I was forwarded a link last week by a colleague in the US about the case of American Airlines firing the so called Mr X who spoke out about the website design processes within that airline. If you are not familiar with the story, definitely take a look as it really got me thinking about how airlines (or most large companies really) can very often struggle when trying to adapt to this new environment. It was interesting that many people were using this example from AA as an excuse to use the line that the airline “doesn’t get social media,” but in this case, I definintely disagree.
Whilst not even close to being in the same league of moronic behaviour as the Jetstar employee or the Korean travel agent, anyone posting anonymous public comments about internal politics and future development plans at their employer leaves the company no other option but dismissal. In this case it was the employee who didn’t “get social media” rather than American Airlines. There will always be the Howard Roark’s of this world who whilst being very talented, just do not belong in large corporations. When you read what he wrote, there is no doubt he was passionate about his job, but in my mind the use of the name Mr X was the unforgiveable mistake. Maybe if he had used his real name he may have escaped with a severe reprimand, but posting anonymously made it very clear that he knew he was speaking out of line and was not prepared to stand by his claims. Instead he’ll now be standing in the unemployment line.
Regarding this blog, I’ve only ever had positive feedback from airline employees who read it; and from the top levels of management with my own company I have never had a problem. I’ve never made any secret of who I am am or who I work for, and from the start I’ve said I’ll close down the blog if I accidentally offend the people paying my salary. Not to deny that maybe sometimes I tread a fine line in order to try and produce interesting content, but there is no doubt that writing this blog has been positive for my ability to do my job as it enables me to engage in a much wider range of conversations with airlines than would normally be the case based purely upon my job title. I mentioned senior management being supportive, but it is true that on rare occassions I’ve had people at lower levels questioning my interest in blogging. I suppose for these people, there can only be one response (said half tongue in cheek of course given my opening paragraph): “They just don’t get social media!”