How to Communicate with Employees

And how social media affects this.

I’m certainly not the best at communication. I often send messages and emails in my head for days before I actually type and send them; a great example of overthinking inhibiting good communication.

That said, I’ve worked in various industries and learned both good and bad communication. Viddler was the company where I remember learning the most about communication. For the first half of my seven-year career with them, I worked remotely. This offered some freedoms (lunch and a 20-minute nap at 3pm? Sure!), but also meant I became a workaholic and stayed up until three, four, or seven o’clock in the morning. My communication with headquarters would be lacking at times. Slack didn’t exist back then, so we used Skype and the chat often filled up with jokes and non-work-related topics.

When I moved to the headquarters, it was nice to be able to walk over to anyone’s desk and ask them a question or what was going on with a particular client. Communication was easier in this environment, but it wasn’t perfect. Often the tools/software would hinder us and we’d forget to follow-up with some clients or each other.

At Amazon, digital communication was almost non-existent. Due to the nature of the workplace (a huge warehouse that churns through employees relatively quickly), most communication is done at the beginning of each shift and after each lunch break. They cover numbers, goals, and safety (stretches and our current injury count, if any). It’s great, but makes it hard to communicate after-hours. (Did I mention I’m a workaholic? Even jobs I’m not passionate about (e.g., working a mindless job in a warehouse) tend to get a lot of my attention.)

That’s some of my experience with communication in business. Now onto social media and how it affects the workplace.

One of the most public firings of an employee due to personal social media comments that has stuck in my mind was Justine Sacco in 2014. She posted some off-handed tweets (intended to be humourous) moments before boarding an international flight. The tweets instantly offended people, but she had no opportunity to defend herself until her flight landed. At that point, it was too late: she was fired from her job at IAC received death threats from faceless persons on Twitter. I hadn’t heard of Justine until that event happened. My opinion of her then and now is no different to before I knew of her existence: indifferent. I don’t know her and a few off-hand tweets aren’t going to help me understand her beliefs and actions in the world. That day, she was fired from her job as the Senior Director of Corporate Communications (i.e., PR) at IAC. Today, 4 years later, she just got a new job running Corporate Communications at Match Group — a subsidiary of IAC.

“Can you think of anything less judicial than this?”

Jon Ronson’s Ted Talk on how one tweet can ruin your life

This anecdote displays how even a “senior director” at a large organisation isn’t safe when they make a silly mistake/joke. I don’t know what her relationship with the company was like, but you’d think she would have a good rapport with employees and management if she’s in that role. The problem is the news media and its viewership. An audience of people can have such a huge influence on news stories.

The two-week 2014 CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich (co-founder and previously CTO of Mozilla), stepped down (as CEO and resigned from Mozilla) after pressure to resign because of his opposition on gay marriage. Not because of his performance; not because of his leadership techniques; not because of the way he managed finances. No. Because his personal beliefs don’t match those of the developers, fans, and users of Mozilla. I use Firefox and I believe in Mozilla’s mission, but I didn’t hear about this story until it was long past the headlines. (I don’t really follow the news though.)

Last anecdote: Stepping out of 2014… Just a few weeks ago, Kevin Hart (father, actor, comedian) was offered the job as host of the upcoming Academy Awards. Within days, people (activists, trolls, and journalists alike) had dug up old tweets and posts written by Kevin. (Note: Kevin has been in the media countless times since these posts because he’s made several movies and stand-up comedy shows. Nobody dug up his posts for any of those stories and suggested he shouldn’t be making movies…) These posts offended people (which is often part of what any comedian does: offends groups of people for laughs) and the same people who appointed him to host pressured him to apologise or step down. He explained that he has changed since he wrote those things and he feels no need to apologise since that’s not the person he is anymore. Susan Fowler (mother, writer, and software engineer) wrote about this in the New York Times. She explained that social media history and holding people accountable for their old views is creating a disastrous precedent. I agree.

I’ve shared my opinions in writing and on video many times. And many of those opinions I no longer hold to now that I’m Christian. This is a silly example, but it shows you don’t have to be talking about social issues to experience the same thing: I spent many years building a reputation around enjoying cake, lollies, and desserts in general. Unexpectedly getting a job at a sweet shop in 2005 only enforced this. In 2009, I spent a year creating a show called “Sweet Adventures“. I didn’t consciously build this “brand” for myself; it just happened. Now, I’m 32 and barely eat processed sugar. I still love desserts, but anything with processed sugar will irritate my teeth and isn’t enjoyable. Most people who have known me for 10+ years don’t know this, so they still have me in their mind as a sugar fiend. If I were to get a job (I need a full-time one, by the way) at a healthfood company and people started finding all my old posts about sugar and desserts, then should I apologise? No.

