The Commonwealth Bank of Australia is one of the biggest multinational banks of Australia with businesses in New Zealand, Asia, Fiji, United Kingdom and USA. Needless to say, an organisation of such an enormous size needs to pay special attention the new emerging Enterprise 2.0 and Web 2.0 trends in order to keep their competitive advantage and also protect their reputation at the same time.
In December 2010, Commonwealth Bank introduced a 2-page social page policy that threatens their employees with “serious disciplinary action which may include termination” for a range of various online activities. This alone would not have raised any eyebrows, as it is to be expected from employees nowadays not to engage in social media related activities during working hours. What caused a significant public outrage was that the policy explicitly forbid any online activity for all their employees outside normal working hours that might damage the bank’s brand (however that might be interpreted), and the worst of all, the policy held employees countable for their online friends’ actions. Also, if one’s friend posted any material that was considered to be “offensive”, the employee in question were to help the police with the investigation against their friend.
Clearly, the primary aim of CommonWealth’s social media policy, namely to protect the reputation of the company, had backfired terribly and had caused much more harm than good. While initially the bank tried to defend their draconian policy, later on they changed their attitude and appeared to be much more receptive in reviewing it and softening the restrictions in their policy.
The lesson of this case is that putting social media policies in place can be a double-edged sword that in some cases can have an the exact opposite effect. In order to avoid scandals, organisations must realise that social media has become a fact of everyday modern life, and they cannot (and are legally not even allowed to) to control every aspect of it as they cannot their employees actions in their private lives either. Having a social media policy does not mean that the company can make unreasonable demands on their employees on how their use the internet outside of work.
Wikipedia – Commonwealth Bank
Bank threatens staff with sack over social media comments
Lessons from the Commonwealth Bank’s social media policy
Learning from the social media policy mistakes of the Commonwealth Bank
Bank’s Social Media Policy Says Snitch & Spy on Your Friends or You’re Fired