In case you missed it last week, a couple people got fired for joking about the size of their dongles at a conference. Here’s the article from Tech Crunch — A Dongle Joke That Spiraled Way Out of Control. Long story short — two guys make a sexually suggestive joke about a Dongle to no one in particular, but it’s at a conference and they’re in mixed company. A lady overhears them and doesn’t like it. She takes a quick picture of them with her phone and tweets out the pic and the comment about how crude they are. This gets the jokester fired, and, after the fallout, gets the lady who posted the picture fired!
To get reaction – I went to my buddy with the biggest dongle I know – Laurie Ruettimann!
(Tim) Laurie – you know the deal, you’ve been in HR, a couple of idiot guys saying inappropriate stuff – it’s HR 101 and an easy termination! The backlash on the female who posted the original comment and pic, Adria Richards, I thought was a bit crazy. It almost screams retaliation termination. What is your take on this? How would you have handled it as the HR leader?
(Laurie) If there is one thing like I like more than Human Resources, it’s dongles. I love them.
You know what I really hate? Public shaming. Adria Richards was well within her rights to be offended by a joke. I think using a #hashtag to talk about the joke, and gain the attention of the conference organizers, was okay. But when she took it upon herself to take a picture of the guys who made the dongle joke and publicly shame them, she went too far and exercised poor judgment.
Who wants to employ a person like that?
She was also fired because the hacker group Anonymous caught wind of her actions and went after her employer. Adria posed a risk to her organization. It was time for her to go.
There’s a lesson in this, Tim. Nothing good comes from industry conferences. Stop pretending like innovation and thought leadership happen at these stupid events. No matter what your industry, it’s mostly a bunch of nerdy dudes trying to hook up with hypersensitive chicks. Get back to work.
(Tim) LFR — Public Shaming? You’re against Public Shaming! Do you know Stephen Covey, Jack Welch and Mahatma Gandhi all call ‘Public Shaming’ one of the most underutilized management tools of the 21st century! In fact, I think I taught a leadership development class on Public Shaming and Driving for Results back in the day.
I’ll admit the Adria picture was a low blow — especially since in the photo it looks like there is one main dude she is pointing out, and that guy didn’t even do it. Not only did she post the pic, she made it look like the wrong guy was the Neanderthal! I’m still sitting here in shock you’re against public shaming, it’s the basis of every great HR Pro I know — and the entire liberal movement since the 1960’s!
(Laurie) My Dearest Timmy, I stand corrected. I am actually okay with public shaming when I do it, which is the hallmark of every great leader.
When I shame you, you deserve it. When someone shames me, they should get fired.
But the HR lady in me wonders why Adria didn’t have a crucial conversation with the guys who made the dongle joke. Right there. Adria wasn’t standing up for reproductive rights or fair wages. She wasn’t walking a picket line. Her safety and security weren’t being threatened. She heard a joke that bugged her. And if she can’t pony up the courage and tell two stupid dudes at an event to STFU, maybe she doesn’t deserve her job.
Leadership is all about small, subtle decisions. She made a big, dumb decision. So she’s out.
But you know my management motto: Do as I say, not as I do.
(Tim) I’m sure there’s some kind of poetic justice in all of this — but I’m an HR Pro and now have two positions to fill because people couldn’t act like adults. Another day in HR!
So, what do you think? Would you have fired either, both or what? Hit us up in the comments.