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?

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.

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. 

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.

Adryenn Ashley

February 23rd, 2016

It depends on if she had reached out with her concerns privately first. If so and we ignored her, then no. If not and the public open letter was her first attempt to resolve the issue, then yes. It's complicated. The company has to bear some of the responsibility for knowingly not paying a living wage in the most expensive city in the country. HR could have used a simple worksheet to reveal that her moving across country to take a minimum wage job would result in starvation. A local, living at home, being fed by parents, without student loans, rent, etc, would be able to do it. Anyone else, no way. That part of the equation is on them. In addition, she had previously made suggestions up her chain of command that were summarily dismissed, giving way to the impression that she would not be heard no matter what she was suggesting. And twenty-somethings have been weaned on social media. It's unrealistic to think that social media is not the first place they will lash out, or post their cry for help. It's second nature. No filter, no privacy. Hire them and your company best live up to the hype. *Adryenn Ashley* Business Architect Adryenn Ashley t: 415-420-5627 | e: adryenn@wowisme.net | w: http://www.wowisme.net http://follr.me/adryenn http://about.me/adryenn

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.