Should You Be Fired for Honesty?

February 22nd, 2016

The Monty Minute

As Convince and Convert readers know, Jay Baer has written Hug Your Haters, a guide to help businesses embrace their detractors and build a more healthy relationship with them. And like it or not, sometimes employees can be haters too. 

Case in point: Talia Jane, a customer service rep for Yelp, recently took to the Internet to complain about the lack of a sustainable wage from her employer in San Francisco. In her open letter to Yelp’s CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, she noted that she earns $733 every other week (that’s $19,058 a year) and her rent is $1250 a month (an extremely low rent by San Francisco standards) . So 80% of her salary is eaten up by housing costs and she subsists by consuming meals of rice at home. 

Yelp found out about this post (as she must have imagined they would) and summarily fired her. They claim it had nothing to do with her online rant, but she said HR specifically told her that she violated the company’s Terms of Conduct with her post and was thus terminated.

If the irony hasn’t sunk in yet, let’s make it clear: Yelp is a platform on which consumers can write online reviews of businesses—mostly restaurants. Over the years, business owners have gotten themselves into trouble when they’ve harassed truthful but negative reviewers, simply because they don’t like having a negative review out there. In fact, many pundits have counseled such companies to hug their haters by reaching out to the disaffected customers and try to make it right.

So how has Yelp behaved any differently than the deplorable business owners that attack their detractors? Yelp had an opportunity to address not only this particular employee, but its work practices in general. This would have been an excellent opportunity for Stoppelman to tell the world about how Yelp is structured and what they do for employees, perhaps even vowing to amend its pay scale for San Francisco residents.

Of course, there may be deeper issues with this particular HR situation, and let’s give Yelp the benefit of the doubt for a moment. The fact still remains that turnover and low morale affect all employees, and companies always need to ensure that they’re taking care of their own.

Customer service representatives are on the front line with customers, and happy employees are more likely to treat customers well. Or, as Sherlock Holmes put it:

“A dog reflects the family life. Whoever saw a frisky dog in a gloomy family, or a sad dog in a happy one? Snarling people have snarling dogs, dangerous people have dangerous ones. And their passing moods may reflect the passing moods of others.”

The way we treat our employees is a proxy for what we think of our customers. Now, go hug your employees.

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