Remember the fifteen-minutes of infamy of Talia Jane, an entry-level Yelp employee who posted an article to the social media site Medium titled, An Open Letter To My CEO? Cheekily addressed to “Jeremy” (Yelp Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Stoppleman), the letter/rant/ classic of arrogant entitlement was a long, snotty whine about her low compensation—you know, like all entry-level jobs—alleged abject poverty (which was quickly shown to be a lie), high Bay Area living expenses (because they were a secret until she moved there), company policies and the fact that Yelp creator Stoppleman was rich.
Jane was thoroughly shredded by every online commentator (including Ethics Alarms) over the age of 21 and not a Bernie Sanders supporter. The obnoxious screed showed a complete lack of personal responsibility for her own choices, and made her a strong candidate for Most Unattractive Job Candidate of 2016. My conclusion:
I wouldn’t trust Talia Jane to run my lemonade stand.
Hey, but she’s young, she made a mistake, and she’ll learn and grow through this misstep, understanding the error of her ways and going forward to become a fair, reasonable, ethical member of society, right?
Fat chance. I hesitated to pronounce her essay as signature significance, a misbegotten ethics botch of a magnitude that indicated the author was probably an incurable toxic jerk, because 25 is too early to write off even the most egregious offenders. She may learn yet, I suppose, but the most recent evidence is not encouraging.
Yelp announced last week that it was bumping up the hourly pay of customer service reps at its Eat24 subsidiary (where Talia Jane worked) to $14 from $12.25. Employees will now receive 15 days of paid time off, up from five, and 11 paid holidays, a benefit they didn’t have previously. Talia’s response to the news was to take credit for it, telling one website, “I think my letter acted as a catalyst to enact the changes more immediately, especially since I hadn’t heard any of this while I was there.” She added that her reaction was an immediate, ‘This is so great for them, I’m so happy for them,’ and then I folded my letter into the mix and laughed out a ‘You’re welcome, I guess?’ ”
Yelp says that the improved compensation had been in the works for a while. That may be true: typically a significant change in compensation levels will be studied and debated a lot longer than two months. It may not be true, too: after Yelp claimed that Talia wasn’t fired for gratuitously attacking her boss on the web, I wouldn’t believe anything they said about this or anything else. However, awarding Jane credit for her remaining co-workers’ new benefits is to inject a dangerous anti-ethics virus into the cultural bloodstream, empowering jerks and assholes everywhere to become even more entitled and smug than they already are.
Let’s begin with Talia Jane’s response to the Yelp news, a new entry on Medium which is res ipsa loquitur for toxic jerkism:
An Open Letter To My Critics
Talia, as well as some of her supporters in the leftward punditry community, apparently never studied the logical fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc, or “After this, and so because of this.” Talia Jane’s unethical attack is among the least probably explanations for Yelp’s change, since just about everyone had forgotten about her within a week or so, and most of the reaction to her essay was negative anyway. Unfortunately for Yelp, Eat24 is located in California, where Jerry Brown recently signed into law an economically irresponsible phased increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. I’m surprised Talia Jane didn’t try to take credit for this, too.
The Democratic Party’s pandering to unions and the financially ignorant during the current presidential campaign, in televised debates and thousands of op-eds and pundit arguments, also probably helped to focus Yelp’s attention on the issue. Companies improve employee benefits all the time and for many reasons, including employee morale that has been damaged by unethical, self-promoting agitators in their midst. Yelp might have decided that it was time to raise wages and benefits if Jane had set fire to herself, or gone on a shooting rampage after leaving a note blaming her homicidal actions on Jeremy Stoppleman. That wouldn’t make either of these acts ethically justifiable.
Jane, as could have been predicted by her initial letter, doesn’t understand this basic ethics principle. Her latest rationalization of choice is Consequentialism, or “It worked out for the best.” Even accepting for the sake of argument that her open letter had some contributory role in making up Yelp’s mind, what occurs after an unethical act cannot make that act ethical.
To argue otherwise is to assert that the ends justify the means. An Al Qaeda member could observe Obama’s Iran deal and similarly write to the critics of radical Islamic terrorism, “Suck on this!”