Advice / Succeeding at Work / Money

Publicly Complaining About Your Company Is Never a Smart Career Move—Even if You're Right

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A Yelp’s employee’s open letter to the company CEO made headlines this weekend. In case it wasn’t trending on your Facebook, here’s what you need to know: Talia Jane, a customer service representative, took to Medium to express her disappointment with her salary, as well as the company overall. She published it on February 19; later that day, she was fired. While CEO Jeremy Stoppelman tweeted that Jane’s dismissal was not his doing, I think he probably wasn’t thrilled about the situation.

While she touched on real issues with salary discrepancies in Silicon Valley (such as the fact Jane made $8.15 an hour in a notorioiusly expensive city), she did it in such a way that it read as an angry, immature, and whiny diatribe against Stoppelman himself.

For example, in explaining why she stopped using her heater and how hungry she is, Jane directs her hostility at the CEO, writing:

Have you ever slept fully clothed under several blankets just so you don’t get a cold and have to miss work? Have you ever drank a liter of water before going to bed so you could fall asleep without waking up a few hours later with stomach pains because the last time you ate was at work? I woke up today with stomach pains. I made myself a bowl of rice.

OK. Even if you do believe it’s justified, in what universe does an employee’s disgust with a millionaire boss’ income or business strategy make it smart to publish an entire rant about him? I mean, when is a CEO ever going to respond favorably to a lashing out like this? So, Jane has debt and a huge chunk of her pay goes to rent. I feel her pain, but did anyone twist her arm and force her to take this job? If there’s a valid reason she stuck around there (and there could be!), she certainly didn’t share it. Instead, she very likely burned quite a few future bridges for herself—while Yelp, as a company, will probably weather through this viral storm just fine.

Did Jane think Stoppelman’s response would be “Hey, you’re right. We’re going to start paying you and everyone else more because the cost of living in the Bay Area is astronomical. Thanks for bringing that to our attention. We’re so sorry we didn’t realize you had debt and were eating rice for dinner.”

Yes, of course it’s (very, very) disappointing to hear about successful companies employing people who can barely make ends meet, but Twitter, Medium, and the like aren’t appropriate places to address these concerns. Those places would be a manager’s office or the HR department (and even there, being tactful cannot be understated). I’ll admit, I don’t know much about Yelp as a company, and I have no idea if trying to resolve the matter in-house would’ve helped (especially because when you ask for a raise, it’s wise not to make it personal), but I strongly believe in the power of communication. And if she had no luck going about it that way? Well, I would’ve told her that it’s time to find a new company to work for.

Getting a new job’s certainly easier said than done, and I’m not naive enough to think that’s always a feasible step. However, she did have choices in this situation: Publish this rant or not publish this rant. And by choosing to publish, she likely made it even harder for her to move on and get the salary increase she is seeking.