Hello Readers and welcome to my final blog post for Enterprise 2.0. This week in my Enterprise 2.0 class, we discussed about the wider issues of using Social Technology particularly the risks and concerns, the impact of transparency and ethics and policies. Therefore this week I will talk about the misuse of Social Technology by an organisation, the consequences of the misuse and how it can be avoided.
The organisation I will talk about is Vodafone Australia. Vodafone AU is a mobile telecommunication company that provides service to almost 5 million customers in Australia. Vodafone AU is officially known as Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) due to the merger between Vodafone Australia and Hutchison in June 2009. The merger between Vodafone and Hutchison resulted in the creation of the third-largest mobile operator in Australia with a 27 per cent share of the mobile telecommunication market (Bingemann).
You may not know but in the 2011 financial year, Vodafone had lost almost 600,000 customers due to their insufficient infrastructures. This led to massive data overloads causing customers to have constant network failures which eventually resulted in customers leaving Vodafone. One of the first steps Vodafone took following the aftermath of losing so many customers was to introduce the ‘Talking New Technology’ program. Vodafone staff were encouraged to give feedback on the technology that the company sells and were known as ‘TNT Ambassadors’. One such staff was Arthur Kotsopoulos.
Kotsopoulos was a Vodafone employee working in the Sydney CBD and a self titled ‘Social Media Expert’. He was a TNT Ambassador and also frequently wrote articles for the Vodafone blog. Kotsopoulos who goes by the Twitter handle @GrathiusXR for some reason decided that it was the right time to post rude and insulting comments about Vodafone customers, suppliers and co-workers (Moses). Below is a series of tweets by Kotsopoulos that caused a great deal of negative media attention to Vodafone AU.
“If I have to serve another person who repeats everything I say like a parrot or I have to explain the same thing to them more then 6 times somebody is going to cop a pimp slap backhand.”
“It’s starting to get extremely frustrating right now. Don’t buy a phone IF you have absolutely no idea how to even use the most simple of functions.”
“Some European women would be drop dead gorgeous if they didn’t open their mouth to speak.”
“Ugliest voices I’ve heard in my life. Served an amazing Brazilian with a booty but when she opened her mouth eeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrr….”
What Kotsopoulos did was wrong because it violated the trust between an employer and an employee. He used his position as an employee of the company to vent negative and personal sentiments that hurt the company greatly as well as undermine his own credibility. Kotsopoulos also breached Vodafone’s Code of Conduct and subsequently was terminated from his position with the company.
We can also approach this scenario using Rogerson’s 8 Ethical Principles. Rogerson’s ethical framework for computer professionals comprises a list of eight ethical principles that professionals need to be aware of, and a method by which these ethical principles can be applied to a particular application domain.
- Honour – is the action considered beyond reproach?
What Kotsopoulos has down is definitely beyond reproach as he has significantly damaged the company. What Vodafone had hoped to be a successful program has been tainted by Kotsopoulos’ action. A simple search of ‘Vodafone TNT Ambassadors Program’ will yield a myriad of negative media results.
- Honesty – will the action violate any explicit or implicit agreement or trust?
Kotsopoulos has violated both explicit and implicit agreements. Explicit being the code of conduct that he swore to follow by becoming an employee of Vodafone. Implicit being the trust between employer and employee. Vodafone trust its employees to have good judgement and Kotsopoulos broke this trust.
- Bias – are there any external considerations that may bias the action to be taken?
Kotsopoulos is a very outspoken individual and this may have led to him speaking without thinking.
- Professional Adequacy – is the action within the limits of capability?
Kotsopoulos’ action is definitely within his capability. As a TNT Ambassador, he could’ve easily chosen his words more carefully to better represent his company after such a disastrous year.
- Due care – is the action to be exposed to the best possible quality assurance standards?
Kotsopoulos could have exercised due care before posting such rude tweets. A reasonable person would be careful in what he/she says online especially if he/she represents someone else.
- Fairness – are all stakeholder’s views considered with regard to the action?
Kotsopoulos did not consider the views of all stakeholders. Vodafone will not have approved of his actions if they knew beforehand what he was going to do.
- Consideration of social cost – is the appropriate accountability and responsibility accepted with respect to this action?
Kotsopoulos at the time of his posts did not take accountability and responsibility for his actions. As Social media expert Tiphereth Gloria, from VML Australia puts it “Mr Kotsopoulos’ social media experience meant he had no excuse for not knowing what he was doing. It’s like he wants people to see his rants and he probably thinks his managers are not going to notice or he’s egotistical enough to think he can get away with it.”
- Effective and efficient action – is the action suitable, given the objectives set, and is it to be completed using the least expenditure of resources?
If the objective of Kotsopoulos was to bring bad press to Vodafone and himself than yes he has used his resources effectively. Social media is free and words can spread very quickly.
Kotsopoulos was terminated shortly due to his misuse of social media. As for Vodafone, they generated a lot of bad media. The negative press went viral, and to this day is the only exposure most people have had to the TNT program. All because Vodafone wanted to cannibalise their own workforce for unpaid advertising overtime (McKinney). Although in hindsight, this did not really hurt Vodafone as at that time other company issues such as poor network service overshadowed this social media debacle.
Although policies have been put in place to stop the misuse of social media, it is still impossible to stop any individual if they so choose to follow in Kotsopoulo’ footstep. What companies must do to minimise the risk of employee’s misusing social media is to have adequate training and support. Clever companies, such as Microsoft and Dell, know the value to be had in an engaged, informed workforce carefully representing the brand in social media. Both companies have implemented staff training programs to ensure employees know how to use social media, and most importantly, how to engage with customers (Pring).
This here concludes my blog series for Enterprise 2.0. Thank you for taking time to read my posts and hopefully you I’ll see you my future posts!