Case Presentation (Case Study – Should We Fire Him for That Post?)

Case Presentation After analyzing the case, acting as consultants, will present their recommendation about how the respective â??case problemâ?? can be resolved to the rest of the class who will take the role of the client. Given the aim of the presentation the presenting person should be dressed in business dress and should present their recommendations in a professional manner as they would to a corporate audience/client, i.e. not as students. This activity builds studentsâ?? ability to identify, analyse and understand organizational problems/management challenges. The presented recommendation should draw explicitly on the theory covered in the unit up to the date of the respective presentation. Working with others is a key part of all professional careers so this provides an opportunity to work effectively with peers. Moreover, performance evaluation is often related to how a group as a whole performs. For this reason it is essential that group members work effectively, that the workload is shared equitably and that individual differences are resolved in a collegial fashion. In the event that concerns are raised about a lack of input from individual group members, provided that appropriate evidence is provided then the respective group member will be marked according to their documented individual input alone. Each case presentation should have the following structure: Overview of situation and context (brief â?? based on the assumption that the class/client are fully aware of what has transpired thus far) Identification of problem/s Recommendations (should also include implementation of recommendation, e.g. timeline, short and long-term planning, personnel involved etc.) Risks and Contingencies associated with recommendations Case presentations should be a maximum of 30 minutes followed by 20 minutes Q & A (50 mins total). The presenting group should provide a hard copy of their slides to the unit coordinator/lecturer at the beginning of the respective class. Students will be provided with feedback on their performance in the case presentation through Blackboard under â??My Gradesâ?? in order to facilitate further development of learning. Note that 10% of the presentation will be awarded for the total group performance and 10% will be awarded for demonstrated individual performance i.e. in the presentation and in the Q & A. In order to maximize individual performance students will need to attend all preparation meetings and contribute equitably to case presentation. It is studentsâ?? responsibility to ensure that the workload is distributed equitably among the presenters. Students are required to attend ALL presentations (and not just their own) and participate in the discussions that ensue from the presentations. Students should inform their unit coordinator/lecturer/tutor via email if they are unable to attend a presentation.Referencing styleThe referencing style for this unit is Chicago.More information can be found on this style from the Library web site:

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Case Study
Should We
Fire Him for
That Post?
A small-business owner reacts to a prized employeeâ??s
inappropriate Facebook commentary.
by Mary Anne Watson and Gabrielle R. Lopiano
canapés, not â??low classâ? barbecue.
When he found out that Tyson was
planning to use plastic tablecloths,
Kenton had even come by Susannahâ??s
office to say, â??This isnâ??t a
Walmart employee
picnic. Weâ??re selling
luxury here. What
are our customers going to think?�
Susannah had seen his point, but
she also trusted Tyson.
â??This is an embarrassment, Susie,â?
Dell said now. â??The kid clearly hasnâ??t
learned his lesson. Heâ??s got to go.â?
â??Letâ??s not be rash, Dad,â? she
replied. â??Iâ??ll deal with it as soon as
Iâ??m in.â?
Whatâ??s Our Policy on This?
Tyson and Susannah were hunched
over her computer, looking at
Kentonâ??s Facebook page. Dell sat
on the small office couch with his
arms crossed.
y the time Susannah Winslow
one of Downcityâ??s most successful
remembered that her ringer
salespeople. He had joined the
was off, she had seven text
messages from her father, Dell,
who was also her boss. Dell was
Mercedes dealership straight out
important Mercedes launch in years.
of college and quickly became its
Nothing says luxury like plastic
biggest producer, far outselling his
tablecloths and soda pop.� Kenton
peers across the companyâ??s locations.
had posted a photo of a soda can with
which owned BMW, Range Rover,
Dell continued, â??Greg Coucher
the Downcity Motors sign looming in
and Mercedes-Benz dealerships in
called over the weekend. I just heard
Charlotte, North Carolina, and had
the voicemail this morning.� Coucher
been in the Winslow family for three
was Downcityâ??s contact at BMW
the president of Downcity Motors,
the background.
â??OK,â? Tyson said. â??Itâ??s pretty bad.
Iâ??ll have him delete it.â?
