23 FEB, 2016

Did This Yelp Employee Take Feedback too Far?

Twenty-five year old Yelp employee Talia Jane took to the internet last Friday to write the company’s CEO an open letter. In it she complains that her minimum wage salary as an entry-level customer service employee leaves her barely able to afford food and transportation after her expensive Bay Area rent is paid. She also expresses outrage that she has to work in customer service for at least a year before being promoted. Ms. Jane was fired for misconduct after the letter was posted.

The letter has been shared in multiple articles, with commenters ranging from supportive of Talia’s point of view that the economic situation many 20-somethings find themselves in is unfair, to those who call her a spoiled Millennial that exemplifies the generation’s entitled attitude.

The interesting part of all this to me is Talia’s choice to blame her company’s CEO for the following problems:

  • Her choice to move to the most expensive rental market in the country and live by herself vs. having roommates
  • Her decision to take a job that could not support the lifestyle she chose
  • Her assumption that she would be promoted before a year was out to a more prestigious, higher paying position without ever having been told this.

To top it all off, she chose to post an open letter that went viral. Clearly, Ms. Jane was looking for exactly what she got—a public forum in which she could grow her Twitter following and share information for her various payment accounts for donation purposes.

As a Millennial myself, I (and most of my friends) have faced many of these same problems. I still have a mountain of college debt, and when I moved to New York back in 2008 I had to work two jobs to afford my rent, loan payments, and living expenses. Never in a million years would I have thought to write a public letter to my employer at that time to chastise them for making lots of money and not giving me enough of it. Instead I got a roommate, didn’t travel much, and put all my extra money into paying down my debts. I never considered myself poor—I considered myself “in my 20s.”

Is Ms. Jane right that entry-level wages are too low to support the cost of living in major cities like San Francisco and New York? Yes. Is it frustrating that you have to pay thousands of dollars for a college education that only nets you an entry-level job? Absolutely. Is the CEO of your company the person to complain about these problems to? I would say no.

This type of behavior is taking the current (and mostly positive) trend of focusing on employee engagement and wellbeing a bit far. We all want to work for a company where we feel that management cares about employees, but it’s unrealistic to expect a CEO to act like a parent and help us with our bills when we’ve made poor financial decisions that are within our control. We want upper management to be accessible and open to feedback, but blasting your CEO all over social media probably isn’t the way to guarantee that accessibility. We want high-potential employees to have the opportunity to move up and feel that their development is a priority, but this isn’t a guarantee that you’ll attain the position you want within a certain timeframe. If your job doesn’t meet your expectations, the best thing you can do is to get off Twitter, get on LinkedIn, and find another one.


Share this insight: