Hubspot's had a rough week. Former employee, Dan Lyons has a new book out that paints a very ugly picture of the tech company's corporate culture. You can read a little bit about it in the recent NY Times article Lyons wrote called, "Congratulations! You've been fired." This is just another example of the recent increase in employer shaming within the tech sector.
Employer Shaming Is On The Rise
As I've written before, employer shaming (public trash talking about former employers), is on the upswing. Yelp was the most recent recipient when not one, but two ex-employees publicly shared detailed accounts of poor working conditions and low pay.
Heed The Warning Signs That Your Corporate Culture Is Flawed
While not every employee you hire will fit your corporate culture, some executives fail to recognize when their culture needs to evolve. As your company grows, it changes - and your culture needs to be assessed and altered to fit it. When you ignore this, it can result in big, costly problems. For example, Lyon's shares how Hubspot in the past (they have since stopped this), referred to fired employees as having "graduated" from the company. You can see how this would rub more than a few people the wrong way. And in this case, it lead to a book by Lyons featuring it. Don't think that's a big deal? Think again. Employer shaming has the potential to damage your business relationships. How? It doesn't just hurt your recruiting efforts. Your customers saw that story about your bad employment practices too.
Hubspot's Founders Did 3 Things Right
Today, I read the post by Dharmesh Shah, on behalf of himself and his co-founder, Brian Halligan, offering their side of the story. As an HR professional, what I admire and respect about their approach is the detailed, balanced way they address the five most scathing elements of Lyon's book. Executives who find themselves in Hubspot's position (and there will be more of them!), should takeaway three things from Shah's rebuttal:
1. Fill in the blanks. There are two sides to every story. Lyon's shares how he ended up at Hubspot. But, we needed to hear it from the Hubspot viewpoint. It shows just how quickly Lyon's forgot the initial connection was one of mutual respect and a win-win partnership.
2. Use the 'Experience + Learn = Grow' Answer Model. This is something I teach all professionals I work with when they have to address a mistake they've made. You provide a factual account of what happened, leaving out the emotion. Next, you share what you learned, with an emphasis on personal accountability. Lastly, you summarize how you plan to use what you've learned to change and improve. Shah's response to the use of "graduating" to describe fired employees does a super job of using this model. He admits it was a poor choice. Explains why it was originally used, and then takes full accountability, letting us know it's no longer part of the process.
3. Offer visual proof. We know facts speak louder than words. In this case, it's pictures and stats that will tell your story best. Shah offers plenty of photos to refute Lyon's claim the working conditions at Hubspot are poor. He also provides a screenshot of the company's NPS scores over the years for employee satisfaction. The numbers speak for themselves. Lyons and his negative views of the company culture sit in the minority.
In Business, That Which Doesn't Kill Us Makes Us Stronger
One thing that came through loud and clear to me in Shah's rebuttal to Lyon's book is that while the negative criticism hurt, the founders plan to use the experience to make the company better. Hubspot got hit with a curve ball. Instead of rushing the pitcher's mound and screaming foul play, they're thinking, "We can do better. We want to do better." For me, that's a sign of a company that will survive and thrive after an epic employer shaming incident. I hope the next employer who becomes the spotlight of an employer shaming incident can rise to to the occasion and do the same.