What actually happened in Skövde, Stefan Johnsson?

About a week ago, many media in Sweden reported on three employees at Volvo Powertrain in Skövde, who were said to have been forced to leave the company because of negative comments about their workplace that they had made on Facebook.

Stefan Johnsson, senior HR manager at the Volvo Group:  

Is it true that Volvo Powertrain dismissed employees because of what they had written on Facebook?

“No, that is not correct. Firstly, these three persons were not Volvo employees, but were hired in from a staffing company. Secondly, nobody needs to leave Volvo exclusively as a result of what has been written on Facebook. The Facebook comments by the three consultants were a small part of overall unacceptable behavior and consequently, Volvo Powertrain informed the staffing company that the consultants did not meet Volvo Powertrain’s expectations of them, and their contracts were then discontinued a month before they were due to expire.”

What actually happened?

 “During the late autumn 2010, problems and conflicts arose in one shift at Volvo Powertrain, which, after a few weeks, escalated to what the team manager described as a  ‘chaotic’ situation, with refusal to work, people being frozen out and taunting. The three consultants were the ringleaders in the conflict, albeit on different sides. The staff who wanted to work as normal in their workplace was extremely irritated by the troublemakers. A lot of time and energy was spent trying to resolve the situation through meetings and personal discussions, but the atmosphere on the shift did not improve. One shift manager found out that the workplace had been described in negative terms on Facebook, and many employees felt  insulted and asked whether it is acceptable to behave in any way one likes in the workplace – both the behavior in the workplace and the comments on Facebook were in clear contradiction of Volvo’s values and the Volvo Way. The management contacted the staffing company, reported the entire situation and informed them that Volvo wanted to terminate the contract with the three consultants. The Metall metalworkers’ trade union was informed, and the consultants left Volvo to return to their employer, the staffing company.”

Can employees or consultants lose their jobs because of the things they say or write on social media?

“No, even if it is impossible to discharge oneself from everything that could potentially happen in the future, I am certain enough to say that people will not lose their jobs exclusively for something written on Facebook. Comments on social forums are not reason enough to be forced to leave Volvo, but, on the other hand, may form part of an overall assessment of employees or consultants, which was the case at Volvo Powertrain in Skövde.”

Is there any difference in the way employees and consultants can express themselves on Facebook and other social media, compared to other forums?

“No, Volvo makes no distinction in behavior depending on whether it occurs on Facebook, the plant floor, or anywhere else. Volvo expects that everyone – employees or consultants – do their job and show respect for their workplace and their coworkers. Unacceptable behavior in the workplace does not become acceptable because it is put out onto the Net – Volvo’s values apply to all forums.” 

What does the Volvo Group tell its employees about Facebook and social media?

“The Volvo Group has many employees who need to use social media in their work and we do not stop anyone who wants to use such social media as Facebook. However, we have a policy that has been prepared as support for the employees to explain what they should think about when sharing information on social media. The essence is that employees should use their common sense and sound judgment in discussions regarding the Volvo Group, show respect for others and their opinions and not disclose business secrets – guidelines that are self-evident and that apply in all contexts, not only behavior on social media.”