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AOL CEO publicly fires staffer for photographing him

After the CEO of AOL fires a staffer for whipping out his camera, he apologizes but the offender is still fired. Because of how it was handled, the leader is taking a bit of heat.

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Actions speak louder than memos

CEO of AOL, Tim Armstrong’s handling of the firing of an employee during a conference call with hundreds of other employees reveals as antiquated a philosophy of corporate communication as the floppy disks with which AOL used to try to entice us all.

AOL owns a local news network called Patch. On a call with employees of Patch discussing the flailing subsidiary’s shaky future, an employee in Armstrong’s presence, Abel Lenz, tried to take a photo of Armstrong. The CEO’s reaction was to fire Lenz immediately during the call; the audio of which someone recorded.

The impression left by this act

In your own company, you should assume that anything you say to your employees is being recorded these days; particularly if you are giving employees hard news about the future of the company. Armstrong’s act of losing his temper during the call, particularly for something that is difficult to define as an offense, just makes him appear to be a weak leader who has so little control in the company that he cannot even control his own actions.

And here is some breaking news: An apology is not a magic bullet that will make all of your problems go away or have any impact whatsoever in many situations.

Sorry, but you’re still fired

The day following the call, Armstrong issued a memo to AOL employees saying that he had reacted too quickly during the call and had apologized to Lenz for the form of the firing. But Lenz is still out of a job. Even considering that Armstrong had previously directed employees not to record confidential, internal communications, Lenz’s act of attempting to take a photo does not seem like an act for which he should be so publicly humiliated and relieved of a job.

Before this story became public, I could not even have told you who the AOL CEO is today. Now I know and I am not terribly impressed by his ability to lead the company. His actions certainly did not make me think more fondly of AOL.

Remember this scenario as you communicate in your own business. When you do mess up, as we all do, your best bet is to fix or compensate for the problem with your actions rather than relatively meaningless words that only potentially open you to more criticism.

David Holmes, owner of Intrepid Solutions, has over 20 years experience planning for, avoiding, and solving crises in the public policy, political, and private sectors. David is also a professional mediator and has worked in the Texas music scene.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Whole Media Concepts

    August 16, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Great piece, David. You address some very meaningful points about leadership and technology in the workplace.

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The most common buzzwords (still) used in job descriptions

(BUSINESS) Employers are trying their best to attract really high quality talent, but the buzzwords that continue to plague the process are lame, annoying, and often insulting.

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It’s that time of year again. Year-in-review lists abound and Indeed.com is no exception. The website for employers and potential employees has taken a look back at the year in job descriptions and released its list of the weirdest job titles used in online listings.

They found the usual suspects — yes, sadly rockstar and hero still make the cut — but a few other keywords skyrocketed up the charts in 2018.

Indeed recognized seven top-performing buzzwords in its research: genius, guru, hero, ninja, superhero, rockstar, and wizard. Among these Top 7, some were up over previous years, while others’ popularity seems to be fading.

Employers really loved referencing masked assassins in their descriptions this year, resulting in a 90 percent year-over-year jump for ninja, and a 140 percent increase for the term since Indeed began tracking these stats in 2015.

Wizards and heroes didn’t fare as well. Job titles containing “wizard” were down 17 percent from 2017 and use of the word “hero” was down a whopping 44 percent since last year. Superhero ended the year up over 2017 (19 percent), but is still down by 55 percent since 2015.

So which states are touting these weird (some might say annoying) titles the most? The answers aren’t too surprising. California tops the list for ninja, genius, rockstar, wizard, and guru. Texas, whose capital is Austin, aka Silicon Hills, loves using hero, superhero, guru, rockstar, and ninja. Populous states New York and Florida make the list for using several of the buzzwords — no surprise there. But a few smaller states snuck into the Top 4, including Ohio (No. 1 “superhero” user) and Utah (No. 4 on the “rockstar” and “wizard” lists).

While many companies like to use these so-called creative terms to convey a sense of a hip and cool company culture, does using these “fun” titles actually find the best candidates? According to Indeed, the answer might be “not exactly.” Job seekers aren’t necessarily searching for terms like ninja or guru, so they might not even find the job they would be the perfect fit for. And truth be told, many experienced job seekers are turned off by these weird titles and might not even apply to the job in the first place.

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Half of the jobs Amazon will offer at their new headquarters won’t be tech

(BUSINESS NEWS) As Amazon begins laying solid plans to start hiring, some are upset that half of the new jobs won’t be tech jobs – let’s discuss why.

