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Workers canned for 'disloyal' Facebook post

TT/The Local · 3 Jan 2011, 17:35

Published: 03 Jan 2011 10:41 GMT+01:00
Updated: 03 Jan 2011 17:35 GMT+01:00

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During a break at work one of the workers updated his Facebook status with the words, "One work day of the week to go in this madhouse", the local Skaraborgs Allehanda newspaper reports.

What took the man less than thirty seconds to write cost him his job. Upon viewing the man's status update, his employers interpreted the post as disloyal and sent the man packing.

Two colleagues were also fired for commenting on the post, according to several media reports.

Although the man was not a direct employee of Volvo, but was working for a staffing agency, Volvo made it clear that the man was not welcome back.

The fact that he had praised Volvo in other status updates made no difference, according to the Skaraborgs Allehanda.

The man defended himself by saying that he was in a bad mood as his mother was seriously ill. She died two days later.

After taking a three day absence from work, the man returned and was called into a meeting where he learned that he wasn't welcome back because of what he wrote on Facebook.

The Swedish trade Union organisation LO, which represents 1.5 million workers in Sweden, has no central policy on the use of social media, such as Twitter and Facebook at the place of work.

However, LO ombudsman, Johan Ingelskog is skeptical toward employers who fire workers over what they may write on social media websites.

"If you write something on Facebook, your employer should not be able to sack you for it," he told The Local on Monday.

Story continues below…

Mårten Vikfors, head of media relations at Volvo Group AB, the parent company of Volvo Powertrain, told The Local that employees are welcome to use social media.

"They should, among other things, be judicious and show respect as well as follow the company's code of conduct," he said.

TT/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

11:50 January 3, 2011 by krow
'All animals are equal but some are more equal than others' This also is found in Sweden. who said swedes dont like respect and to boss over someone is justifiable?
11:57 January 3, 2011 by calebian22
Ranting about your employer or your job, is never a good idea. Even if you are not fired, employers can penalize you in other ways. Afterall, employers can be just as petty as their employees.
12:09 January 3, 2011 by Nilspet
Employers can be mean animals and that is why we need the union sometimes. I do think that in a civilized society like Sweden a big firm like Volvo should be allowed to fire this guy based on his post on facebook. It is about freedom of speech and as such includes his own feelings and opinions. (the state is spending lots of money to protect Las Vilks because they protect freedom of speech right?) If they fired him because he used social media web at work then it would sound OK to me if there were a rule against usage of facebook at Volvo.

I am curious: how could his employer read his post? I would never be facebook friends with my boss. Never. Not that I do not want him to read my posts but I am 100% not interested in his private life on the internet. As long as we get good work done, I am happy with that.
12:22 January 3, 2011 by Strongbow

Freedom of speech is only protected towards the public (stat, kommun). You still have to face the consequences of your expressions.

"1 § Varje medborgare är gentemot det allmänna tillförsäkrad

1. yttrandefrihet: frihet att i tal, skrift eller bild eller på annat sätt meddela upplysningar samt uttrycka tankar, åsikter och känslor,"
12:23 January 3, 2011 by jbat

This is what we call it "Freedom of Speech" and "Freedom to act".. these 2 freedoms should always both be allowed at the same time...

In other word... "Freedom of Speech" must be accompanied with "Freedom to act"..

and vice versa...

So in this case.. both the worker and Volvo use their own right.. which is SOOOOO GOOOOOOD for this world!
12:33 January 3, 2011 by Nilspet
Sorry ... it was a typo in my earlier post. I wanted to say "I do not think ...."

@ Strongbow

I understand all that you wrote. Let me ask a question ... why do let state of Sweden spend a lot of our tax money to protect Lars Vilks? Why don't we let him face consequences? He cannot even travel alone these days as far as I understand. Lars Vilks is a private individual.

In my opinion it is totally OK if a tiny firm acted like that but a big firm like Volvo should not act emotionally. If your girlfriend/boyfriends wants to "göra slut" with you because she/he is unhappy with your post it is fine but it is odd that "Volvo" acted like that. Volvo should worry more about its image in car quality rather than a little employee expressing his opinion about one mad little boss.
12:54 January 3, 2011 by statC
The punishment doesn't fit the crime."Madhouse" is such a mild word. I think you have to be a really nasty person to take someone's income from them over such a mild word. This boss sounds like one of those people who likes to lord over everyone. Total power trip. I'm sure there could have been many other effective and more discrete means to handle the "situation". Shame on Volvo!
12:55 January 3, 2011 by landofthesheeple
I was going to buy a Volvo here in Sweden, but now, I will buy a Chrysler product - a Challenger to be exact. Yes, Volvo, You suck big time.

As far as face users go, You should be aware that You put Yourselves in the spotlight and have no privacy to that end. Why do people use it anyway, Status?
13:09 January 3, 2011 by RobinHood
An employee should have the freedom to write anything he/she wants on his/her Facebook, and his/her employer should have the freedom to employ , or not employ, anybody he/she/it wants.

