Whole Foods worker's resignation letter goes viral
Toronto grocery store worker writes latest chapter in the book of epic quits
Jul 26, 2011
By Todd Humber
Stephen Slater, the JetBlue employee who quit his job by opening the plane door and sliding down an emergency chute to unemployment, wrote the book on epic resignations.
Now, a grocery store worker at Whole Foods in Toronto has added a new chapter.
Last week, the worker sent his resignation letter to the entire company. (And if there’s only one takeaway here for organizations, it’s to ensure employees aren’t able to do a “send all” email to everyone in the company.)
In the age of social media, you can probably guess what happened to this email. Yup, it went viral.
The letter was posted on Gawker.com, a popular gossip website, where as of the morning of July 26 it had been viewed nearly 175,000 times.
The version of the letter posted on Gawker is more than 2,300 words. In it the worker, who said he was hired about six years ago, rips both the company and individual staff members. (All names have been redacted in the Gawker posting.)
He takes aims at Whole Foods’ core values, ripping them apart one by one with accusations the store doesn’t practice what it preaches. Whole Foods is an Austin, Texas-based upscale grocery store, with the tagline “Selling the highest quality natural and organic products.” It has six stores in Canada — four in the Vancouver area and two in the Toronto area.
“My experience at Whole Foods was like an increasingly sped up fall down a really long hill,” he wrote. “That got rockier with every metre. And eventually, just really spiky… with fire, acid and Nickleback music.”
You can read his entire diatribe on Gawker. As resignation letters go, it’s a doozy.
And it raises a difficult question for Whole Foods. Should they respond? And, if so, how?
The former employee has leveled inflammatory accusations at the company, ripping apart its core values in a line-by-line fashion. Not only did it apparently go to every employee in the company, but now hundreds of thousands of people have read it online (and that number is going to grow.)
While the worker may have done some damage to the brand, there’s enough in the letter that incriminates him just as much, if not more, than his accusations against Whole Foods.
The worker wrote, “Oh, you actually think being 20 minutes late matters? You know Whole Foods Market is just a grocery store, right?” Even the editor on Gawker who posted the letter said comments like that hurt the writer’s credibility.
The worker levels personalized, vitriolic comments against at least eight individuals. Again, that leads one to believe the problem may not lie at Whole Foods’ door, but rather with the worker.
While the knee-jerk reaction at Whole Foods might be to address these accusations directly, climbing into the gutter to tackle this former employee head on would be a mistake. It’s Goliath, he’s David. It’s a battle Whole Foods can’t hope to win.
The best the company can do is carry on, keep its head above the fray and maybe, behind closed doors, have a thorough read of the letter and see if there is any hint of truth in the most stinging accusations that need to be addressed.
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.
Todd Humber is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. Follow him on Twitter @ToddHumber