Taking a Stand? Why Relying on Tweets and Snippets Won’t Cut It

Before you take a stand, be knowledgeable of the issue so you can discuss it fully.

Before you take a stand, be knowledgeable of the issue so you can discuss it fully.

So the topic of online employer bashing came up yesterday. One of my favorite YPs was defending Talia Jane, the customer service rep in the Bay Area who posted that “Dear Jeremy” letter to Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman in February and got fired. She was arguing that Talia got a raw deal. You probably know all about it.  Or do you?

You may know Talia Jane complained about everything. Her paltry paycheck, high rent, long commute, and choking debt. She went hungry, cried in her bathtub and challenged the 1 year rule before moving up. But did you read the whole post? You may know she talked to her manager about her concerns and dissatisfied, she tweeted the chief executive about her financial woes and as a last resort posted her 2,500-word letter. Then she was fired. Then she was shocked. Then the Twitter shit storm and then the arguments for free speech despite the employee code of conduct she had signed. Yes, you probably know all that. But while my favorite YP was defending Talia Jane, I asked her and I'll ask you again, did you read the post?

Because if you did you would know she shared personal details about wanting to die every day before maxing out a shiny new credit card to escape and move to a city she couldn’t afford to be closer to her estranged father and because, you know, she liked the weather.  From there Jeremy’s salary, his big beautiful house, the price paid for the Eat24 app,  Mike, Eat24's CEO (for not heeding her suggestions for change) and the company’s charitable giving practices all were attacked. Essentially saying you need to pay me more so I can turn on my heat, fix the flat and get the registration for the car my Grandpa gave me. You need to change the vendor's stocking hours so we have free food in the building on the weekends so we don’t act like a pack of wolves to stave off our hunger pains. She even laid out specific details about changing the options for charitable giving percentages when customers check out to give a split to the lowly paid employees. I'm not sure if that last one was facetious or just over the top, but it was a scathing rant laced with anger and sarcasm.

So I ask again. Did you read the post or did you merely read tweets or snippets on HuffPost or when it was trending on BuzzFeed?  My point...wait for it...before you take a stand know what you're talking about.  When you know the entire story, any story, you can effectively argue the merits of your position, whatever that position is. It makes you credible. But don't go acting like you know what the hell you're talking about if you really don't.

So, I ask you, after reading the entire Dear Jeremy letter would you communicate in that fashion to your CEO (or even your boss) and expect anything other than getting fired?  I can't imagine any reasonable person thinking otherwise. But what do you think? Here's my position.

Talia Jane may be a talented young woman trying to stand up for a cause impacting many. Did she have some valid points? Absolutely. But she let her raw emotions cloud her message and get the best of her.  Spewing anger, sarcasm and disrespect are not effective people skills. Understandably she was in a difficult place and needed help financially and emotionally, but her core message was overshadowed.  That she felt driven to that point is tragic. It's also tragic that she didn't feel listened to at work. And she didn't have a mentor to turn to for advice and support; one that could suggest an approach that might have a better outcome.  Talia's point about well-trained employees impacting the company's coupon policy was a good one.  That looks like an individual bonus program just waiting to happen to me.  Jeremy and Mike need to listen. They need feedback mechanisms in place to engage their team members. They need to quit calling them "employees". They may make changes, but sadly Talia won't be the benefactor.  Also tragic.

So my point to my favorite YP and all of you - had you read the entire post you could make your compelling argument. When you take a stand for free speech, equal pay, equal rights or anything - know what you're fighting for, because the other person just might. Knowledge can give you the upper hand. And you're going to need it.

For more on my perspective see my earlier post Don't be next! 8 things to learn from the recent Yelp firing.