â??But hasnâ??t the whole world
generations. Susannah, the general
headquarters. â??He said that Kenton
manager, was poised to take over in
wrote something nasty about Fridayâ??s
already seen it?� Dell asked. He
five years, when her dad retired.
Mercedes launch, and he was glad
didnâ??t have a Facebook account and
it wasnâ??t about a BMW promotion. He
wasnâ??t interested in social media.
Itâ??s Monday morning, Dad, she
thought, sighing. Dell was an early
implied that we need to keep a tighter
His daughter handled Downcityâ??s
riser who got to his office at 6:30 am.
rein on our staff.�
online presence.
Still, he rarely sent eâ??mails or texts at
Susannah had heard
that hour. Something was clearly up.
Kentonâ??s griping about the
â??Dad, itâ??s me,â? she said when he
picked up the phone.
â??Susie. Finally. Weâ??ve got a
problem. Kentonâ??s been badTAMARA SHOPSIN
Tell us what youâ??d
do in this situation.
Go to
Susannah read: â??So thrilled that
Downcity went â??all outâ?? for the most
mouthing us on Facebook again.�
Everyone at the company called
rollout. Tyson Beck, the
Mercedes dealership sales
â??Not really,â? Susannah replied.
â??He can restrict who sees it,
depending on his privacy settings.
And it looks like�� She clicked
manager, had been in charge
through to the post. â??Shootâ??he
of planning it, but Kenton had
shared it pretty broadly.�
been breathing down his
â??So thatâ??s how Greg Coucher saw
neck for weeks, asking
it?â? Dell asked. â??And how do we know
James Kenton by his last name,
for details. He wanted
that no one at Mercedes headquarters
a sign of affection and respect for
them to serve fancy
has seen it?�
March 2016 Harvard Business Review 103
Case Study
Teaching Notes
Susannah grimaced. She and Greg
were Facebook friends; she assumed
Tyson looked shocked. â??Are you
suggesting we fire him? He posted
that he had friended staff members
this late Friday night, clearly not on
at the other Downcity dealerships
company time or from a company
and also car company executives
computer. He thinks heâ??s being funny.
heâ??d met.
Heâ??s not trying to hurt the company.â?
â??Only Kentonâ??s â??friendsâ?? would
â??But he is hurting itâ??at least
see his posts, Dad,� Susannah said,
according to Greg Coucher.� Then
thinking of all the loyal customers
Dell smiled. â??Are you worried about
whom Kenton had probably friended.
hitting your numbers without him?�
â??Right,â? said Tyson. â??Unless his
friends repost the photo.�
Susannah shot him a â??youâ??re not
helping matters� look.
â??Iâ??ll remind him that this is
inappropriate,� Tyson promised.
â??Iâ??m sure heâ??ll take it down, just
like last time.�
About a month earlier, another
salesperson had pointed out to
â??Of course I am,â? Tyson said.
â??Thatâ??s what you pay me to do, and
heâ??s our biggest producer. Not only
would we be kissing sales good-bye,
but Iâ??d have to train a new person.â?
Toby Diller, Downcityâ??s head of
HR, walked in. â??Iâ??m sorry Iâ??m late,â?
he said. â??I got your eâ??mail, Susannah.
Has anyone talked to Kenton yet?�
â??I was about to,â? Tyson said.
Susannah that Kenton had posted
â??Letâ??s hear from Toby first,â? Dell
two photos: One was of seven cars
said. â??We let Kenton get away with a
lined up for service in the lot with the
slap on the wrist last time, but donâ??t
caption â??Why am I here before the
we have a policy on this sort of thing?�
mechanics?� The other was of a BMW
that had been driven into a pond by
their employee manual to cover
social media. He and Susannah
during a test drive. When Tyson and
exchanged glances. Theyâ??d been
Susannah had talked to Kenton about
talking about this for months, but it
the pictures, heâ??d said that he was
kept dropping down on the to-do list.
â??All we have is a line that reads, â??No
with friends and family members. He
one should be disrespectful or use
then pointed out that the company
profanity or any other language that
should think about taking a harder
injures the image or reputation of the
line with tardy employees and
company,â??â? Toby said.
