In June 2014, Social Media was harnessed to put pressure on Opera Australia because of a statement previously posted on Facebook by Georgian Opera Singer Tamar Iveri.  Opera Australia subsequently advised that they had addressed the issues with Ms Iveri and had accepted her explanation that the post was written by her husband.

A few days later, Limelight magazine published an article which detailed what would seem to have been a more thorough investigation into the matter, which concluded Ms Iveri may have been dishonest in her response to Opera Australia.

Comments made on social media do not have to reach a wide audience to breach company policies and standards. The most common scenario is likely to be on-line bullying or harassment between employees.

So if this was your workplace, and this past weekend was all about your business, and the behaviour of one of your staff or contractors, do you know what you would do?

If you are not absolutely sure, this is one of those situations where you really need to call in the experts. You need to have the skills to properly investigate the whole situation. You need to resist the temptation to draw a conclusion too quickly.

You also need to ask if any of your other staff or contractors’ are put at risk by the behaviour? In terms of the Anti Discrimination Act, other staff would potentially be at risk if they could be “offended, intimidated or humiliated” by the behaviour.

Then of course, you have to consider your organisation’s reputation.

And then, only after you have considered the facts – and impact – of the behaviour, should you look at the individual’s employment contract. Because if you check the contract first, and there does not seem to be an easy way for you to break the contract, your Investigation may not be so objective.

A poor investigation which draws faulty conclusions will fool no one, and will most likely make the situation worse.

So, if you did escape this weekend without being embroiled in a social media storm, check your policies, check your training, and check your contracts. Would they support you – and your managers – and your staff – through a situation like this?

Would your contracts and policies give clear guidance on what to do, and how to handle the whole situation?

I was running a training program just last week for a client – who operates Theatres in Australia – and we spent quite some time discussing the fact that posting offensive and bullying personal opinions on social media can breach your employment contract.  This is not something most employees know right now.

Recently an employee whose employment was terminated due to comments made on social media, lost their case for Unfair Dismissal at the Fair Work Commission. The Commission agreed with the employer that there was a clear association between the employee and the employer on social media, and that the comments breached their employment conditions.

To be successful in their defence the employer had to demonstrate the employee had been trained and was aware of the company’s policies. They also had to demonstrate that their investigation into the matter was fair.

Let’s face it – this is relatively new ground for all of us. Every time I have conducted an Investigation into a complaint of Bullying or Harassment I have found points along the way that could have been handled very differently, and resulted in a very different outcome. Hindsight is wonderful! The important thing though is that we learn every time.

Do you know what you would do?

If your answer is no – this is your wake up call.  Today might be the day to contact me at Worksense to find the solutions you need.


Update:  Opera Australia has announced that Ms Iveri will no longer be performing with them.  We certainly wish them the very best with their upcoming season; we know no one would envy the weekend they have had.

This  piece from the Sydney Morning Herald would indicate that fans and sponsors are happy with Opera Australia’s response