HR · Social Media

Would you have fired Talia Jane?

Shingai Samudzi

February 23rd, 2016

Talia Jane is a millennial (25) who recently got sacked for speaking out against her employer Yelp in a Medium article:
https://medium.com/@taliajane/an-open-letter-to-my-ceo-fb73df021e7a#.aqku8dufu

Just curious, would any of you have fired her were she one of your employees?  Why or why not?

Cindy Riach Founder | Facilitator ► Founders Connect

February 23rd, 2016

I think I would have looked at the symptoms of her complaints and had a conversation with her and other witnesses. I would have wanted the conversation to turn to resolution and to create something with accountability around it. I would have wanted this situation to be witnessed so that the team/company can hold it, instead of one person's decision.

I would have wanted to understand and have more compassion.

Steve Everhard All Things Startup

February 24th, 2016

I'd have fired her for a number of reasons.
1) An open letter to your CEO is a resignation letter, especially if it is sarcastic, as this one most certainly is. Don;t fire off any form of communication to your CEO unless you are clear what outcome you want and craft your communication accordingly. Calling him an overpaid idiot who is bleeding his employees is never a good message under any circumstances. Poor judgement.

2) She knew what she was getting into. In these days of internet searches - and she certainly found her accommodation somehow - it is inexcusable not to do your homework before accepting a job. I just did a brief search and I found several room shares in female only households for between $480 and $600 a month in Ingleside and Inner Sunset. Not only would that have given her an immediate $650 boost in disposable income it would have taken care of her heating bill and dropped her commute cost from $11.50 a day to $4.50 - that's another $90 boost. The fact that she either couldn't face a room share (prima donna?) or didn't do her homework...poor judgement.

3) The fact that your company doesn't support your sarcastic proposals (I'm assuming) for community outreach isn;t a reason to diss them. How about showing them your success in reducing outflow costs in not immediately giving away cash vouchers? Perhaps that could have become an assessment metric of the team or even allowed Talia to introduce some new training ideas. But she didn't and her tone implies a poor view of her colleagues too. Your ability to improve your job is what gets you noticed and promoted, and its possible that your bad attitude came to the notice of your line management as disruptive. She handled this badly. Poor Judgement

I would call out companies that pay customer facing staff minimum wage as shortsighted. If Talia is right in her assessment of staff turnover then the company is spending a lot of money on recruitment and training rather than staff retention. Benefits are great and there is a real startup/early stage "benefits are all" attitude amongst SV and SF companies. Why not give your staff the choice? I know that health insurance generally costs the company a lot less in a group policy that the market value to the individual, but banking cash is often of more immediate value to low paid staff. Free food is also ok but not as a compensation for salary. Fewer snacks and more $$ drives staff retention. I've never heard of any well paid employee leaving because the snacks weren't up to standard!

So, yes they were right to fire her. Bad attitude and poor judgement do not a good employee make.

Dennis Augustine Founder, Sr. Sitecore Solution Architect/BA

February 24th, 2016

People have the right to speak up when they believe they are being treated poorly.  The only thing that I'd be concerned with is whether what she said is true or not. If it's true and embarrasses the company then the company SHOULD be embarrassed.

I'll also say a hearty "amen" to Irwin's point up there ^.  Pay your people a decent living wag but not just for the sake of your own success but because it's the right thing to do and people are important.

Katherine Bullard Artistic Social Entrepreneur and Innovative Communicator

February 23rd, 2016

I would first have a conversation with her and ask for her honest feedback. I would then want to know why she felt the need to go public with her grievances, as it is an indicator of internal communication on my end- so I would look for ways to improve it. If she just turned out to be a bad and entitled employee , I would fire her.

Irwin Stein Very experienced (40 years) corporate,securities and real estate attorney.

February 23rd, 2016

You cannot pay employees minimum wage in San Francisco  and expect optimal performance. Yelp does not have to be in SF. That is part of the CEO's ego. They could save a lot of money moving to Oakland and pay employees more.  They can take the jobs to India. But there is no justification for paying white collar workers that little. Those of you founders in this forum need a reality check. Employees make you money. Treat them right or you will fail.

Irwin Stein Very experienced (40 years) corporate,securities and real estate attorney.