â??Well, this seems to be a clear
â??We were clear that
violation of that,� Susannah
this shouldnâ??t happen
replied. â??And what about
again,� Dell said, and he
the section on unauthorized
was right. Susannah had
asked Kenton not to post
Tyson jumped in. â??He
anything else that reflected
didnâ??t give an interview.
negatively on Downcity or
Thereâ??s no journalist
its customers and partners.
involved here.�
â??At some point we have
to question Kentonâ??s
We want students to become more aware of the
consequences of their posts and the limitations
on â??freedom of speechâ? at work. The case might
also frame a discussion about fairness in firing and
other disciplinary actions and the impact of the
employment-at-will doctrine.
We think itâ??s a topic they can easily relate to and
debate. Some will think the salesperson is disloyal
and deserves to be let go. Others will defend him
because he posted those comments on a private
site on his own time.
Toby explained that technically
the 16-year-old son of a customer
teenage test drivers.
Employee use of social media has become
increasingly important over the past decade,
and no one can deny its power to make or
break a companyâ??s reputation.
long,â? Dell said. â??I donâ??t get this
they didnâ??t. They hadnâ??t yet updated
who had let the boy take the wheel
just sharing his work experiences
Mary Anne Watson and Gabrielle R. Lopiano developed
the case on which this one is based for use in HR classes.
â??Thatâ??s just what
Facebook seems
generation. Not one bit.�
â??Donâ??t be such a curmudgeon,â?
HBRâ??s fictionalized
case studies
present problems
faced by leaders
in real companies
and offer solutions
from experts. This
one is based on
â??Facebook Folly
at Northeast
BMW� (case no.
NA0353-PDFENG), by Gabrielle
R. Lopiano and
Mary A. Watson
(North American
Case Research
Association, 2015),
which is available
Susannah countered. â??We were all
young once, and if weâ??d had access to
the technology Millennials have, we
probably would have gotten into the
same trouble.�
â??Heâ??s getting us in troubleâ??thatâ??s
the difference,â? Dell said. â??Susie,
figure this out. I think Iâ??ve made my
views clear. Iâ??d be happy to see him
gone by the end of the day, even if he
is our top salesman.�
Make an Example of Him?
Susannah and Toby climbed
into a Range Rover Sport. The
dealership had few places for a
private conversation, so they often
used the roomy interior of one
of their cars.
â??Itâ??s impossible to think with
like to meâ??people
Tyson and Dad hovering,� Susannah
he can represent
said. â??I just need to understand
the company.�
themselves all day
my options.�
judgment and whether
104 Harvard Business Review March 2016
â??I guess Iâ??m
â??I think youâ??ve
got three,� Toby
anything that wasnâ??t true. He
more worried
just added some sarcasm. We all
said. â??First, since the
about what he might say.
thought the refreshments were a
photos he posted of the
Kentonâ??s a good guy; if
little off-brand.�
event were his own, and
we insist that this canâ??t
he was expressing his
opinionâ??which heâ??s entitled
happen again, I think heâ??ll
try his best. But if we fire him,
toâ??on his personal Facebook page,
heâ??s essentially free to say whatever
we could ignore it.�
he wants about us.�
â??That seems awfully lenient to me,â?
â??I hear you,â? said Toby. â??But Iâ??m
Susannah said. â??I donâ??t want himâ??or
more in Dellâ??s camp. We gave Kenton
anyone elseâ??thinking this kind of
a second chance to demonstrate
behavior is OK.�
good judgment, and he failed again.
â??The second option is to make an
Besides, I donâ??t think we can decide
example of him. Because he damaged
not to fire him just because of what
the companyâ??s reputation in a public
he might post on Facebook. Then itâ??s
forum, we could take some sort of
as if weâ??re hogtied because heâ??s such
disciplinary action.� Toby laid out
a hothead.�
a few alternatives: make a note in
Kentonâ??s personnel file, request that
he rescind his remarks, or suspend
him from work, with or without pay.
