Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fired for online activities? Join the club.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine was told to take his blog down, or risk termination from his place of employment. His blog had nothing to do with his job. Two years ago a woman was fired from being a lecturer at RMIT Univeristy (Saigon) for content on her personal blog. Knowing her fairly well, I took a look at the offending content. She deserved it. What she had written was rude, culturally insensitive and way, way off base from being a role model for Vietnamese students aspiring to be a professional anything. It was like she was a different person online than off, and not a good one.

But the two examples were radically different. My friend's blog was enlightening, humorous, extremely well written and a real liniment for the pains of poor reading we suffer here in expat heaven - hers, a piece of rambling horseshit that truly undermined the title bestowed on her by the university on her name card. But that's not the point is it?

The point is, why were their two respective employers holding their employee's citizen journalistic involvement over their heads and using it as leverage against their jobs? Let me say that in English; Why were these two employers F#*&%^$g with their Sh%@?

And the answers to those questions could fill a lot more pages than we have here. But it makes you wonder. For those of us raised and schooled in countries where freedom of speech, even stupid speech, is supposedly a right granted to us constitutionally
, WTF is going on when those same countries reach across oceans and continents to quash those rights on their citizens living abroad? WTF is it when we have to use those letters as opposed to the actual words?

The video above is an absolute farking scream. And it uses the "F" word extensively. The writer/director/producer was suspended from his job at Best Buy after his video gained a million views on YouTube. For those outside the US, Best Buy is a computer and electronics retail chain, and the video involves the subject of a customer wanting to make a purchase of such an item - but in no way and no inference, ever mentions the creator's day-job employer.

So what to do? Calling your boss a limp pricked weasel on Facebook is a pretty clear violation of that non-disclosure clause in the contract - so don't do that. And Tweeting that your latest conquest can suck the chrome off a trailer hitch is reasonably more interesting than Tweeting whatever numb-nut thing you were thinking while online at Starbucks - but still cheap and rude. The lesson seems to be, that no matter how erudite and charming you think you are online, you are probably most certainly not viewed that way in person, based on your sophomoric online antics.

Which brings me around to me.

When I started this blog two and a half years ago, I made the conscious decision that I would put my own real name on it, and stand by its content, keeping in mind that I am me, in whatever form I choose to represent myself - digital, print, electronic or in person - employed or unemployed, and need to be responsible for what I write, and who I am - in whatever arena that might fall. And until recently, that has not been so much of a challenge. But that had been until recently.

For everyone who loves this blog, there might be 10 employers who don't. And for every 99 employers who don't, there might be one that does. The trick seems to be only working for those who do like it. And this week, I found two. Two organizations who actually found the work on the blog to be a benefit to the assignments I will accomplish for them. For one, the entire idea that I have worked for 2 1/2 years producing a steady diet that has accumulated into 350+ stories tells a prospective client that I am consistent, disciplined and tenacious. Hell, I'm not being paid a dime for this. Who would do that? And why TF would anyone do that? And two, it tells them that I love what I do. And that's almost unheard of these days.

Love. That's a funny word to use for work. And yes, I do consider this work. Passionate work.

I met a woman this week who has just returned to Vietnam, fresh with a shiny new MBA from one of the top 25 schools in the world. She was telling me that she wasn't sure the multi-tentacled global behemoth she had just signed on with would allow her to apply passion to her work - and there's a word you don't hear very much from people in regard to work these days - passion. How refreshing.

Jerry Della Femina, past CEO and co-founder of the famed New York ad agency, Della Femina, Travisano & Partners was cornered by a rather religious and right-winged employee one day and told that she had heard some water cooler chat about two employees shagging under a table in a conference room. She requested that Mr. Della Femina reprimand the employees and even went so far as to suggest that the two be fired for the act. Imagine that. Fired for fornicating. What had the world been coming to? Now people are getting fired for writing, or worse, making harmless YouTube videos.

Mr. Della Femina politely thanked the woman for bringing this to his attention and excused himself. Later, in an interview with a journalist he recounted the story and summed up his reaction as such;
"Hell, I thought if people feel comfortable enough to f--- here, then this must be a pretty damn good place to work."

Sadly, the world seems painfully shy of the enlightened views of Mr. Della Femina these days. Maybe those dolts at Best Buy and a few international schools could learn a thing or two from him, the new MBA graduate and myself -

a life with no passion is no life at all. Learn to feel it, revel in it, harness it and put it towards some greater good in life, work and the hereafter. I was told once, in relation to creativity, that you can always pull a crazy idea back in a bit, but you can never take an employee who only comes up with average ideas and get them to do crazy when you need crazy.

The smart employer will see the energy and inherent creativity in their employee's online efforts, and learn to harness it, encourage more of it and apply it to productive tasks. And the dumb employer will get to hire all the other wallflowers who don't know the difference between a well-phrased Tweet and an ill-punched time-card. Viva la difference!

1 comment:

  1. Dude, you should be fired for cramming so much shit into your blog that it's not usable any more.


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