In writing about Talia Jane, Ethics Alarms concluded that her “open letter” to her boss at Yelp was really an career play designed to get the aspiring writer publicity and sufficient fame to exploit for her advancement. If it constituted unprofessional conduct and betrayal of trust, she really didn’t care. (Subsequent investigations of her social media activity indicate that her representations of abject poverty were less than honest). Whether this was the plan or not, her public screed, like excrement attracts flies, got her a job interview with what seems like a good match for someone with her peculiar sense of ethical conduct.
The marketing director at a Dallas startup company called Fdbak sent an invitation Talia’s way on the company’s Facebook page:
Dear Talia Jane,
I commend you for standing up for yourself, and your coworkers. Communicating directly with your CEO takes a lot of courage, especially when the subject matter is negative. I’m reaching out to you on behalf of Fdbak, Inc., a Dallas, TX based technology firm. Fdbak created a messaging app that lets you send and receive anonymous feedback to and from anyone. More importantly, you can tell your employer what you really think, without fear of retribution.
You have already been put through a tumultuous gauntlet of improper employee-employer relations, but there are many employees out there that are struggling to speak up, fearing a result similar to yours. Our goal is to provide individuals with an anonymous vehicle for workplace communication, protecting them from what happened to you. We’d love to have you on our team, helping us build a professional environment where you can speak freely and safely to anyone.
Marketing Director at Fdbak
The message is factually incorrect, and what is known in the marketing field as “bullshit.” Talia didn’t communicate directly with her CEO, or if she did, she hasn’t said so. She communicated indirectly and publicly, using a medium, “Medium,” that it was a fair guess that her boss never used or read. So why is Fdbak extolling her unethical open letter and misrepresenting it? Simple: the company, a start-up, is trying to hitchhike on her 15 minutes of fame before it expires, even though her conduct doesn’t really fit.
‘Uh, Bob? She didn’t get fired for communicating directly with her boss. She got fired for embarrassing the company by attacking it in public.’
I now know this is a sleazy company aborning, and so should you.
It gets worse. This part is funny: Bob says that “communicating directly with your CEO takes a lot of courage,” and then explains that the company’s new app eliminates the need for courage, and will let employees contact supervisors anonymously without any risk at all. It will also allow people like Talia to call their employers cheap taskmasters anonymously, but Jane would have had no use for such an app. Going public, with her name attached, was the whole idea.
So Fdbak allows employees to undermine and lie about colleagues, bitch about working conditions, and to send harassing or abusive messages without accountability. What a great idea! I’m sure some legitimate complaints and whistle-blowing might also come in via the app, but almost all companies of any significant size have anonymous hotlines already that serve that purpose. If a company consists of just a handful of employees, how hard will it be to guess that the anonymous complainer is the company equivalent of Talia Jane? I never had a staff I didn’t know well enough that wouldn’t have been able to tell exactly who was behind an anonymous complaint, and more importantly, I made it clear to my staff that any complaint about another employee that was anonymous meant nothing to me, and I would ignore it. This is Golden Rule territory: I’ve had to defend myself against false accusations from “anonymous ” sources, and I resent it.
If employees have constructive suggestions, and they are adopted, wouldn’t they want their name attached to it? I admit that I approach this issue from a bias, for both Jack Marshall Jr. and Jack Marshall Sr. had a professional habit of being candid with supervisors regarding areas of improvement. Sometimes we got thanks, credit, raises and promotions, and sometimes we got fired. Nevertheless, that’s the way the workplace should work.
I’m sure that some good could come out Fdbak, but its overall effect will be to reduce trust and communication in the workplace, and erode an ethical culture. It’s an app that will be welcomed by cowards, rumor-mongers, workplace assassins, meddlers and liars. That’s a great market you have there, Bob. A large one, anyway.
Oh, and Bob? If for some reason you hire Talia and she dissatisfied, don’t expect her to use Fdback to tell you.
Facts: The Blaze