â??And you think we could legally do
any of those things?�
â??I do. I think we could even fire
Mary Anne
Watson is a
professor of
and the associate
director of the
TECO Energy
Center for
Leadership at
the University of
Tampa. Gabrielle
R. Lopiano is a
PhD candidate in
organization and
management at
Emory Universityâ??s
Goizueta Business
â??On the other hand,â? Rachel
continued, â??what he did was
unnecessary and stupid. He got in
trouble once but still did it again. He
should have tighter privacy settings
and maybe think twice before
friending his professional contacts.
And he should approach Tyson or
you directly if he wants things done
differently at the dealershipâ??not
gripe with all of us or do it online.�
Susannah winced. Kenton had
come to her and Tyson; theyâ??d just
ignored his feedback.
Kenton did have them in a bind,
Rachel was on a roll: â??If you
Susannah thought.
look through his feed, youâ??ll see that
Get Ready for a
New Generation
Downcity too. He loves his job and
he says a lot of positive things about
our cars, which is why heâ??s so good
The next day Susannah went to
at selling them. But I worry that
Greenâ??s Lunch with Rachel Evans,
he just canâ??t help himself and itâ??s
him. Thatâ??s the third option. He
a rising star on the sales team, for
only a matter of time before he
violated the employee handbook
one of their regular get-togethers.
does it again.�
when he was disrespectful of the
Knowing how challenging it could
company image, and it was a second
sometimes be to work with almost
offense. That would set a clear
all men, Susannah had taken Rachel
precedent regarding employee social
under her wing.
media use, which, given the age of
many of our new hires, is becoming
increasingly important.�
Susannah asked if Kenton might
Susannah smiled. â??Thanks,
Rachel. That was very helpful.
How was the conference
â??I get that you probably canâ??t talk
about the Kenton thing,� Rachel said
after theyâ??d ordered. â??But remember
when you asked me to help you
sue. â??He might,â? Toby said, â??but I
understand our generation? I wonder
if I can shed any light.�
She wasnâ??t so sure. Were they
essentially censoring Kenton? What
â??I can see how this might not be
if he had posted something about
a big deal to Kenton,� Rachel said.
poor working conditions? Wouldnâ??t
Susannah raised her eyebrows at the
that be protected?
implication that he wasnâ??t remorseful.
Of course, her father and
kept thinking about Kenton.
he simply be reprimanded
again? Or should the
â??Youâ??re right that I canâ??t discuss it,â?
Susannah said. â??But Iâ??ll listen.â?
last week?� But even as
her protégé answered, she
Should she just let it go? Should
donâ??t think heâ??d have a case. Itâ??s not
like this qualifies as free speech.�
Now letâ??s talk about you.
â??Donâ??t get me wrong. I think heâ??s a
grandfather had always insisted
little embarrassed. But weâ??ve grown
on treating employees well. Other
up with social media, sharing our
car dealers might behave as if
opinions with friends, family, and
salespeople were a dime a dozen, but
even our employers, so we all have
Downcity was different, as proven by
a story about posting something we
its incredibly low turnover.
regretted. And to be fair, he didnâ??t say
consequences be
greater this time?
What should Susannah
do about Kentonâ??s
Facebook remarks?
See commentaries on the next page.
March 2016 Harvard Business Review 105
The Experts Respond
Megan Erickson
Moritz is an attorney
at BrownWinick Law
Firm, where she practices
employment law.
Kentonâ??at least not yet. Given the
information she has, terminating
or even disciplining him would put
Downcity at risk for legal action.
Hereâ??s why: Section 7 of the
National Labor Relations Act
protects employeesâ?? right to engage
in â??concerted activitiesâ? for
â??mutual aid or protection.â? Kentonâ??s
concerns about the marketing
event may very well stem from its
possible negative impact on vehicle
sales and his commissions. Rachel
suggests that other salespeople
had similar feelings, so the
Facebook post could be construed
as Kentonâ??s expressing their views
on a subject related to their
employment. If that behavior
were punished, he would have a
legitimate basis for filing an unfair
Terminating or
even disciplining
Kenton would put
Downcity at risk
for legal action.
106 Harvard Business Review March 2016
labor practice charge with the
National Labor Relations Board.
