First, here is the story: Michele Leqve, in a blog post entitled "Mission Accomplished," recounts how she killed a polar bear with a bow and arrow. As an animal lover, I find her tale distasteful. She unleashes dogs to chase and exhaust the animal, tracks it down and shoots the bear with three arrows to end its life.
|Michele Leqve and her polar bear -|
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I am not the only one disturbed by Leqve's pride in killing an animal whose species is considered Threatened and Vulnerable. A Change.org petition posted two days ago has collected over 5,000 signatures. Animal defenders have taken to blogs to criticize Leqve and promote the petition.
While I find it nauseating, Leqve apparently has the right to kill polar bears. And people have the right to criticize her and post petitions. I am less comfortable, however, with the way many are tying Leqve's actions to her employer, Delta Air Lines.
The Change.org petition is not targeted at Leqve or the site on which she blogs her brave hunting exploits--it targets Delta Air Lines. Why? Because Leqve is an employee of Delta. There is no evidence Delta supported the hunt in any way, nor does Leqve mention her employer on her blog. Incensed animal lovers discovered the connection by turning to LinkedIn in search of information about Leqve.
The Change.org petition doesn't demand any actions of Delta, so I am not entirely sure what petitioners believe the airline should do about the situation. Should Leqve be fired for this legal act? Should Delta request she cease her legal hunting or blogging activities?
Flipping this situation 180 degrees, I wonder if the petitioners want their employers monitoring employees' recreational habits. Would the bloggers currently targeting Delta submit to an evaluation from their employers assessing how workers' personal activities fit with brand and corporate messaging? Of course, almost all employers have some form of employment agreement or policies that prohibit certain activities, such as ones that create a conflict of interest or violate laws, but does anyone really want their bosses reviewing and approving (or rejecting) activities that fall within existing laws?
With greater transparency and availability of tools for social action, we are not likely to see this sort of activity slacken. Employers are going to have to be prepared to deal with criticism of employees' after-work actions. What can an employer do in such situations? There are no clear cut best practices, and every situation will need to be evaluated independently.
For the most part, it is probably best to do nothing unless absolutely necessary. Most customers and prospects will understand that the company cannot be held accountable for employees' legal after-work activities. And, while it is difficult to silently observe mounting criticism, it is helpful to remember that most social media "crises" have a very brief half-life. Should criticism of an employee mount within a brand's Facebook page, it may be necessary to make a simple statement noting that employees' personal activities cannot be discussed in public communication channels.
Despite my strong personal feelings about Leqve's actions, I did not sign the Change.org petition. I simply do not believe it is Delta's job to insert themselves into employees' private lives. I hope you agree, but if not, please do not complain to my employer!