Give yourself built-in margin

I happened to listen to a podcast episode from 2021 about an online cancellation story. You might remember it: a woman filmed at a Brooklyn dog park telling a black man to go back to the hood. Only that doesn’t appear to be exactly what happened. We don’t know the full story because the video is confused, lacks context and the woman doesn’t actually say the memorable line herself. As an article in Reason points out:

This is important, because viral videos often lack important context. Many people rushed to condemn the Covington Catholic High School teenagers for supposedly harassing a Native American man on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, but additional footage of the encounter showed that there was much else going on—and completely acquitted Nick Sandmann, the main object of social media’s ire, of wrongdoing.

What caught my attention wasn’t the video, but the name of the woman’s employer: Bevy. When the story came out, I either didn’t catch the name of the company or hadn’t yet heard of it. They own CMX which hosts a conference for community managers. I haven’t attended one yet, but I have used their job board, joined their Slack server and written abou their Community Industry Report. Internet community management owes a lot to CMX (and Bevy by extension) for professionalizing the job.

At any rate, it would be better to say Bevy is her former employer:

The timeline:[1]

  • Frederick Joseph, the man who recorded the video, posted it at 8:17 PM · Sep 25, 2021.
  • The woman was identified on Twitter by 9:52 AM · Sep 26, 2021.
  • Mr. Joseph called out Bevy and its CEO at 10:20 AM.
  • Mr. Joseph said he’d spoken to the CEO at 3:29 PM.
  • Derek Andersen, Bevy’s CEO, announced that he’d fired the woman at 6:26 PM.
  • Mr. Joseph recorded a short video and announced the woman had been fired at 7:51 PM.
  • Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, wrote “This…doesn’t feel right.” at 5:16 PM · Sep 27, 2021

I agree with her. Notice that September 25, 2021 was a Saturday and she was fired less than 24 hours after the video was posted. I searched the woman’s name and discovered she is now working at Trader Joe’s. Given she worked at Bevy as an Enterprise Account Executive, it appears her poor judgement one Saturday evening changed her life.

Two minutes after announcing his employee was fired, Mr. Andersen wrote:

I personally hope some type of resolution can happen between the two parties beyond this and will help if I can.

As many people pointed out in the replies, if he really cared about seeking reconciliation, he would have done it before firing his employee. Clearly what happened is that Twitter pressured him into a rash decision and he tried to spin it as courageous and that he cared about his (now former) employee’s soul (or whatever). Whatever you think if the ethics of the decision, it clearly worked out well from a practical point of view. Searching for the fired employee’s name brings up many stories about the incident, but Bevy mostly avoided the headlines.

Now my knee-jerk reaction is to condemn the CEO or boycott CMX or something. In the extremely unlikely event I interview with the company, I will definitely ask if they’d learned anything from the incident. Who would want to risk getting hired by a company that might leave you to fend for yourself against a Twitter mob? Worst of all, the company violated one of my core values by broadcasting the punishment.

I was set to write this post as a screed against injustice hiding behind the language of defending the oppressed, but then I heard a sermon about Sabbath rest from Bob Drummond at my church:

Think about how easy it would be for the CEO to say, “It’s the weekend. We’ll investigate first thing Monday morning.” That would have neatly avoided making the fundamental management mistake of impulsively making an irreversible decision. But in order to do that, the CEO would need to have been prepared to feel uncomfortable for a day or two. Having a plan would have helped. He could have cited a policy of requiring a week or two to investigate complaints against employees, for instance.

It’s a bit like people who are scammed by high emotion tactics. If you are already stressed out, it can be hard to make good choices. This is why we should always build margin into our lives. As my pastor pointed out:

The distance between your load and your limit is your margin.

Good management always has plenty of margin because they’ve built up a reservoir of trust. Bad management sees trust and margin building as a waste of resources. When trouble comes to call, only one sort of manager will be ready.

  1. I listed all times in the Eastern timezone. ↩︎

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