Play with fire

do_not_set_yourself_on_fireWhen prompted, I always tell people I’ve fathered three children: Chris, Catharine and Peppercomm.

And, even though Chris is 29, Cat’s 25 and the firm’s about to turn 19, I still obsess about the health and well-being of each.

I mention this because a group of former Peppercomm employees have decided to bully my third child on Instagram.  The abuse began shortly after we bid adieu to a few of them in the aftermath of losing Whirlpool in 2012.

As first, we let it go.

But, the mean-spirited, and unwarranted, comments continued unabated. And the haters always made sure to slam Peppercomm in the hashtags. For example, a recent wedding photograph posted on Instagram was accompanied by this comment: ‘We found love in a hopeless place. #Peppercousins.

That was the straw that broke this camel’s back. Or the match that ignited my inner fire, as the case may be.

I struck back and turned the abuser’s abusive words on her, posting: ‘We’re a far happier workplace after parting ways with some hopeless employees. #BurningBridges #HateIsaPoorCareerChoice #PRisASmallField. I think the last hash tag struck a nerve.

The antagonistic alumnus immediately applied privacy settings to her account. Ah, but unbeknownst to the poison pen poster, I have many, many sources and some haven’t been blocked by her. So, I will continue to be able to monitor, and protect, my baby from her onslaughts.

I need to coddle my third child because unsuspecting college students and professional colleagues may read the alum’s ill-advised and untrue rants, and believe them. And, that’s not good.

Oh, and by the way, this female Benedict Arnold is dead to me. I will NOT provide any sort of reference beyond confirming employment dates, salary and title. And, that, in turn, will tip off any future employer that the alumnus is toxic. Some may see my actions as a tad heavy-handed. They aren’t. In my mind they’re a best practice in Agency Reputation Management 101.

Plus, as Sir Mick Jagger wrote long ago, ‘Don’t play with me because you play with fire.’

10 thoughts on “Play with fire

  1. Hi Steve:
    I like your style. I didn’t realize you graduated from the Michael Corleone School of Business too. Glad to know we’re alums.
    Happy Monday!

  2. Thanks Joe. I hold a BS in Whacking from the Sonny Corleone School of Payback. Seriously, though, alumni bullying is just as real as school bullying. I need to protect my firm’s image and reputation. Push me hard enough and long enough and I will order a hit.

  3. Steve:
    I think you are much more strategic and more farsighted than Sonny ever was. Plus, things did not go well for Sonny at the end.
    Just remember what Michael said, “Just when I’m almost out, they pull me back in. If they want to do business with me, I’ll do business with them.”

  4. This post indirectly reminded me of a frequently reposted blog by readers from Jay Goltz, a superb blogger/writer/business owner in Chicago. His business partners marvel at and inquire as to how Jay keeps his workforce so happy. His answer is simple. He gets rid of the unhappy ones. It’s controversial. But, it forces employees to think about what they can do to make the company better, as opposed to complain about it in private or public. And good employers likewise put their energy into people who love being part of that team. My point – at-will employees should know that they can leave, or be let go, at any time, for unforeseen reasons, just like our large clients can leave at any time for unforeseen reasons. Good businesses and employees react, or pre-empt, accordingly. If you don’t like that environment, and you use traditional or digital gossip to convey your frustration, the well-functioning private sector is not a place for you. If you don’t like an employer, leave graciously before getting terminated for a bad attitude. Michael Corleone would advise anyone to disappear before you have to get whacked.

  5. I feel your pain, Trish. This is actually the second wave of disgruntled former employees who decided to vent their angst online. The first group departed en masse to Edelman circa 2007 (they’re all long gone from there). They decided to create a Facebook page called Pepper Survivor. Their comments were tame in comparison to the potshots taken by the Instagram-happy alumni described in my blog. They nonetheless pulled down the site after we’d posted a few comments a la, “Hey survivors, you’ll need a life perserver if a recruiter ever calls us asking for a reference.” Amazing how short-sighted some of these spiteful types can be.

  6. Wow…you’d think communicators would have a much better handles on, say, communicating. And, that goes for either in-person or via social media. Both mediums spread fast…like fire.

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