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Bond goes bad: when bad-mouthing your job goes too far

4 November 2015


Daniel Craig has raised eyebrows and made headlines with his comments about his latest film, ‘Spectre’, and his time with the ‘James Bond’ franchise.

During an interview promoting the film, Craig responded to questions around the possibility of continuing to act as Bond by saying, “I’d rather break this glass and slash my wrists.”

He described playing the famous spy as being “a drag” and added “We’re done. All I want to do is move on.”

Things didn’t improve when the star asserted indifference as to his successor to the role saying, “I don’t give a f*** [who it is]. Good luck to them!” He also gave advice to whomever it may be. “Don’t be s***. You’ve got to step up. People do not make movies like this any more. This is really rare now. So don’t be s***.”

Executives at Sony have reportedly told Craig to shut up and stop bashing Bond. The actor’s harsh comments have also prompted responses from others in the industry. For example, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ star Ellen Pompeo has criticised Craig, telling her twitter followers, “this dude needs a reality check.”

While Daniel Craig’s behaviour is bound to affect his image, statements made by ordinary employees about their employment, although less newsworthy, can have even more serious consequences.

Although New Zealand is well known for its protection of ‘freedom of expression’, the employment relationship necessitates a line between expressing yourself and failing to protect the interests and reputation of your employer.

Speaking ill of your employer may constitute a failure to act in good faith. Employers and employees alike are required to act towards each other in good faith, including being constructive in establishing and maintaining a productive employment relationship in which the parties are, among other things, responsive and communicative.

Engaging in behaviour that is not in good faith can cause employment relationships to break down and give the employer a reason to look further into an employee’s behaviour and even consider disciplinary action.

Stemming from good faith obligations is the additional duty of fidelity that employees owe their employer. This duty is breached by any conduct by an employee likely to damage the employer’s business or significantly undermine the trust which the employer is entitled to place in the employee.

Conduct of this manner looks even worse for the employee when their actions or statements are made from a platform given to them by the employer, for example, Craig’s comments during a publicity opportunity resulting from his role in the James Bond films.

Bad mouthing your job or management can also erode mutual trust and confidence, and a breach of this term in an employment agreement can allow the employer to view the agreement as repudiated. An employer in this situation may also seek compensation for financial loss suffered as a result of the statements, but it is difficult to show any connection to financial loss in these kinds of circumstances. 

Employees should feel comfortable talking to loved ones about issues they are having at work. It is wise to do so in order to give stress a safe outlet and to prevent a confrontation with your employer. 

However, it is important that you consider the effect of your words before you say anything to an audience wider than your closest confidants. Is it likely to cause reputational damage to your employer? Will it get back to a colleague or manager?

Will it make them angry or hurt, resulting in the employment environment suffering, or that you may be treated differently at work?

If any of these questions are answered other than ‘no’, the best advice that can be given is for employees to remember that silence is golden.

As Ambrose Bierce said, “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.”

Cullen - The Employment Law Firm was one of the first eleven law firms in New Zealand approved to provide employment law services to Government and the public sector.

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