Silly Internet fad generates a lot of chuckles — though not everyone is laughing at the antics
By Todd Humber
They’re doing it on university campuses. On airplanes. On local newscasts. In the military. It even made it into the opening credits of the most recent episode of The Simpsons.
At this point, it’s pretty much impossible to find a location where people aren’t doing the Harlem Shake, which is the latest craze to take the Internet by storm.
The first video went up about a month ago, when a group of teenagers in Australia posted a video. As of March 4, a search of YouTube revealed more than 300,000 clips — and some reports suggest an additional 4,000 are being uploaded every day.
Doing the Harlem Shake is a pretty templated process — it usually starts with one person, often wearing a mask, doing an odd little dance with people paying no attention to him. The theme for the dance is Harlem Shake, a song by Baauer. The videos last about 30 seconds.
When the song changes beat a bit, that one person is suddenly joined by dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people dressed in silly costumes dancing in crazy ways. Some of them are funny, some are embarrassing and some might be kinda dangerous — in the United States, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) wasn’t laughing when it saw a video of passengers on a Feb. 15 Frontier Airlines flight busting a move at 30,000 feet.
There are plenty of examples of employees joining in on the craze. Pick a company, and there’s a decent chance they’ve posted a video — there are examples of employees from Intel, Google, Thomson Reuters and Best Buy busting a move to name but a few firms. Many a sports team, including the Toronto Raptors, have gotten in on the fun. (See below for a couple of examples.)
But not all employers are seeing humour in the silliness.
In Australia, a mining company fired about 15 workers who strutted their stuff underground. The 30-second video posted on YouTube shows a group of miners — some wielding tools, some shirtless — grooving to the Harlem Shake.
Reuters couldn’t reach the company for comment, but a dismissal letter sent to the workers was obtained by The West Australian. The letter reportedly said the stunt breached the company’s “core values of safety, integrity and excellence.”
A spokesman for their employer — Barminco — told Reuters the decision to terminate the workers’ employment was made after the video was posted to YouTube.
"Underground mining has strict safety standards as there are accidents and fatalities. The Barminco management saw this as a breach of standards," said spokesman Sven Lunsche.
As stunts go, the Harlem Shake is pretty tame. Yes, some of the videos feature clothing and dance moves that aren’t appropriate for the workplace. But it’s really just an excuse for people to dress up and act silly for 30 seconds.
Most employers are seeing the humour in it. Outside of safety concerns, it’s hard to see the danger in a bit of innocent fun for employees.
Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.hrreporter.com for more information. He hasn’t participated in a Harlem Shake video… yet.
Harlem Shake, Toronto Raptors edition
Google employees do the Harlem Shake
The Norwegian Army does the Harlem Shake
Best Buy employees in Kelowna, B.C., do the Harlem Shake