Tyson may be right that
Kentonâ??s gripes were his own, and
Downcity could certainly argue
that point to the NLRB, especially
if no other employees â??likedâ? or
commented on them, or if some
colleagues expressed concern
that his behaviorâ??more than the
mismanaged eventâ??was in fact
likely to damage customer or vendor
relationships. But asking employees
for a statement along those lines
could be viewed as coercive, and
Kenton would need only one
supporter to prove that he was
voicing a shared opinion.
So before she decides what to
do, Susannah should look into what,
if anything, Kenton discussed with
others, whether anyone else shared
his views, and whether any of their
worries might reasonably be tied to
wages, commissions, or other terms
of employment.
One thing she and Toby should
do now, however, is whip the
companyâ??s policies and practices
into shape (with the help of
experienced legal counsel) and
then train employees in them,
clarifying expectations. The NLRB
would most likely find their current
policy overbroad, which would
also be a violation. Downcity could
incorporate a clearer open-door
policy, ensuring that staff members
feel comfortable airing concerns
with managers and that managers
know they must listen and respond.
This might help lessen the likelihood
that employees would air workplace
complaints online.
In the real case on which this
account is based, the dealership
fired the salesperson for two
Facebook-related events, and he
disputed the termination with the
NLRB. The judge concluded that
criticism of the refreshments
at a sales event probably amounted
to protected activity but that the
other post, complaining about a
Land Rover accident at a different
dealership, did not, because the
employee hadnâ??t discussed it with
colleagues and it was unconnected
to the conditions of his employment.
Because the dealership had based
his termination on the latter, it
stoodâ??but the company spent a lot
of time and money fighting the case,
which Iâ??m sure Dell and Susannah
want to avoid.
The frequent, multiple, and
sometimes conflicting sources of
information about recent NLRB
activity make this area a compliance
nightmare for employers. However,
one thing is clear: The NLRB has
been aggressively expanding its
reach regarding social media issues
in the workplace. Susannah is better
off giving Kenton another warning
and clarifying company policies
so that Downcity is well prepared
to take action if and when this
happens again.
Comments from the community
Employees Should Be Heard
His delivery may be off, but Kenton
may also have a valid point about
maintaining the brand. Employees
should feel that theyâ??re valued and
being heard.
Erica Ogle, student, Regis University
Not a Team Player?
Kenton should be suspended and
told that if such behavior continues,
termination is a possibility. Toby
and Susannah need to reiterate the
importance of being a team player.
Aaron Wynn, HR business partner,
Ford Motor Company
Use His Insights
Management should focus on
correcting and learning from bad
business decisions, not chasing
employees who whine on social
media. Instead of punishing Kenton,
his bosses should ask him to plan
the next launch.
Khaled Barahmeh, group audit and risk
manager, Zamil Group Holding Company
A Valuable Sales Tool
Once Kenton and the rest of
Downcityâ??s salespeople become
aware that social media can be
a sales tool, theyâ??ll realize that
their online presence affects not
only the company but also their
own sales.
Saige Fraiha, director of product and
marketing, MedicFP
Alexandra Samuel
is a cofounder of Social
Signal, one of the
worldâ??s first social media
agencies, and the author
of Work Smarter with
Social Media.
SUSANNAH NEEDS to let Kenton
go. I know from running my own
company that nothing is harder than
firing someone, particularly in a
tight-knit family business. But once
youâ??ve warned an employee about
a specific issue and made your
expectations clear, you canâ??t keep
providing second chances.
If Downcity keeps Kenton, it
leaves itself open to ongoing
risk: He didnâ??t see why it was
inappropriate to publicly mock a
company event, so what might he
post in the future? Ignoring that
risk signals that employees can
say what they want online and
get away with it. Worse, it tells
both employees and partners that
the company doesnâ??t care if they
publicly disrespect one another or
the organization.
To be clear, Downcity doesnâ??t
have carte blanche to fire any
employee who posts something offbrand on a social network. Thereâ??s
a world of difference between a
personal post that diverges from the
company line and comments that
explicitly disparage the business. It
might be uncomfortable if Kenton
had criticized a competitorâ??s event,
or ranted about how badly BMW
owners park, but neither would be
an offense for which he should
be terminated.
Likewise, any organization must
tolerate social media commentary
thatâ??s …
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