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As 2019 gears up, one of the biggest tech stories of 2018 will carry into this year, and that’s Amazon HQ. Amazon’s two new headquarters in Crystal City, Virginia and Long Island City, New York have promised about 50,000 new jobs coming in 2019 according to Engadget and the Wall Street Journal.

The catch? Only half of those jobs will be in tech. Some are upset about this, so we’ll explain:

Naturally, a behemoth like Amazon has many moving parts and these two facilities will require different roles to keep the company functioning. An estimated 25,000 jobs will be in support roles like administration, marketing, finance, maintenance, and human resources. For the cities they’ll occupy, this means there will be more than one way to find employment besides tech or IT.

It’s undeniable that Amazon’s $5 billion investment will vastly change these two communities. Employment opportunities can bring growth for residents, however it will depend upon the company’s ability to hire local. Likewise, Amazon’s presence will draw city transplants, a tactic that historically raises property values and living costs (looking at you, Seattle).

Crystal City is expected to see a huge influx in traffic and housing, according to The Washington Post. Although the state has promised to allocate resources into transportation, and Amazon assures a slow growth at first, thousands of workers will need accommodation.

For Long Island City, a community who’s already transforming from industrial yards to a blooming arts neighborhood, we will likely see its gentrification reach new heights. LIC is set to become the digital-lifestyle relative across the river from its cousin, Manhattan.

In any case, residents can hope to take advantage of the varying positions that will need filling in 2019.

However, everyone should brace for change as this corporate beast gradually awakens.

Whatever the new headquarters will bring, we can expect it to be, in typical Amazon fashion, bold and flashy.

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Shocker: tech giant tried to patent a job candidate’s ideas

(CAREER) When a potential employer talks to you about your ideas, might they rush out to patent them? Yep. Time to protect yourself.

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In 2014, Jie Qi was invited by Google to share her idea: pop-up electronic storybooks.

Combining her love of storytelling with interactive elements like light and sound, Qi was on the road to developing a new kind of interactive storybook. After years of research and while enrolled in a PhD program, Qi was invited by Google to their Advanced Technology and Projects lab. There she shared her ideas for interactive storytelling and much to her surprise, was offered a job on the spot.

Qi ultimately passed on the opportunity to finish her PhD program. Two years later, Qi came to find out through friends that Google had applied for patents on electronic interactive pop-up books for the same ideas she’d discussed and shown to them in 2014. In the end, Google’s patent was rejected as Qi was able to prove that the idea was hers.

While Qi’s story may not leave many of us surprised, it should.

What’s so jarring about Qi’s story is that the stealing of her idea is so flagrant.

Google seemed to think they were too big to get caught or even be held accountable. Further, had Qi not been informed of the patent application’s existence, chances are Google would’ve gotten away with stealing her ideas.

If you think companies don’t steal work all the time, you’re mistaken.

It’s not uncommon for companies to ask applicants to complete a small project as part of their application process. Mock projects are a way for potential employers to gauge an applicant’s skills and at times, help them choose one applicant over another.

These projects should take very little time to complete and should not be used by the company in any capacity other than to review an applicant’s potential. However, sometimes the sample projects get used by the company – and the applicant, whether or not they get the job, isn’t informed and is definitely not paid.

A few years ago, Toronto-based agency Zulu Alpha Kilo made a great video illustrating the common practice of asking for work on spec. Speculative (spec) work is the practice of essentially asking applicants to work for free and then deciding whether or not they want to pay for the work. It’s a common practice in the advertising world when trying to choose an agency of record that should not be implemented in other industries and yet, it’s happening more and more, particularly in tech.

So, what should you do if a company you respect asks to see your work? Feel free to show them samples of your work, but I don’t believe you should work for free. If you suspect that a company has stolen your work, confront them and if you must, take legal action. We’re all professionals who’ve put in the work to get where we are and what we deserve. When a potential employer declines to pay you for work or even downright steals it, that employer doesn’t value you and you shouldn’t want to be involved with them.

Job seeking is stressful and the competition can be fierce. Employers know this and some leverage those factors to their advantage. If you feel that you or your work is being taken advantage of, trust your instincts and take a hard pass on any company that tries to diminish your worth (and for goodness sake, if you opt to do these “assignments” anyhow, in fear of losing an opportunity – watermark and lock down any works as best you can).

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