The Courage in an Apology

I stumbled across this today and thought about the courage it took this CEO to not only publicly admit his failures to his staff but to actually apologize for them.

Martin Varsavsky, a self-described serial entrepreneur and CEO of Fon had this to say:

My only excuse really is that the life of an entrepreneur is one of trial and error, and in my quest to build great companies I have to give things a try, and sometimes I am dead wrong. And people lose their jobs because of that. And they have families, mortgages, plans, and they suffer.

So here it is: this is an apology to all of those I had to fire in my life because I screwed up, because I failed, because I was incompetent. I am really sorry.

The reality of the workplace is that people are hired and fired everyday. Some people fire themselves with continued poor performance and conduct and others are let go through no fault of their own. But in stating the latter has no fault, whose fault is it?

I admire Mr. Varsavsky for acknowledging who’s to blame for the releasing of these employees. It’s not easy to apologize. You have to rise above your own pride and your own failures to see how your conduct and experience affect others.

Unfortunately, it’s very rare to hear such candor from a CEO.

Mr. Varsavsky, although I’ve never met you, let alone worked for you, thank you. You have inspired more than just those to whom the apology was directed.

Workplace Bullying Hurts Everyone

This is an obvious statement, yes, but what we’re learning about bullying in the workplace and how it affects the workplace is astounding. And it’s our job in HR to ensure the mental, physical and emotional safety of our employees.

First of all, what is workplace bullying? According to the Workplace Bullying Institute,

Workplace Bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators that takes one or more of the following forms:

  • Verbal abuse
  • Offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating
  • Work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done

Sound familiar? Somewhat like the three prongs of hostile work environment albeit not sexual in nature. That’s because bullying is harassment and the latest information shows that it is just as toxic to the workplace as any form of discrimination or harassment. Per the WPI, mentioned above, those employees who were subjected to workplace bullying suffered mental and emotional harm:

Bullying is often called psychological harassment or violence. What makes it psychological is bullying’s impact on the person’s mental health and sense of well-being. The personalized, focused nature of the assault destabilizes and disassembles the target’s identity, ego strength, and ability to rebound from the assaults. The longer the exposure to stressors like bullying, the more severe the psychological impact. When stress goes unabated, it compromises both a target’s physical and mental health.

Psychological-Emotional Injuries

  • Debilitating Anxiety, Panic Attacks (>80%)
  • Clinical Depression: new to person or exacerbated condition previously controlled (39%)
  • Post-traumatic Stress (PTSD) from deliberate human-inflicted abuse (30% of targeted women; 21% of men)
  • Shame (the desired result of humiliating tactics by the bully) – sense of deserving a bad fate
  • Guilt (for having “allowed” the bully to control you)
  • Overwhelming sense of Injustice (Equity – the unfairness of targeting you who works so hard; Procedural – the inadequacy of the employer’s response to your complaint)

It’s not always the subject of the bullying who suffers consequences. A new study from Sweden shows that those who witness workplace bullying are subject to depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

The number of men who were bystanders to bullying was larger compared to women. However, the proportion of women who were bystanders to bullying and developed depressive symptoms 18 months later was higher in comparison with men (33.3 and 16.4 %, respectively).”

Again, stating the obvious, the best way to avoid such employee impact is to disallow bullying in the workplace. But how? Training managers to manage, not bully, their staff. Encouraging employees to come forward when they are subjected to or witness maltreatment of any sort in the workplace. Putting into place specific policies outlining what workplace bullying is and the consequences for bullying in the workplace. And perhaps, most importantly, advising and assisting company executives in creating and sustaining a culture of creativity over a culture of fear.

Perhaps then, we can all go back to work to do what we were hired to do. Our jobs.

Secret Santa Gone Wrong

Yeah, it’s that time of year when we all express our goodwill to other employees through a harmless little game called “Secret Santa” Usually it’s good natured fun among friends at work.

But what happens when you really don’t know the person? What if you choose yourself? What if you don’t know the rules?

The thing about Secret Santa is that when it goes wrong, it goes really, really wrong. The Harvard Sailing Team shows us exactly how wrong Secret Santa can go.

