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Greg Smith, The Secret of Viral, And The Chamber of Engagement
Posted on March 18th 2012
Check this out: Greg Smith, a vice president in Goldman Sach, posted the reason for quitting his job in the New York Times. And said that his former boss was at fault for the deteriorating corporate culture. Goldman, he said, cares more about profit than its customers.
Greg Smith stories went viral on the internet. And scores of career consultant throw their hat into the ring by offering opinions on career management. Did Greg Smith commit a career suicide? You bet. Whatever Greg Smith does in the future, it won't be related to the banking industry. His banking career is over!
I totally agree with Amber Mac, a respectable career consultant, on why you and I shouldn't follow Greg Smith's example. Like Amber Mac said in the article, you should quit your job gracefully when you know it is over. And one way to do so, is to keep your (negative) opinion about the job to yourself. Just because you want to quit, it doesn't mean you have to burn the bridge.
Since this blog isn't about career management, I'd like to offer social business' perspective to Greg Smith's story. There are two thought bubbles that pop up in my head when I read the story: (1) Why did Greg Smith's story go viral? What's the secret sauce of viral stories?; (2) What should be the platform for real conversations between management and rank-and-file staff?
The Secret Sauce of Viral Stories
Greg Smith's story is by no means unique. Watch the above video clip. And you would see another man, Joey DeFrancesco, who also quit his job publicly. And like Smith's story, his story went viral in the internet. This begs the question: Why the seemingly ordinary stories of people lives can go viral?
The main reason is empathy. We can empathise with both stories because of the bigger picture. DeFrancesco quits because the unfair treatment that hotel employees usually receive. He becomes the voice of all hotel employees who silently suffers from the gross mistreatment. While Smith quits because the deteriorating corporate culture in Wall Street (read: greed).
Those reasons appeal to many people. And because we can relate to Smith's story and DeFrancesco's story, we feel the urge to like or to forward the story to our friend, colleagues, or family members. That's how the story went viral.
So the secret sauce of viral story is the emotional hooks that the story has. Can you position the story to appeal to many people? Can you make people feel emotional through your story? If you can do that, then there is a high chance that your story will go viral.
Social Intranet is The Right Chamber for Employee Engagement
Greg Smith and Joey DeFrancesco wouldn't be folk heroes if what they say doesn't make any sense. Organisations need to do more about employee engagement than just conducting the infamous corporate climate survey.
It is unfortunate that Smith and DeFrancesco used the wrong media to tell their story. In the age of social intranet and social organisation, they could have expressed their displeasure within the corporate walls, i.e. via internal blogs, discussion forum or video repositories.
If they are brave enough to tell their opinion in social media, then surely they are brave enough to share it with all their colleagues. The management could then conduct closed-door honest conversation with the relevant people.
No matter how bitter they are, Smith and DeFrancesco should have given the management a chance to tell their side of the story. By going public, they are killing off the opportunity to do real dialogue between them and the management. The social intranet, not the social media, is the right chamber for engagement and conversation.
Arguably, a real dialogue is only made possible if the management doesn't punish people for expressing their opinion in the social intranet. But at the very least - you, I, and other rank-and-file staff, should extend our hand and give the management an opportunity to prove that they care about employee satisfaction.
When all else fails, look for another job! Discreetly of course.
Comments? Do you agree with me?