It may be too early in the year to assign this honorific, but it will be surprising if anyone manages to top this workplace “prank” run amuck. Our nomination for the worst employees of the year go to two employees of Domino’s Pizza who thought that it would be fun to make videos of a food preparer doing horrifically disgusting things to food and then posting those videos on YouTube.
Apparently, the aggregate online tolerance for the idea of having food tainted with bodily fluids was low, but the disgusting videos spread virally, logging more than a million viewers before a shell-shocked management team at Domino’s sprang into action a few days later.
Domino’s had a harsh initiation to the world of user-generated content. At first, the management team thought they should just let the incident die down of its own accord. That’s an old print tactic for handling PR – don’t make a problem bigger than it needs to be through repetition. But the company quickly learned that in the online world, things can be harder to contain. Within a few short days, the videos managed to dominate Google search results and any online conversations about the company. They realized they had to act.
Domino’s management team got some unexpected help from the online community. Commenters at used their sleuthing skills to help identify the offending employees, who were quickly fired. The two employees now face a variety of criminal charges for violating board of health standards and delivering tainted food. And the company faced the daunting task of rebuilding confidence in a badly damaged brand.
Domino’s quickly posted a YouTube video apology and statement about what the company is doing to respond to this incident (re-examing hiring practices, beefing up auditors, etc.) by company president Patrick Doyle, and assigned staff to respond to viewer comments. (Reader alert: if you’ve never ventured into the YouTube comment area, be prepared for a bit of a culture shock. Comments are unedited, raw and generally “not safe for work.”) They also launched a company Twitter feed to join the online conversation and engage their customers directly.
So far, the management team is getting high marks for its response to the crisis. The incident should serve as virtual seminar for other companies in the importance of being knowledgeable in and poised to manage an organization’s online reputation. This incident certainly wasn’t something the company could have predicted and management was forced into a crash course in online social media to respond to unfolding events. How ready is your organization should some unexpected and unflattering information hit the viral online circuit? In today’s world, online reputation management is an important issue for organizations. It’s equally important – if not more so – for individuals. A job-seeker may not have the same resources to deploy if they suddenly find themselves in the public eye.


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