Lydia recently began working at a place that has inspired her for years. She was enjoying it very much, and looked forward to working up to full-time role there. A few weeks in, she noticed that many of the seasoned coworkers there learned from the same coaches (online sources) she did. In fact, she expected to be learning heaps in the first few months, but realised she’s unexpectedly on par with others’ skill level and knowledge. She didn’t consider this a bad thing nor was she overly confident in herself; it was just an observation she made. She posted the observation on her blog (never mentioning the company or people she worked for). In the weeks that followed, she noticed her coworkers not being as inviting or friendly. Odd. Perhaps they had just become overly stressed or busy, she thought. She also expressed this oddity to me, and then on her blog a few days later. Lydia is very self-aware and aware of peoples’ and animals’ behaviours, so it’s not unusual for her to describe these observations verbally and in writing.

21 days after Lydia’s first blog post regarding her job (the one about feeling on-par with her coworkers), her boss told her she shouldn’t come back to work until they’re able to discuss the “issue”, then they would invite Lydia into the office for a discussion. A couple of days passed and the boss sent an SMS saying Lydia won’t be a good fit with the company and they want to protect their (longstanding) employees against discrimination or harassment — like family. (Although, wouldn’t Lydia also fall under that protection?) No chance to discuss the first (or second) blog post in person, nor on the phone. One-sided communication right there. Lydia responded in a kind and professional way albeit with huge disappointment on the way they handled the situation.

Should Lydia not have blogged about her life and job experience? Perhaps. But not discussing her job with me (and, as an extension, her blog) would be a robotic and miserable lifestyle. Plus, she never portrayed the company or the individuals working there in a negative way. Justine, Brian, and Kevin experienced very public controversies; Lydia did not. However, public or not, companies have a duty to protect their employees from discrimination and harassment. If they’re not willing to do that, then why should we support them outside of our job there?

At my new job, I’ve been very fortunate to have managers who encourage a family-like team. Some customers are great; some are not. Through it all, the team at our store have each others’ backs. Yes, we’re huge advocates for the customer — everyone in America has experience with being a customer. It’s just those times when a customer has been through too much in a day and verbally releases their frustrations at an employee that the team will do whatever possible to keep the customer’s experience positive and expedite their shopping experience.

How are you communicating with your employees? Are they just a sales tool for you, or do you care about them?



When Equal Rights get out of hand

Today, Brian Shaler tweeted a link to an ABC News article/video that documented a Hallmark greeting card that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is considering racist.

Watch the video for the full story, and then I’ll share my thoughts below:

I only have basic knowledge on racism (mainly toward black/African American people) in the USA, so please excuse me if I have the wrong idea about this.

The way I know the ‘story’ is that black (I’m going to use colour names because I an NOT racist, and I don’t care about being politically correct) people were slaves, but then they — as with women — eventually received the same rights as everyone else.

I know that everyone is still racist to everyone. I see it in Australia (though, it occurs much less there because our country is very multicultural), I see it in America, I see it on TV (Sawyer, a character in LOST, is an example of this. He uses degrading names such as “tubby” for other characters in the show; calling people by their physical appearance.), and I see it in stupid situations like the one in the video news story above.

I have certainly called people by what they look like (if I do not know their name) just to describe them, but I am not a racist person.

The other day Rachel was discussing one of her coworkers whom is learning Arabic for a study abroad program. Rachel’s Mom immediately (but jokingly) implied that Rachel’s coworker was plotting to be a terrorist. I stood up for the millions of Arabic speakers whom have never seen or been involved (directly or indirectly) with terrorism, and explained that mainstream media wants you to think that way, but it’s the complete opposite of reality. That’s essentially like saying Australians are all dangerous because they carry around big knives (Crocodile Dundee reference); grow up and educate yourself about the world. Please.

I digress. Back to the greeting card story.

I don’t care if the person who did the voice over for the card did say “black whore”. Nothing about the card even remotely relates to African Americans that are used for sex. It’s about the universe and black holes (which are fascinating).