February 24th, 2016

I would not have fired the lady. I never would have located a company dependent upon a large minimum wage workforce in San Francisco. That is the real issue and it is a lesson for every founder in the forum. I have had conversations with some of you and a great many other entrepreneurs over the years. A great idea is not a business. A business is a team of people. Some people develop the product; some package it; some develop the marketing plan and others sell it it.  It takes money. I have had to explain to many entrepreneurs that asking investors  to give you money without a team in place compounds the difficulty of raising funds.That includes a CFO who is going to help you spend the money that investors give you. This employee should never have been placed into this position. Don't shoot the messenger. I live in the SF Bay area. Yelp should never have located its business here.  It is an ego trip for management that should have its eyes on the bottom line. Uber is moving to Oakland. 90% of new businesses fail because the owners don't get it.  Your business is not about you. It is about your employees, your investors and most importantly your customers and how well you treat them.

Robert Lee

February 23rd, 2016

She applied for the job knowing what her own qualifications were for that position and the company hired her for the salary offered. Nothing secretive or undisclosed on either side. But then to publicly denounce your employer with all that in place is disrespectful not only to your employer but also to your co-workers. The job was offered to her and she accepted it. Nothing more needs to be said.

Steve Everhard All Things Startup

February 24th, 2016

Irwin no one forced her to take the job. If you hadn't fired her then you would be harbouring a virus. If she had resigned first then maybe she would have survived with some integrity - but not with the tone of this message. Mocking her employer publicly is not fighting for a living wage it's just plain stupid. Leave these positions unfilled if they are not economically viable. Do your due diligence and decline the job. Don't snark whilst employed, it is a pointless exercise not a brave stance. There were much better options open to her. 

Rob G

February 24th, 2016

spicy topic.  Yes, given the information at hand, i would have fired her. 
1. she gave the company no good options by going public in what appears to be her first or perhaps second attempt to address the issue.  Different story if she had made multiple, more appropriate attempts prior and her public name and shame campaign was a last resort. 
2. paying customer-facing employees $1,500/month in the Bay area is simply a bad business decision.  Yes, she's college educated and of course she should have been able to figure out that her choices of housing, travel expenses, communications, etc. would not pencil out, BUT i would call out Yelp management for being apparently dumb enough to believe they could make minimum wage work for that position locally.  That's just plain ignorant on their part.  And if they truly do have a policy that all CSRs stay in customer service for 12 months they need another big dope slap upside the head. CSRs who show initiative, leadership, critical thinking, judgement should be able to advance on merit not on time in the penalty box. 
3. customer facing personnel are typically the first interaction your customers (and others) have with your company.  Far too many companies use customer service as a training ground/penalty box. not smart.  Figure out a way to make the numbers work (level 1 self serve, level 2 community serve, level 3 first company contact, etc.) such that you can afford to hire the right quality of employee here.
4. judgement and critical thinking skills are vital tools for CSRs. She showed a lack of both. 
5. She could move to Seattle (the city of) where our minimum wage is now $15.00/hr, but i doubt i'll be hiring her anytime soon UNLESS she has a flash of brilliance and posts a well crafted and heart-felt public apology in which she demonstrates that she understands that her public letter to her CEO showed:
A. her overgrown sense of entitlement
B. her realization that a college degree in english literature might not be the launch point for the career path she apparently didn't plan well for. 
C. how her degree in english lit can be of real value to the company
D. That the world is competitive and she's not entitled to a hire wage from this company in this job title just because she can't make ends meet given the choices she has made. The world is full of people who can do your job as well or better for the same or less $$.  If she shows she understands this and shows how she can deliver greater value for the company then she's moving in the right direction. 
E. that she understands that her current customer-facing job is about judgement and critical thinking skills and that, in hind-sight, she clearly exhibited neither of these skills in her decision to publicly shame her CEO 

She has a real opportunity as does Yelp actually, to turn this around to the positive for both.  She posts a well-crafted public apology in which she clearly demonstrates that she 'gets it' - she lays out all the reasons why her post was not the best approach to solving the problem and hand and takes responsibility and clearly demonstrates critical thinking, judgement and leadership then i think Yelp should hire her back and use her clear strengths to everyone's advantage.  Perhaps they offer to giver her a leadership roll in planning the relocation/near-sourcing/offshoring of the level 3+ CS role with input as to hiring profiles and career path planning, training, etc.  Both can make lemonade of these lemons.  

Then of course if she declines because she simply doesn't want to move then we have our answer. 

Anne Bagamery Senior Editor, Magazines and Special Reports at International New York Times

February 24th, 2016

This is a tough lesson for her that life is unfair and doesn't owe her anything. It's also a lesson to keep her eye on the prize, and not give in to impulses that are not going to get her where she wants to go. Judge by the results. Did she change policy at Yelp? No. Did she win better compensation for herself? No. Will anyone else hire her now? I wouldn't - she has just shown publicly that she is selfish and clueless. So what was achieved here? Companies should pay their employees decent wages and benefits. So how do you make that happen? This is the question she should have asked herself before she blew herself up in public.