..And a Happy New Year

[via Laughing Squid and Tastefully Offensive]

I’ll Make 250K This Year, While You’re Unemployed LOL

It’s really nice sometimes, even when you’re not looking for a job, to get an email from a recruiter. It strokes the ego of your professional self because someone else out there recognizes how valuable you are, what talent you have and why out of thousands of people, you were the one they wanted. Just one email about potential employment can make your whole day.

Except when it doesn’t.

Such was the case with “Robert”, a guy, per Gawker, who got an email from one such recruiter. The recruiter, Joe Goddard, found Robert’s resume on Monster.com and decided to contact him, despite the fact that Robert was not willing to relocate.

The exchange (courtesy of Gawker (where it looks much prettier):

You will be Located at the global HQ, in beautiful Northwest Arkansas, home to about 450,000 people. Enjoy all the amenities of a metro-area, with the feel of a laid-back college town. Live near the gorgeous Ozark Mountains, you’ll have 4 seasons, beautiful lakes, streams, Direct Jet Service to every major city in the country, No crime, great schools and fantastic low cost of living!!!

Thank you,
Joe Goddard

Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2012 3:18 PM
To: [Joe Goddard]
Subject: Re: .Net Programmer/Developer career Opp – fortune 500!!!

Since you got my resume off of Monster, I’m sure you saw in my profile that I’m only interested in jobs in Columbus, Ohio, because you surely check these things before firing off e-mails.

On Thu, Apr 12, 2012 at 4:24 PM, Joe Goddard wrote:

A lot of people are open to other options, outside of what they put on Monster. Now I know why you’re looking for a job – because you’re a smartass LOL, you dick.

From: [Robert]
Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2012 3:26 PM
To: Joe Goddard
Subject: Re: .Net Programmer/Developer career Opp – fortune 500!!!

And I know why you’re shotgunning jobs – you’re an unprofessional hack.

On Thu, Apr 12, 2012 at 4:26 PM, Joe Goddard wrote:

Maybe, but I’ll make 250k this year, while you’re unemployed lol

From: [Robert]
Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2012 3:29 PM
To: Joe Goddard
Subject: Re: .Net Programmer/Developer career Opp – fortune 500!!!

Actually, I’m not. But then again, to know that, you would have to read my resume. Something real recruiters do, by the way.

You’re quite amusing, really.

On Apr 12, 2012 4:34 PM, Joe Goddard wrote:

I’m amused as well, this is fun. You must really love your job, considering you’re looking for a new one. By the way, does you current employer know you’re looking? J

From: [Robert]
Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2012 3:55 PM
To: Joe Goddard
Subject: RE: .Net Programmer/Developer career Opp – fortune 500!!!

Yes.

And you must love yours, too, leaving an email trail like this one.

From: Joe Goddard
Date: Apr 12, 2012 5:00 PM
Subject: RE: .Net Programmer/Developer career Opp – fortune 500!!!
To: [Robert]

Ummm, since I own the company, I’d yes, I do like my job. Regarding theis email, you can rest assured I’m not a damn bit worried about this. You smartoff to me, you’re not gonna like the response. Also, I will make sure all 247 IT staffing firms in my network see this email, so they can redflag you, just as I have. Good luck in your job search hahahahahah

Probably not the best way to get your candidate. It certainly didn’t do wonders for his company’s image. Threatening a candidate and all.

Perhaps if he just said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I missed that part of your profile”, then all would be right in Joe Goddard’s world. No good can come from emailing a stranger, dangling your ego and salary in the stranger’s face and then calling him a dick.

Except maybe a silly blog post.

OMGPOP CEO Tweets About Employee Who Didn’t Take Deal

But it didn’t stop there. Via Venturebeat:

Yesterday, OMGPOP Chief Executive Officer Dan Porter shot off a few messages on Twitter in an attempt to have the last word:

“The one OMGPOP employee who turned down joining Zynga was the weakest one on the whole team,” Porter tweeted. “Selfish people make bad games. Good riddance!”

Porter didn’t stop with that. In another tweet, the CEO said, “What’s so interesting about success is the number of failures who try try to ride on your back. Shay Pierce is just one of many….” Or in other words: They see me drawing something — they hatin’.