The thing that saddens me most is that organisations like the NAACP exist. If everyone was equal, then there wouldn’t be a need for a special community just for black people. Yes, yes, I understand that there are all kinds of communities on the internet that bond together via similar interests, thoughts, appearances, etc., but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of an Association for the Advancement of White Tigers Living in Igloos. People really need to get over themselves and help advance the planet together.

The fact that retailers have pulled the graduation greeting card from the shelves is ridiculous and childish. Stand up for the company you sell products for and back their say on what the card actually says.

I’m done. World peace can’t come soon enough. I love you all. Even black midgets that don’t shower and live in wells.

This post was sponsored by Mitch’s latest venture Post Equal (without his knowledge).

I spent Australia Day inside

What’s new? I spend most days inside. Making. Creating. Moving this planet forward towards world peace.

Avatar-CornerColour-djsteenrainbow I saw a story on the news about a week ago that mentioned Australians aren’t getting enough sun. Ha! They said there’s been an increase of people with Vitamin D deficiencies. Go figure; everyone’s on the internet. They (scientists/doctors) recommend that people expose themselves to around 5-10 minutes of sun 6 times a week. That seems reasonable; I’ve been doing that as much as I can.

To be honest, I don’t really know what Australia Day is about. I mean, I know it’s about the founding of Australia (right?), but I don’t know who was involved (Captain Cook?) or the exact dates it happened. Sure, I could look up the facts on Wikipedia and relay them to you, but that would be me telling you something I didn’t previously know/remember, and right now I’m telling you all that I know.

Yes, I am Australian. I’ve lived in Australia for 95% of my life. I love Australia.

For the record, my parents are Dutch and American, so there’s quite a few cultures running through my blood.

The only Australia Day I recall doing something significant was when my sister and I crafted a huge TPAN banner (back in 2007), went to a large netball court in North Sydney, and spread the banner across the court so that the Google Plane could photograph it. Sadly, the Google Plane didn’t fly over that area like they said they would.

This year the government made Australia Day commercials that suggested Australians put some lamb on the barbie (BBQ) and play cricket in the sun. Um, I know that’s stereotypical Australian, but that’s not how I roll. In fact, many people stated that the commercials weren’t true to the traditional meaning of Australia Day.

Bollocks I say! The fact that I stayed inside for most of the day doesn’t make me any less Australian.

What did you do on Australia Day?

Fueling the (MTV) Machine

Ugh. I don’t even know why I’m writing this. I said I wouldn’t, but I looks like the machine is powerful enough to push an independent hippie like me over to the dark side (or maybe it’s the light side – depending on your point of view) a little bit.

Before reading my drivel, I recommend reading Neil Bearse’s post on the matter. He hits the topic spot on; much better than anything I’m about to write.

Seeing the following tweet is actually what finally made me write this post:

Aww ... poor girl

By now I’m sure a lot of you know what happened with Taylor Swift and Kanye West at the MTV VMA (yes, it’s VMA not VMAs; the abbreviation is plural) on Sunday night.

I was Skyping with Rachel while she was watching the show and she freaked out when the ‘incident’ occurred. Soon after, people I follow on Twitter did the same (similar to the tweet above). Most of them felt for Taylor, yet a few people were giving kudos to Kanye.

Either way, everyone in this situation is raking in the money. I don’t have to tell you why because you’ve already read Neil’s post on it.

That said, I’m different. Even though my friend Justine was the Twitter Correspondent for the awards show, I still didn’t watch it. Sure, I’ve seen the ‘incident’ I’m discussing, but I don’t care for awards shows. Or much mainstream content for that matter. I let the news come to me. Rarely does crappy news like this come to me, but it’s hard to get away from on Twitter and when my girlfriend is up in arms about it while we’re on Skype.

I guess the point I’m getting across here is that I am different. And I reckon you should be too. There’s enough people glued to the television watching AI, SYTYCD, BB, and all the bad crap in the world that appears on news and currant affairs shows. Why don’t you discover something for yourself rather than letting people tell you what to buy, think, and do.

I love how the social/new media space is sticking it to the man. Well, until you put something on YouTube and the man takes it down. Or an event like The Webbies decides to give awards and now it’s no different than the MTV VMA. Ugh. Life is a cycle. Break it.

Vote For Viddler in the Open Web Awards


The second annual Open Web Awards (hosted by Mashable) are on again! Nominations are over, and it’s time to vote in round 1!

Just enter your e-mail in the widget to the left and click Vote Now. You’ll then need to check that e-mail and click a link in a confirmation e-mail you receive from mashable@polldaddy.com.

