Is The Problem Yelp? Or Something Bigger?


I don’t know Jeremy, Jaymee, or Talia Jane. I don’t know the history or how her performance stacks up against others (though the ~20k a month doesn’t sound 1/2 bad). I don’t know how long she worked there though it seems she was relatively new.

However it does seem odd to me to invest the company’s, resources, time & money to train an employee and then dump them when they experience, what is to outside perspective, a crippling series of personal adversities. Not simply on moral or humanitarian grounds, but even as a business decision it feels wasteful and possibly a losing long-term strategy, assuming her performance with regards to other measures was acceptable. The fact she is a single mother is really relevant on two counts: one because it means that more than one person is affected by the decision and two because it highlights the additional burdens we place on single parents in our society — with none of the support systems we see in other modern democratic societies. (Sweden, Italy, etc.). She seems to have a supportive family, who are facilitating her move here, but it does seem she’s had some challenges.

What it makes me wonder is if the total costs of finding, hiring, growing a member of staff are properly understood. If these costs are factored in properly into the evaluations of her supervisors… and their performance. But mostly it makes me sad for her, a single mother who now has to go find another job to “prove herself “ all over again. But. but I also wonder about something else: is is this just a problem at Yelp or is this really something bigger? Are we living in a time where we’re becoming disenchanted with the ever consuming quest for more at any means or costs? Where victory is only measured in terms of dollars and cents and not in any meaningful broader metric of happiness, stability, safety or even — gulp — joy?

What this, and Talia’s letter, along with the broader political landscape of the past few months have really made me think about, however, is much bigger and broader question than whether Yelp needs to work on its human capital management. It’s simple

Why do we do what we do?

What strikes me is that we are living through the natural end of capitalism. The never-ending pursuit of more, better, faster. Where is better in all this? Where is making the world a better place, where is making our lives better than our parents, where is making the world better for our children than we received it from ours. To steal from my acquaintance Tony Hsieh, where is happiness in all this? Why isn’t’ that factored into the equation? Are we working for money, to make more, earn more spend more? Or are we fighting to improve our and our fellow human’s lots in the world?

As a leader, your followers matter more than ANYTHING else. First because your existence literally depends on them. But more importantly, your staff can carry you in times of trouble and kill you in times of success. People. They are absolutely every company’s biggest asset. Treat people right, protect them, change them when they are wrong, help them grow when they need to; and when and if it’s time to make a change do it quickly, benevolently and honestly. Troy Jensen wrote an excellent piece exploring this. Read it. it’s good. I completely agree with his position that the biggest act of value destruction for Yelp Shareholders this week was their failure to get out ahead of this issue with the first letter — and the systemic failures these letters seem to indicate exist further nestled in his organization.

There may be no problem and this may be a few bad apples. There may be cultural mismatches, or performance issues. I can’t tell from the information provided.

My instinct however is that this, alongside our election is evidence of the crumbling of our current systems of capitalism and governance. I would suggest that we are experiencing the natural decline of PURE capitalism as a system. One which values not at all the happiness of customers, suppliers, and yes employees — alongside the rights and requirements of shareholders.

To Jeremy, I’d humbly suggest you and your team do a deep dive into your hiring & management practices and see if there’s room for some change. To Talia & Kayme, I’d say dust yourselves off and jump back into the working pool, but maybe take an honest look at your cost structures and see if the bay area and it’s employment/rent ratio are the right place for you at this stage in your life.

To the rest of us, Please don’t comment telling me socialism = communism, I lived in Europe for years and am well aware of the differences, strengths, and weaknesses of each. I also understand, deeply that the current mix of capitalism and governance seems to not be working for a large number of people. Otherwise, this election wouldn’t’ be so fraught with such destructive dissent.

Spend some time & educate yourself. Whoever wins this election — the US is about to experience one of its greatest periods of economic & social change. Are you ready? Do you really know where you stand on all this? Do you know what you want the world to be for your children? Do you know why you do what you do?

About the Author:

Richard Titus

CEO, Yogi, Serial entrepreneur, raconteur, angel, adviser and sometime filmmaker.

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