How does one even start? The CEO of a OMGPOP, a company that was bought by Zynga, a larger company publicly bashed an employee who made a decision that the employee felt was best for him? It just doesn’t make sense. Why does the CEO even care? Or, if he truly did have reason to care, why address it in such a public forum?

It is true that the employee, Shay Pierce, wrote a column for Gamasutra explaining why he didn’t take the Zynga deal, probably revealing too much in the details of his employment, but even so, he made an express point of having no hard feelings.

I’m not bitter. I have zero complaints about anyone at Omgpop and I congratulate them for their success. Zynga had the right to ignore my attempts to negotiate; I had the right to walk away. This has all been legal and amicable.

This tantrum isn’t doing Porter any favors. Several people called him out on his pettiness. Just a sample below:

This is such a poor example of leadership. The high road would have been to wish the employee the best and be on his merry (very merry) way. It is up to any CEO to lead the company into the future, not look back with disdain. People come and go. Those who stay want to be there. It is evident that Shay Pierce didn’t want to be there. And that was his choice.

Jason Goldberg, CEO of Fab.com said it very well in regard to his own employees:

It’s simple. We believe that we are building the best company in the world to work for. But, in the end, everyone has a choice as to where they want to work. We want people who choose Fab.com.

(Full disclosure: I work for Fab.com)

And since this story broke, it seems that Dan Porter realized the error of his ways, deleted the tweets and apologized. Several times.

I hope for his sake, these apologies can help restore Dan Porter’s credibility. Because deleting the offending tweets sure didn’t.

UPDATE: It seems Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter didn’t think too highly of Porter’s remarks.

Even more reaction can be found on Kevin Marks‘ blog here.

Yeah, probably not the best move he ever made as CEO, but perhaps he’s learned something. However, according to this tweet, I don’t hold out much hope.

UPDATE 2: It seems the story goes on. An “anonymous source” told Business Insider

We received a particularly angry email yesterday from a source within OMGPOP who took a number of shots at Pierce.

This person said that while Pierce did indeed resign, that was “convenient” for everyone, because he was about to be let go for being a poor worker.

“He frequently took long lunches, his coding was poor, and right before his team was about to release our new Facebook game, Streets, he took off for a week to promote his own game at the GDC conference,” says the source. According to this OMGPOP source, this all happened while Pierce’s team was pulling late nights in the office to prepare for launch.

The article continues with Pierce stating that he was never given any indication from management that he was going to be fired. The source stated that Pierce was “on the chopping block” but hadn’t been informed of it.

Whether or not Pierce was a good employee or about to be fired is beside the point. Even if his post on Gamasutra was not completely honest or if it offended other people on the team, it is still not acceptable for a CEO to publicly bash a former employee in the way that he did. It is beneath his position and frankly not very nice.

Then again, we’re all human and we all make mistakes.

Porter admitted that the he was harsh in his language describing Pierce. “Yes it was, but my point is that it wasn’t about Shay. It was about the 41 other people who made it happen,” Porter wrote. “Those are the people I would throw myself in front of the train for and those are the people I want to celebrate.”

Goldman Sachs Exec Resigns via New York Times Op-Ed

Just when you thought you heard it all, another person makes an even bigger splash in the resignation pool.

Greg Smith, an Executive Director at Goldman Sachs, resigned today with an op-ed piece in the New York Times.

TODAY is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

This type of anger and resentment is unfortunately becoming more and more common amongst employees but to see it come from the very top is somewhat, albeit not completely, surprising. The Financial Sector has gotten toxic, there’s no other way to put it (Occupy Wall Street anyone?). But what I find interesting is what Mr. Smith’s (how ironic) greatest disappointment is how Goldman Sachs management treated their clients.

It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail.

I wouldn’t be surprised if many of those “muppets” find another place to invest. Even if I weren’t someone being referred to as a muppet (or worse), just the possibility of it happening would send me running.

Or as Mr. Smith stated, “It astounds me how little senior management gets a basic truth: If clients don’t trust you they will eventually stop doing business with you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are.”

A truer statement has never been said.

While we’re on the subject, it looks like a trend is starting as another powerful executive has resigned via an editorial page. It just doesn’t have the same impact after it’s already been done via the New York Times. Even so, one can see that he makes a good point:

“The Empire today has become too much about shortcuts and not enough about remote strangulation. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore.”