#PandemicAndBeyond - Dilemma 4: facing up to social media

30 September 2020

Tags: Pandemic and Beyond

In the fourth dilemma of our Pandemic and Beyond series, we question what to do when a colleague appears to be ignoring the rules.

Rafael moved from Madrid to London about a year ago to work for GreatEng, a new and promising small engineering firm. He loves the work and gets on really well with his colleagues. They made him feel immediately at home and they often met outside work to go to the pub for a few drinks. One of his colleagues, Michael, even invited Rafael to spend Christmas with his family in Kent when Rafael realised that flights home to Madrid had become too expensive.

The Covid-19 pandemic reaching Europe and the subsequent lockdown were difficult times for the firm, both financially and in terms of staff morale. However, Olga, the Managing Director, did her best to reassure everybody that the first priority was to save jobs: “We are all in the same boat” she wrote in an email to the team “and if everyone works at their best, we will come out of this situation stronger than before”. It is a struggle for Rafael, far from home and from his family, but he is determined to give 100% and make sure that the quality of the work will be as high as before the lockdown – or even better! When Olga announces that, after several weeks working from home, they can start going back to the office on rotation, he is rather relieved. 

One Sunday afternoon, a very bored Rafael, once again all alone in his flat, decides to check out Facebook to see what others are doing to kill time at home. To his surprise, he discovers that Michael has posted lots of pictures of parties in people’s gardens, where social distancing was obviously the least of Michael’s concerns. Group pictures of people hugging each other with no face coverings … Rafael couldn’t believe it. And that was not all. As he scrolls down Michael’s Facebook profile, he sees pics of him walking the dog and playing tennis at times when he was supposed to be at home working. He finds all this quite disturbing.

Rafael ponders this for a while and then he decides to ring Michael up and ask for an explanation. However, his colleague doesn’t seem to share Rafael’s concerns: “Oh, Rafael, you are really a great guy, so principled! But you can’t take everything so seriously. Just chill! I know what I’m doing. I’ve known those people for ages, they are fine…and I know I took some breaks from work every now and again, but I had finished what I had to do. You know I can work fast!”

“Is Olga happy with all this? I still don’t think you should go around partying like that…” asked Rafael, not really convinced.

“We are adults, Rafael. Olga doesn’t need to know every minute detail, as long as the job gets done. I’m sure she has other things on her mind than my games of tennis. Anyway, I’m only in the office twice a week and never at the same time as you, so you don’t need to worry about who I meet. You are not going to make a fuss out of this, are you? I thought we were friends…”

What should Rafael do?

(a)    Call Olga to explain his concerns about Michael. It is his duty to report them.
(b)    Nothing. He has no right to intrude in Michael’s privacy and his Facebook posts are only meant for his friends. 
(c)    Say nothing to Olga, but share the pictures with everyone else on the team to warn them of Michael’s irresponsible behaviour. 
(d)    Raise with Olga the fact that Michael is not working when he should be, without mentioning his concerns about Michael ignoring the UK Government’s social distancing guidelines.