Michael Page International has been operating in Australia for around 30 years. When I was a temp accounting recruiter in the Sydney CBD, back in the 1990s, Michael Page together with Morgan & Banks represented my strongest competition. I respected the company’s competitive nature and the skills of their consultants.
Until this past weekend, I would have regarded the Michael Page brand as a strong one, one to be respected.
Unfortunately this past weekend has turned into a brand trashing nightmare for all Michael Page staff and shareholders.
All the major news websites around Australia published an account of an (unofficial) Michael Page staff weekend at Mt Buller in the Victorian snowfields, best summarised in Business Insider as Michael Page employees allegedly trashed a Victorian ski lodge with 'the biggest party of the season.'
The story opens as follows:
“Employees from the Australian arm of the global recruitment firm, Michael Page, have been accused of trashing a Victorian ski lodge at Mount Buller retreat and threatening staff, leading to the police being called.
Stephanie Sparrow ('Steph Eisma' on Facebook), who runs Reindeer Ski Club with her father, said on Facebook (in a post shared over 2900 times) that the group of more than 20 were heavily intoxicated, destructive and abusive.
She described it as “the biggest party of the season”, and alleges two men even threatened to "kick down her door and kick her head in.”
The post includes a photo of two easily identifiable men with a caption from Eisma reading “Below is the photo of the two men from "Michael Page Recruitment" who threatened to kick down my door and kick my head in early this morning.”
As The Age further reported “She (Eisma) called police. After police left, she pleaded via Facebook with Michael Page Recruitment to help discipline any staff members involved.
"I'm not sure what you expect of your employees when they head out on work trips or how you hope they represent your company, but the legacy left by Michael Page Recruitment at Reindeer Ski Club ... it's one of verbal abuse and alcohol-fuelled [threats of] violence."
Michael Page in Australia issued a statement that was reported by industry news service ShortList:
A Michael Page spokesperson denied the trip was "company funded or sanctioned", but nonetheless said the company had been in touch with the lodge and "offered [its] unreserved apologies", adding it was "very disturbed by the allegations made".
The company is investigating and will take appropriate disciplinary action, the spokesperson said.
"Michael Page has an extremely strict code of conduct for employees and we are extremely disappointed in the behaviour of the individuals involved in this incident. We are taking this extremely seriously and will do everything that we can to protect our company's reputation."
Whatever action is taken will not undo the enormous damage done to the Michael Page brand in Australia (and probably elsewhere).
When I typed ‘Michael Page’ into my favourite search engine this morning this is what appeared …
The Michael Page Australia Facebook page was awash with comments from angry posters who were appalled at what had been reported about the Michael Page employees’ behavior. The first official response from the Michael Page FB administrator occurred at 10.44pm on Sunday evening.
At the time of writing, no statement from Michael Page has been forthcoming advising of the action taken against the employees involved in the weekend’s wild behavior.
Unfortunately for Michael Page International this very ugly event has undermined all the work the company has done to position itself as a responsible community citizen.
From the Michael Page Corporate Responsibility Report (2013) ...
From the Michael Page website we are told about ‘Giving back to others’ ...
One of the charities listed, White Ribbon, is a “male led campaign to end men’s violence against women”.
This is a very worthy charity to support but this support is dramatically undermined when the behaviour of the supporting company’s staff is the exact opposite of the charity’s aims. Here’s how Steph Eisma concluded her Facebook post:
“For me the name Page recruitment will bring forth memories of being abused by men and being left to fear what harm may befall myself and my family at the hands of your staff.”
It’s hard to imagine anything much more damning and brand destroying than a comment like that.
Although we may not like to admit it this incident will create fallout for the broader recruitment industry. The image of inexperienced young Brits on 457 visas coming to Australia and making merry as fly-by-night recruitment consultants will only be reinforced by this ugly event.
Let’s hope that the response from the leaders at Michael Page will be decisive and appropriate. Our industry cannot ever afford, in any way, to be or seen to be condoning, minimising or excusing violent behaviour or threats of violence by people who work in our industry.
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