One HR lesson from the United Airlines fiasco: Always act as if you are being recorded

Always pretend you are being recorded by an employee.

Everyone is undoubtedly aware of what this fiasco is about. It made both national and international news. United Airlines suffered significantly in the stock market, dropping $1.4 BILLION after the event. What was the major catalyst for this loss and the resulting bad public relations? Video and social media! Twenty years ago this might not even have made the news. The man would have been removed, the plane would have been closed up and the flight taken. No one on the plane would have talked to a reporter, no one would have any video, and why they may have told friends when they landed, little else would have been made of it. It certainly would not have caused a $1.4 Billion loss.

Everyone has a video camera

Today, because of the ubiquitousness of camera phones everyone has a video camera in their pocket. We see videos posted on the internet all the time. In fact TV news agencies encourage people to be their reporters. My local news station offers a bounty on video of “news stories.” But what makes for a news stories?

What is the news?

Obviously someone being dragged off a plane, or a police officer arresting someone, or a car wreck makes perfect news fodder. What about events at your place of business? How about an argument between two workers that results in a fight? Or a boss yelling and cursing at employees in the office? Or a manager sexually harassing an employee? Or a manager using racial slurs or sexist language? All of these things are potential news fodder that could be damaging to the company. Videos of all that could certainly be evidence used to prove a lawsuit.

The lesson?

The biggest lesson from this in my mind, is treat your employees as if you are being video recorded ALL THE TIME. This may make you stop and think about what you are about to do and say.
Of course it helps to do the right thing.

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1 thought on “One HR lesson from the United Airlines fiasco: Always act as if you are being recorded”

  1. Mike,
    This is a great post and a sobering reminder to everyone. As you are aware there have been cases decided by the NLRB regarding employees rights to record meetings in the workplace. This should put everyone on notice regarding their behavior and their words.

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