also need to have strategies to deal with “friendly fire”.

Last year, a Sydney Vodafone employee embarrassed his employer by calling customers “mentally retarded” and saying he wanted to “pimp-slap” the next customer who spoke to him.

Unfortunately, he also listed himself on LinkedIn as a Vodafone ambassador and social media expert. The company suspended the staffer pending a full investigation.

In the UK, Samuel Crisp, an Apple employee, ranted about the performance of his “jesusPhone” (AKA the iPhone) and was sacked from his job as a specialist in one of the company’s stores.

A colleague, who was his Facebook “friend”, ratted him out to his boss.

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