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The perils of porn

Article by: Blair McPherson | Published: 16 November 2017
Jobs

Taking an uncompromising position on staff found to have porn on their computer is just what an organisation should do. But what if rather than a handful of individuals dozens even hundreds are implicated? Contributor Blair McPherson former Director of Community Services, author and blogger.

How does an organisation avoid a public relations disaster, restrict the number of dismissals, prevent the organisation becoming strangled by sheer volume of disciplinary hearings and still send out a clear message to staff?

It comes as no surprise to HR staff that someone has been found with porn on their work computer. The problem is the prevalence of inappropriate and offensive material that comes to light when an organisation decides to take decisive action. An individual facing disciplinary action may dispute that the material is offensive calling it humorous this isn’t the problem the problem is that on investigation the material is so widespread. Taking an uncompromising stance over the circulation of sexist and racist material by a small group is exactly what an organisation should do but what when dozens even hundreds of staff are implicated?

I have experienced this problem. Following the initial discovery the member of staff is suspended and their computer examined. Management and HR are united in taking a strong stance with this individual and any of their colleagues engaged in circulating material everyone agrees is inappropriate and offensive if not porn. IT undertook a forensic examination of this groups computers and tracked emails. The results were alarming material was being forwarded and the numbers implicated were rising expedentially. Senior management were informed.

Suddenly the practicalities of suspending and potentially dismissing hundreds of staff put a break on the investigation. Dismissing one or two people for circulating,” inappropriate and offensive ” material was an organisation taking a strong stance, dismissing dozens and disciplining hundreds of staff was an organisation in crisis. This was a local authority the media would be all over this, worse this was social services the potential headline  caused panic in senior managers.

HR came up with a plan of action to minimise the potential for disastrous media coverage, restrict the number of dismissals, prevent the organisation becoming strangled by sheer volume of disciplinary hearings and still send out a clear message to staff. Those who had imported and circulated the material were suspended and following disciplinary hearings all but one were sacked.

A deal was done with the unions. All staff forwarding the material would accept a formal written warning, all staff receiving this material who had failed to report this to their line manager would accept a verbal warning. Other departments were informed if their staff had been sent or had sent material. Other departments chose not to actively investigation stating staff were now aware that “humorous” material like this was not acceptable!

www.blairmcpherson.co.uk