Ain't freedom a bitch.
13:18 January 3, 2011 by Nilspet

Exactly. Thanks for pointing that out. I agree with you that it is a mild word and there are many discrete ways to deal with this (if it should have been dealt with all). I would care more about his ability to carry out the work than his facebook posts. So maybe that boss spends loads of time reading employees' facebook and blogs instead of supervising the actual work???

To me it sounds like someone very emotional at Volvo was signing the marching order. Such a big multinational firm should never make its decision emotionally or against someone's freedom of expressions. I can tell you why I advocate the right of little people (e.g. poor employees) expressing their feelings/emotions against big people. It is because sometime ago I was working as a high school teacher and guess what ... I did hear students gossiping behind my back from time to time. It wasn't so nice to know and what did I do to them? ... absolutely nothing! They had the right to be mad at me when I gave them a lot of hard work to do. As long as they did their homework and all the assignments I passed them. And it turned out that those students that were critical of me did a really great job... far better than those that were silent. Maybe Volvo had just missed one of the potentially most talented workers because it could not handle his frustrations at the madhouse.
13:19 January 3, 2011 by sneal
whoa whoa whoa....A chrysler...must you take it that far?!
13:27 January 3, 2011 by idylie
Now all Sweden and some abroad know that Volvo is indeed a madhouse, well done Volvo. Hopefully this guy will get a better job somewhere else, at least he's not going to find worse.

By the way, facebook by default set the wall as public, so anyone, even those who are not in your contacts, can see it, so that's a good reminder to set it private.
13:41 January 3, 2011 by George C
Has anyone considered that there might be more behind the decision to get rid of this guy.

I worked for Volvo for over 36 years and always found it to be a good company.
13:49 January 3, 2011 by Strongbow

Lars Vilks is doing nothing illegal. Yet, he is being harassed and threatened. The police is protecting him as they would every other citizen that is harassed or threatened, since it is illegal. Other may use their freedom to criticize him as long as they stay legal.
14:08 January 3, 2011 by Swedesmith

Exactly! Anyone dumb enough to criticize your place of employment on a public access site such as Facebook is probably not the best employee in the first place. Volvo was probably looking for the chance to get rid of him.
14:15 January 3, 2011 by sneal
oh good god, you know "madhouse" isn't even necessarily an insult. And to be honest most time I have ever heard anyone say it, it is usually as a joke.
15:02 January 3, 2011 by Nilspet
We probably do not know the whole truth behind this incident. Anyway ... if Volvo fired this guy because of his incompetence or failure to perform given tasks satisfactorily then it would be a perfectly good example to all of its employees to kick him out. But to fire him because a boss found out that he wrote a word like "madhouse" then this is really a madhouse with a mad boss. Sure enough he'd be happier elsewhere. Of course such a word should be taken as a joke by any boss as pointed out by sneal #16.

Volvo should make sure that the boss who spends time reading his subordinates's facebook and blogs really works satisfactorily. I wonder if Volvo has hired someone to go through all their employees's facebook and blogs to find out if there were any personal opinions/expressions they dislike or disagree. If a webmaster of the website of Volvo wrote stupid things on the company's website(s) then he/she should be fired if not just warned but a facebook page is a personal thing. Clearly You have every right to write anything in your diary (even about your boss's madness) and facebook is like a diary but so much more open (especially to those who are curious about others) ... so indeed the company should not be reading his facebook at all. It should view it as his diary. Just focus on his quality at work rather than what he writes in his internet diary.

I am sure that most of you agree that worldwide reputation and quality of big firms like Volvo is not judged by general publics by what their employees write on their personal facebook or blogs rather the genuine quality of equipment, vehicles and services it delivers to its customers and what they have to offer to their potential customers. If my Volvo car works perfectly well in all weather conditions, etc and I am happy with the service I get .. I would not change my view on Volvo just because an employee calls the factory a madhouse. I would rather view it as a personal joke.
15:06 January 3, 2011 by Swedesmith
No, "madhouse" is not much of an insult, but (in today's competitive job market) it is not wise to give your boss any ammunition in which to can you.
15:34 January 3, 2011 by mojofat
Volvo sounds like a teenage girl flying into hysterics. They couldn't give this guy a verbal or written warning first? Maybe Volvo doesn't care about attracting top talent...of course, that may be why they can't make cars that people want to buy anymore (except in Sweden).
16:38 January 3, 2011 by coolguy09
where is FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION ??? . Now i understand the rising economies India,china, Malaysia dont pay head to these stupid things, i remember my friend in ZTE and one in Banglore calling his boss HITLER and nothing happened. Its time to change the attitude
17:03 January 3, 2011 by dwb5555
madhouse is not a bad thing. it can mean that they were really busy so everything is going crazy.
17:49 January 3, 2011 by Julie Hedberg
I agree with statC and dwb5555 I often use the word madhouse when we were very busy or nothing went right for me that day. Its all in how you want to look at the word. I myself think, that boss was on a power trip look at me.
19:01 January 3, 2011 by scandinavian leather
All of you have waxed on about big, bad Volvo. The man did not work for Volvo, but for a staffing agency (it's in the article). These companies tell you that you can be sacked at the drop of a hat.

