Virtual walkouts by employees

Employee activism has been on the rise in recent times.

With large companies, when a small number of employees visibly (digitally) protest, it doesn’t amount too much beyond minor damage in PR creds. In many cases, the employee (or the core group fo employees) who initiated the protest are silently removed from their jobs too, eventually.

But when the same visible protest happens in much smaller organizations, the damage seems to be far more pronounced.

Two recent examples demonstrate this.

The first was at The Wing, an exclusive social club for women. Many employees of The Wing revealed to The New York Times that it did not treat its employees with the intersectional-feminist values it espoused. This was in March 2020. Following that, The Wing’s co-founder and CEO Audrey Gelman stepped down from her role on June 11th. Many employees have spoken about The Wing’s poor treatment of employees online too, after the Times article.

But after Audrey quit, many employees upped the ante by staging a virtual walkout. They all posted the same demand: “Audrey Gelman’s resignation is not enough”.

They did manage to oust her through their collective efforts, but would they also be able to enforce change in the new management? We’ll know soon, I presume.

The 2nd instance is in case of a celebrated global not-for-profit organization providing free mental health texting service, called Crisis Text Line. After the board members of Crisis Text Line (CTL) received a letter from an anonymous employee that made allegations describing abusive, inappropriate, bigoted and unethical behavior by CTL’s founder and CEO, Nancy Lublin, there followed a Twitter-led employee walkout!

After this digital walkout where even former employees joined, CTL’s Board has fired Nancy Lublin.

The digital walkout also mentioned another non-profit, Do Something, which grew out of Lublin’s previous nonprofit, in their messages. Do Something’s CEO, Aria Finger, a close colleague of Lublin in that organization, is also in the cross-fire.

Do Something’s Board too has come out with a statement about doing something (pun intended about the allegations.

Crisis Text Line has about 50-200 employees (in that range), though it works with a lot of volunteers (who add that experience in their profiles on LinkedIn where it is shown as 1,500+ employees, including ex-employees). Do Something too is in that range.

When even a small number of employees from such relatively smaller organizations showcase their anger over something the organization did, particularly demonstrating such anger visibly on digital platforms, the kind of impact it creates to take notice is far higher than large organizations like Google or Microsoft. In larger organizations, such online rebellions seem tiny compared to the overall employee base, so they seem to be weathering such storms merely on a PR front. In smaller organizations, such visible digital rebellions seem to be causing real change. Numbers and proportionality matters.



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