First a bit of a backstory. I’ve been “in charge” of people for more or less 20 years now and that’s important to this story because sadly it means I’m “in charge” of their livelihoods and even, at least this part, of their careers. I say sadly because it is the most stressful part of my job. Am I helping this person make a good choice, am I really doing what’s right for them and the company, am I really considering everything about this person when I make a decision about their career? It is a responsibility I take very seriously and it weighs pretty heavily on me. Why is this important? I’m getting to that, be patient.
I have, over the years, fired people for many and varied reasons. I’ve encountered everything from a person showing up obviously drunk to someone falling asleep at their keyboard (literally). I’ve had to let people go because they just aren’t getting it but would you like to know something I’ve never fired someone for? Their personal opinions and I’ve run into a lot of them over the years. I’ve had people I KNOW talk about my upbringing and heritage behind my back, some of them are still employed. I’ve had people I KNOW have very very different views from my own, they are still employed. I know this sounds crazy but you see I actually believe in freedom of speech and I don’t believe that a company’s “brand” is worth sacrificing that freedom for.
Fast forward to just this morning I had a, I’m sure, very nice and perfectly reasonable person email me out of the blue asking me if I support one of my people “inciting racists views.” Of course I don’t! How awful! I read the email and then the image attachment of the alleged offense. I could not for the life of me figure out how my employee was “inciting” anything, it was obvious, to anyone with a brain, this was sarcasm dripping with oh-so-horrible elements of truth. It was social commentary from this employee’s point of view and nothing more. This brave emailer, that did not use their real name or email address, was offended because the employee used words. Words, I assume, the brave emailer did not agree with. How sad for them.
A lot of people, most people anyway, that know me will tell you I’m not shy. Not about my opinion or my beliefs so believe me when I tell you, emailing me (or as this person did, all the addresses they could find on our company website) trying to get someone fired because YOU were offended is not going to ever work with me. This is doubly true if you don’t have the courage to even use your real name or email address so we could discuss it further. Was there something offensive going on here? Yes.
The offensive act was trying to take away someone’s livelihood because YOU didn’t like their opinions, opinions posted on THEIR personal account. Trying to get someone fired for expressing THEIR view of social issues on THEIR personal account is the act of an absolute coward. If you don’t like their views you can mute them or *gasp* unfollow them. It’s really easy, had you had the decency to use your real email I would’ve followed up with step by step instructions. I’m sure the employee in question would’ve even gladly engaged in honest, spirited debate with you but no you chose the pathetic route and tried to get them fired. Good job I’m sure your Mom and Dad are very very proud.
Note: I don’t usually get this worked up about this kind of stuff but this one really annoyed me (this isn’t the first time it’s happened it’s just most of the people who have sent complaints use their real names/email and I can deal with them one on one) and made my blood boil. As I said I take my responsibilities to my employees very seriously and an anonymous coward just set me off. Have the courage of your alleged convictions, don’t hide behind some goofy alias, if these things are really what you believe then at least have the bravery to do that. I’m going back to work now, lunchtime is over.