Genève Ltd. is a manufacturer of upscale clothing and accessories for men and women. The company is headquartered in New York and has worldwide distribution. Manufacturing is carried out in the United States, Italy, Spain, Lithuania, and most recently, China. Genève was founded in 1925 and has remained in business as an independent company.

As the demand for formal business attire diminished during the 1990s, Genève suffered a 35 percent decrease in sales. However, as the demand for formal business attire rebounded from 2002 forward, Genève re-established its sales volume. A few late-night shows featured guests who mentioned they were wearing suits with the Genève label and this resulted in a surge in sales.

CEO Pauline Matthieu holds a 10 a.m. staff meeting most Monday mornings. Although she would like to have the meetings at 8 a.m., Matthieu recognizes that the commuters on the top executive team can rarely get to the office before 9:30 a.m. On this particular Monday, Matthieu is visibly upset. She tells her staff:

It’s not my pattern to dig too deeply into operational matters. As you know, I’m interested primarily in strategy and merchandising. Yet, I’m ticked off today. You probably all know about Jimmy Kincaid, the productionplanner from our Vermont plant who has set up a blog on http://Blogger.com to host his personal forum about Genève. What he has to say about our fashions and our company usually isn’t too negative, but he has become anembarrassment.

In his latest blog, Jimmy has superimposed the faces of apes on the models featured in a current ad. The male ape says that Genève fashions will never be sold at Wal-Mart or Target, and the female ape responds, ‘Are you sure?’

“I guess that is a little edgy,” said Harry Overstreet, vice president of operations. “Can you give us another recent example of Jimmy’s blogs that should be a concern to the company?”

“I have a print copy in my briefcase,” replied Matthieu. “I will read it to you:”

The Genève label is still tops, but we’re slipping into some of the offshoring excesses of other companies. I saw a few undercover photos taken in one

of our China factories, and the image does not do us proud. There are loads of Chinese women working in cramped quarters, the lighting is poor, and some of the girls working the cutting tools look to be adolescents.

Maybe the cool Genève image has an ugly underbelly at times.Georgia Santelli, vice president of merchandising, commented, “Has any manager in our Vermont operation attempted to shut down this clown? I mean, he is a corporate menace.” Overstreet chimed in, “Wait a minute. Jimmy Kincaid may be a clown at times, yet he alsosays a lot of good things about Genève. He drops a lot of hints that create a buzz for our next season’s offerings. One time he mentioned something about seeing a new handbag in the design stages that will make thousands of women switch from Coach bags.”

Sam Cohen, the director of marketing, said thecompany is contemplating a policy on blogging, and that it has been discussed internally. He said, “Let me dredge up the preliminary policy from my laptop. Pauline was in on one of the preliminary discussions, but we didn’t do much with it.”

Cohen projected the slides, containing somebulleted points, on the conference room screen:

At work, employees can use their blogs only for work-related matters.Employees cannot disclose confidential or proprietary information.Private issues must be kept private.Public statements cannot be defamatory, profane, libellous, harassing, or abusive.Employees can form links for their blogs to Genève only with permission from executive- level management.

An employee’s blog must contain the following disclaimer: “The views expressed on this blog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genève Ltd.”A breach of the above blogging policycould result in discipline up to and includingtermination.“I’m still ticked off at Jimmy, but before we take action, let’s think through whether he has done something drastically wrong. We have to

protect Genève brand equity, but we must be fair. Let’s talk.”

Discussion Questions

  1. Even though the blogging policy has not yet been implemented, how well have Kincaid’s actions conformed to the tentative policy?
  2. What steps, if any, do you think top management should take to control Kincaid’s blogs?
  3. What relevance does this case have for thesubject of interpersonal communication?

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