Canadian HR Reporter

March 21, 2016

Canadian HR Reporter is the national journal of human resource management. It features the latest workplace news, HR best practices, employment law commentary and tools and tips for employers to get the most out of their workforce.

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 18 of 19

CANADIAN HR REPORTER March 21, 2016 INSIGHT 19 Emotional intelligence 101 Why a millennial's letter to Yelp's CEO got her fi red — and what both sides can learn If you haven't heard, the post entitled "An Open Letter to My CEO" went vi- ral a couple of weeks ago on Medium. "Talia Jane," a 25-year-old employ- ee of Yelp/Eat24, wrote the letter to Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman to tell her story — a story that in- cludes "crying in the bathtub ev- ery week" because of hunger pains and taking a $6 handout from a CVS employee who overheard her conversation about not knowing how she would get to work. And then, Jane got fi red. Stoppelman tweeted that he read the post on Medium, going so far as to acknowledge her point "that the cost of living in SF (San Francisco) is far too high" and he has "been focused on this issue... speaking out frequently about the need to lower cost of housing." Stoppelman also stated he was not personally involved in Jane being let go and claimed the fi r- ing "was not because she posted a Medium letter directed at me." We'll fi le that one under " ings that make you go hmmm." If you read my column, you know I write a lot about the role emotional intelligence (EQ) plays in the world of business. EQ in- volves the ability to recognize and understand your emotions, and to use that information to guide decision-making. Building EQ can prove very useful by shaping communication in a way that gets people to listen with a more open mind. I feel for Jane and I don't mean to kick her while she's down. Al- though I can observe the situation only from the outside, my experi- ence tells me that both sides made mistakes here. Nonetheless, as I read her post, I couldn't help but identify numer- ous lessons as to how EQ could have improved this particular communiqué: Don't go live when in an emotional state Writing with passion is great. Al- though potentially destructive, anger can help us stand up against wrongs or speak out when neces- sary. Some of the issues Jane ad- dresses in her letter (low pay in an area with an especially high cost of living and insensitive advice from management) are important and require discussion. If you're going to write, it's fi ne to do so when you're angry. Just don't hit "publish" (or "send"). If people have the chance to cool off for a few hours, or even a day or two, they're usually able to turn that raw, angry emotion into something more coherent. Jane only hurt her cause with state- ments like the following: "I was told I'd have to work in support for an entire year be- fore I would be able to move to a diff erent department. A whole year answering calls and talking to customers just for the hope that someday I'd be able to make memes and Twitter jokes about food." For Stoppelman (and no doubt many, many readers), she sounds like a spoiled, entitled millennial brat. Hardly a boomer (or even gen-X) manager will sympathize with an employee who can't stand the thought of taking a year to work her way up from an entry- level position. And let's just not comment on the thought that her ultimate goal in contributing to the company is to "make Twitter jokes about food." Is this an unfair assessment based on a single moment of emo- tion? Maybe. But many would ar- gue statements like this are simply asking for it. Takeaway: If you're angry, wait until you cool down before ap- proaching your communication partner. Before you speak or send your message, think to yourself: How will the other side view my points? Even better, ask someone you respect (and who won't always agree with you) to take a look at it. Ask them about your tone and how they would describe the piece in a few words, or in a single sen- tence. en, adjust as needed. You set the tone If we approach people in a calm and reasonable manner, our chances are much higher that they respond in the same way. Ac- knowledge their diffi culties and challenges, and they'll be much more willing to listen. (Credit to my wife for teaching me this lesson.) But when Jane uses biting sar- casm with the CEO of the com- pany, with statements like "I know (my thoughts) aren't worth your time" or when she suggests Yelp stop "restocking fl avoured coco- nut waters since no one drinks them (because they taste like the bitter remorse of accepting a job that can't pay a living wage)," it's reasonable to understand why Stoppelman might get upset. Instead, imagine how much better the letter would have been received if Jane assumed the best in her boss — if she acknowledged all the good things the CEO and company have already done for employees. What if she pleaded her case not in an accusatory tone, but in one that aimed to be kind and fair, fi rst? Takeaway: It might be cliché but it's true: You'll catch more fl ies with honey than vinegar. At the very least, make honey the appetizer. You can't turn back time Jane's post is only a drop in the bucket of examples proving the power of social media to aff ect your reputation. She's gotten a lot of attention and many think that's a good thing. But what about her future employment prospects? Will her next potential employer be scared away, wondering what her next Medium post will look like if she disagrees with any of the com- pany's practices? Or, even worse, will she blame the company for her own poor decisions or unfortunate circumstances? After Yelp fi red her, Jane up- dated her Medium post with her PayPal and Venmo credentials, along with the note: "As of 5:43 pm PST, I