You can vote for one company in each category daily during round 1 until the 3rd of December. Then the final round of voting will commence and you can also vote daily in that round until the 15th of December.

You can also vote here for companies in other categories.

See here for more rules, the nominies, sponsors and more.

Australia follows USA with tree-killing iPhone bills

iJustine's 300-page iPhone billWe all remember Justine’s first iPhone bill [video] totaling 300 pages in August last year. It resulted in every website imaginable writing something about the story, and AT&T removing itemised data from their bills and allowing customers to opt-in to e-billing/paperless billing.

When Justine’s video was released I’d been using data on my Nokia 6280 for a few months. I used it to access Twitter Mobile and Facebook Mobile while I was away from my computer. It worked for me, but I had a limit of 3MB. When I started going over that, and being charged excess usage by the kilobyte, I had to upgrade to a larger data option. I started paying $14/mo for 20MB of data; with daily access to the aforementioned sites, I could keep within that ridiculous data limit.

The more I used data, the larger my phone bills became. (Prior to my data usage my phone bills would be 3-4 double-sided pages; after I began using data: ~10 double-sided pages.) Yes, every darn kilobyte was mentioned on paper!

Justine’s video inspired me go paperless on all my bills. I rang my bank; they did it over the phone in seconds. I have an old account with 3 Mobile where I only pay for what I use and I never use it, so I get a bill every few months saying ‘$0 due’; I rang them and they did it over the phone in seconds.

Then I rang Optus — the company I have my mobile bill with. Now, I love Optus; I’ve been with them for over 7 years. They told me I had to go to my Optus online account and check a box to get my bill as an e-bill. No problem. I go to sign in and my credentials fail. Okay, so I ring Optus and they reset my password and send the new one to my phone. I try it. Nada; it doesn’t work. I ring them again and they say it could be due to their whole system and website being upgraded; try back later.
I ring back after about a month. Same deal. I have to do it myself. I get Optus to reset my password again. It doesn’t work. Again

I give it another month or two. Same deal.

This goes on for months.

As my trip to the USA got closer and closer, I picked up my game a little; yes, despite my lovely nature, I can get fierce when I want something done. It can’t be done. I tell them “I’m going to America. No one will be home to get my bills (a lie). I need them send to my e-mail!!” They respond with “… privacy act … blah blah … Let me reset your password … rah rah …” UGH!!!!
Okay. So now I’m actually in America and I’ve called them three times (thank you Skype!) only to receive the same old deal: sign in and you can do it. They ask me if I want to reset my password. While I have global roaming ON, the signal seems to suck, so there’s no way I can get the password on my phone.

I ask them why they can’t do this for me. Privacy. I’m on the phone. I WANT YOU TO DO IT. I don’t care if you see the password; rahhh! They can’t send the new password to any other phone number either. They can’t send it to an e-mail. They pretty much suck at life. Oh, and the system is still being upgraded (10 MONTHS LATER).

The other night I called them again about another matter, and decided I might as well see if
they can set up e-billing for me. Nope. Although, this was the first customer representative to actually say “Sorry” (he was sincere too! — I think his name was Melvin; good guy!) for not being able to set up e-billing on my behalf; he can’t break the privacy policy.

Optus, among other carriers, now have the iPhone 3G in Australia. (The original iPhone was never released in Australia, nor will Apple give support for it in Australia.) Wonderful! A year too late, in my opinion, but still wonderful. Optus has the best value plans; offering up to 3GB of data, unlimited voice calls, and unlimited texting for the largest plan. Cheaper Optus plans have between 100MB-700MB worth of data included; Telstra only offers up to 170MB of data; Vodafone charges a lot more for up to 1GB of data; Virgin just announced 5GB of data for $100/mo.

iPhoneTom Piotrowski's 16-page Optus iPhone bill

Back to the environmental issue at hand. My dad showed me this article describing large iPhone bills in Australia due to itemised data.
Who works at these companies? A bunch of narrow-minded twats? If you lived in Australia and even knew about the iPhone prior to it’s official release, you would have known about Justine’s bill-in-a-box. Now Optus and other companies are going to offer paperless billing for the iPhone.

You’d think they’d learn from America’s mistakes, but nope; we’re often just as silly!

Brainstorm: Maybe now that this has been an issue in the news down under, I’ll now be able to get a customer representative to setup paperless billing for my Australian phone (currently suspended and not in use); hopeful thinking.

If not, then I hope they find this post and call me. Bias.