A junior underwriter for a specialist corporate insurance company has been dismissed from her job with immediate effect after writing positive and generally upbeat comments about her work, her colleagues and their immediate superiors.
Marie Symonds, 26, first began a diary of her time at Hitchin & Beaumont Claims Management on her blog ‘Marie Mints’ a few days after she joined the company. ‘After years of working for faceless corporate entities that treated their employees like soulless automatons, it was a breath of fresh air to join Hitchin and Beaumont,’ Symonds told reporters. ‘On my very first day Mr. Beaumont personally welcomed me to the firm, and to celebrate my first full week, the HR manager bought me lunch in the subsidised staff canteen.’
Dazzled and not a little flattered by this welcome, Symonds felt it only fair to reciprocate by blogging about her special treatment and soon her subscribers were receiving tweets and status updates on a daily basis. ‘Dress-down Mondays, Bacon Sandwich Wednesdays, Friday evening pub quizzes: I documented the lot. I just couldn’t help myself – it was just so great a place to work.’
So prolific were her posts however, that upper management soon began to take notice. ‘It started just after I’d blogged about last weekend’s hot air balloon ride that old Mr. Hitchin had treated us all to. Next thing you know I’m being called into his office, where he very politely asked me to consider easing my online activities. To be honest I didn’t think he knew quite what a blog was, bless him.’
‘On reflection I should’ve taken the hint,’ continued Symonds, ‘and not updated my Facebook status that very afternoon to ‘Just had the nicest telling-off ever! LOL’, but I didn’t think anyone would mind.’ But someone did mind, as minutes later she was being handed a P45 and was asked to leave the premises for besmirching the company’s image.
Hitchin & Beaumont has released a statement defending Symonds’s dismissal, citing the need to maintain a dignified demeanour. ‘While we appreciate Miss Symonds’ right to free expression, we have a sacred duty as insurance corporate brokers to project a dull and lifeless façade to our customers. For example, if GlaxoSmithKline found out that their claim for the fire at their Kuala Lumpur research facility was being processed by semi-naked staff on Red Pants Thursday we’d be the laughing stock of the entire insurance industry.’
(Written 7 Sep 2009)