have been offi cially let go from the company. is was entirely unplanned (but I guess not completely unexpect- ed?) but any help until I fi nd new employment would be extremely appreciated." I won't discredit Jane's inten- tions here, as I don't know her full situation. But begging for dona- tions is a dangerous strategy that screams "looking for a handout." Takeaway: Remember, people will judge you (and sometimes freeze you in time) based on what you've put online. Before you put it all out there, ask yourself: Do I want people to form impressions about me based on this? Will I feel the same way in one year or fi ve years? e other side As mentioned, I'm sure Yelp made its share of mistakes in all of this. ere will be plenty of negative fallout to go around, and the com- pany's reputation as an employer may suff er. Only those on the inside know how Yelp truly deals with employ- ees. But if the company took Jane's complaints more seriously from the beginning, the open letter may have never been published. e moral of the story: It's all about empathy. Do your best to see things through the eyes of the other side and your communica- tion will improve automatically. at's easier said than done, but it's a habit worth cultivating. And the next time you get an- gry with someone, remember: at anger can be used for good, as long as it's kept under control. Use these strategies to help in- crease your EQ and your message will have much more potential to produce the desired results. Justin Bariso is founder of INSIGHT, a consultancy that helps organizations think diff erently and communicate with impact. Follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter @JustinJBariso. is article originally appeared at Continuance of employment What gets counted when hiring back a dismissed employee following dismissal? Question: If an employee is dismissed, receives her entitlement to pay in lieu of notice, and then successfully applies for a diff erent position with the same em- ployer before what would be the notice period is up, does the employee's previ- ous service have to be counted? Answer: As with almost all em- ployment law litigation, the cases are fact-specifi c; therefore, the an- swer is "maybe." In this question, the employee is still in receipt of pay in lieu of notice when hired for a diff erent position by the same employer. Courts generally say short breaks in service do not auto- matically amount to a break in continuous service. For example, in Beach v. IKON Offi ce Solutions, Ltd., the two breaks — one of 14 months in 1970-1971 and one of 16 months in 1982-1983 — were not significant enough in the context of the employee's overall years of employment — about 31 years — to constitute a break in service for the purpose of deter- mining reasonable notice. Notably, the court said: "With respect to the implications of a break in service, it is common ground that an employer may in certain circumstances be found to have explicitly recognized that a returning employee is to be treat- ed as having maintained continu- ous employment… Where there is no express term in the re-em- ployment contract dealing with the issue, the question is whether the employer has eff ectively rec- ognized continuity of service." e court found the employee was given more than the start- ing vacation entitlement when he was hired after the second break and given the maximum vacation entitlement four years later — an entitlement normally given to em- ployees with 15 years of service. In addition, the employee was given service pins and other recogni- tion for a period of service dating to before his rehiring. "Recently, in Vist v. Best eratronics Ltd., the Ontario Su- preme Court of Justice concluded that a short gap in service did not break service because the rehire contract failed to address 'length of service for purposes of termina- tion,'" said the court. " us, if an employer does not expressly tell an employee on re- hire that it will not recognize prior service, it may not be able to rely on a break in service at a future date, especially where the break is of short duration." Some employment standards legislation will also play a role in determining whether there has been a break in service that sev- ers the employment relationship for the purpose of employment standards. For example, s. 77 of the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code provides: "(3) Successive periods of em- ployment of a person by an em- ployer constitute one period of employment, except for succes- sive periods of employment more than 13 weeks apart in which case the last employment constitutes the period of employment for the purposes of Sections 71, 72 and 73 [notice sections]." e short answer is "maybe." It depends on the facts of each case. The question is best answered when there is an express contract at point of hire limiting future lia- bility for termination as discussed in Beach v. IKON and Vist v. Best eratronics Ltd. For more information see: • Potash Corporation of Sas- katchewan (Allan Division) and United Steel Workers, Local 7689 (Dec. 17, 2013), D. Ish – Arb. (Sask. Arb.). • Luscar Ltd. v. I.U.O.E., Local 115, 2001 CarswellBC 3617 (B.C. Arb.). • Beach v. IKON Offi ce Solutions Ltd., 1999 CarswellBC 1482 (B.C. S.C.). • Vist v. Best eratronics Ltd., 2014 CarswellOnt 7189 (Ont. S.C.J.). Brian Johnston is a partner at Stew- art McKelvey in Halifax. He can be reached at (902) 420-3374 or bjohn- If the company took the complaints more seriously from the beginning, the letter may never have been published. If you haven't heard, the post entitled "An Open Letter to My CEO" went vi- ral a couple of weeks ago on Medium. Justin Bariso GUest CoMMentary Brian Johnston ToUghest HR QUestion

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Canadian HR Reporter - March 21, 2016