And if you're stupid enough to bite the hand that feeds you......
21:07 January 3, 2011 by Nilspet
@ scandinavian leather

According to the news reported in Swedish newspapers..it was a departmental boss at Volvo that found out about this guy's facebook post. So it was Volvo that sacked him through the hand of the staffing agency. In fact they sacked NOT only him but two other employees that commented on the post. How mad is that? I do not really think that a CEO of Volvo would order the sacking of 3 people (either their own employees or workers via staffing agencies) based on their facebook posts. It really struck me that his happens in an open society like ours. If this happened in China I would not be surprised at all.

Question yourself: Why would a boss go and read his/her subordinates's facebook posts? For what reason? I consider such a boss very childish.
00:55 January 4, 2011 by scandinavian leather

My employers don't allow facebook at work. Getting paid to do a job, not take potshots on some lame social engineering site. You can say he did it at home but the article says "During a break". Surprisingly, companies stay in business by ther employees working

So, we can agree to disagree but having worked for temp agencies worldwide I can tell you that they can cancel the contract with little or no excuse.

Happy New Year
01:44 January 4, 2011 by Nilspet
@ scandinavian leather

Thanks for sharing your experience. Nice that your employers have a clear policy read out to you. Of course if it is stated in the job contract then the rule should not be violated. I am not sure though that Volvo has such a rule (i.e. no usage of social media at work). And let me "guess" that the Volvo boss who sacked the 3 guys spent his/her time reading facebook or any other lame webs during his/her office hours. I am quite sure he/she discovered the post using a company's computer.

I know of some jobs where social media are forbidden during office hours much like no-smoking policy introduced at some kommun in Sweden. So journalists should soon report whether Volvo/staffing agency bans FB during office hours or not? If not then it means that that boss is a very mad one (sacking 3 people based on a single FB post). A genuinely competent boss would not at all go and read employees's facebook, believe me. A truly good boss would focus on the the quality of work and not the private life (cyber life included). Volvo's car quality is not judged by what its employees write in the diary but what they produce. I would not buy a Volvo car because I heard rumors that their employees write good stuff about the company and organization on their facebook pages, rather I would consider the quality of the product in order to make a decision.

I hope I have stated my points very clearly based on my experience both as a subordinate and superordinate.

PS: You can imagine what would happen if that guy wrote this "Oh .. I love this factory .. it is such a heaven to me. The boss is fantastic". Such an emotional boss would probably not fire them (even their work capability is reduced due to the time they spent on FB). But since it was something he/she did not like then he/she used the power to get rid of the weaker people...and I detest that!

Anyway, HAPPY New Year to you :)
04:37 January 4, 2011 by Maler1971
When I use the term "madhouse" I usually mean that the office was crazy busy! So how is that 'disloyal'? and by the way-who would care anyway
10:50 January 4, 2011 by jwlundgren
All involved were wrong. The employer for blowing up the incident and generating negative publicity for itself, and the employee for choosing a bad moment to blow off steam. Everyone should frequently monitor their privacy settings and take this as a warning not to have current employers or coworkers on your 'friends' list. As a 'guest worker', facebook is very useful in keeping up with friends and family, but as with all internet activity is has it's place and its limits.
03:29 January 5, 2011 by volvoman9
I am a union official in a company owed by one of the richest men in the world. The union recently won back the job of the president of the local who had been dismissed for a lack of loyalty. He, with the approval of his executive board and membership, dared to intervene in the public service commissions hearings over a proposed rate increase for the customers of one region. This was considered dis-loyal even though he was a rate payer and a private citizen. He was expressing the wishes of his membership and acting on the behalf of his fellow citizens. He was accused of attempting to cost his employer millions in lost revenue. This case went to arbitration.

This behavior must stop! The corporate world has decided that they can regulate free speech over the question of loyalty to ones employer. There is no regulation that I'm aware of that allows them the luxury of deciding what an employee may think or say about their employer. The control that the corporate world is attempting to impose on all of us is staggering and we must stand up and say no more. This is almost Orwellian in substance and is occurring all over the world. Wake up and stand up while you still can.
17:49 January 5, 2011 by cogito
My experience with large Swedish organizations, both public and private, is that the management is often shockingly incompetent. Too often the bosses are absent on "business trips, " which is good, as it keeps them out of the way; otherwise they are constantly attending "leadership" courses.

Volvo spends millions on advertising, image and branding. lol
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