Meeting a viral video with a viral video (Editor’s Notes)

Employer responds to 'I quit' youtube video with video of its own
By Todd Humber
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 10/22/2013

Here’s something the HR department never wants to wake up to: An employee quits in a memorable way — and it goes viral.

That’s what Marina Shifrin, an American who worked at Next Media Animation (NMA) in Taiwan, did. If you haven’t seen her resignation video yet, you may be the only one. It took just one week for the slick video to hit 15 million views on YouTube.

Shifrin was apparently fed up with her job so she decided to quit. She rolled into work early one morning to fire up the cameras and made one last video: An interpretative dance set to the tune of Kanye West’s Gone.

In it, Shifrin busts a move while text rolls by on the screen. “It’s 4:30 a.m. and I am at work. I work for an awesome company that produces news videos. For almost two years, I’ve sacrificed my relationships, time and energy for this job.

“And my boss only cares… about quantity and how many views each video gets. So I figured… I’d make one video of my own. To focus on the content instead of worry about the views. Oh, and to let my boss know… (dance break)… I quit. I QUIT! I’m gone.”

Ouch. Though it does underscore the fact that employees don’t quit companies (she called NMA “awesome”) but rather they quit managers.

There’s also no denying she gave the company a black eye. We all know anecdotal stories — and we’ve seen the research — that says gen-Y workers want their work to have meaning. The popularity of the HBO hit The Newsroom speaks to that — the young journalists are inspired by bosses who demand great stories, to hell with the ratings.

But in the real world, ratings — and results — matter because they’re tied to revenue. So what did NMA do in response?

If it had read my previous advice to similar situations, the company would have sat on its hands and done nothing — better to let the situation fade away, rather than feed it.

When Whole Foods was confronted with a situation where a worker at a Toronto grocery store emailed his 2,300-word resignation tome to the entire company — and it was leaked to Gawker, where it was viewed hundreds of thousands of times — the company clammed up.

No comment was really the best option, and the situation died down.

But NMA chose a different tactic. It decided to meet Shifrin on the battlefield of her choosing — firing up the cameras, using the exact same locations, camera angles and song to tell the world its side of the story and create arguably the most popular recruitment video ever.

“We’re in the middle of an 8-hour shift and we are STILL at work. We work for an awesome company that hires based on dance skills… We eat our lunches at our desks because there aren’t restaurants around. But hey since we have a rooftop pool and sauna we’ll call it even.

“PLUS… We like to put on funky costumes and when we shoot our boss he plays dead… So it’s all good. Oh, and we want to wish Marina well and let everyone know… (dance break)… We’re hiring. We’re HIRING.”

In less than a week, it had almost four million views. It was also met — predictably — by comments on YouTube suggesting perhaps the workers were made to dance in the video by their bosses. It certainly doesn’t have the authentic feel of the original video, but how could it?

NMA also responded head on with a letter to Gawker, with Mark Simon, a senior executive (but not Shifrin’s boss) discussing the video. He expressed his admiration for Shifrin — he hired her — but said her video was hurtful to colleagues. He refuted the image that NMA is a sweatshop, pointing out her salary was US$42,000 per year and she worked a five-day, 40-hour workweek.

He also said the company has 600 employees and not one outstanding case in the labour tribunal — something he called “no small feat in Taiwan.”

NMA’s strategy is risky but it’s probably the right move. It showed the company has a sense of humour, even if it comes off a bit corporate-like. Not every attack needs a response — but if you can limit the damage and come out of it looking OK, like NMA did, it’s not a bad tactic to try.

Other videos have popped up on YouTube showing epic resignations. Most of them are cringeworthy — like the one where a hotel worker shows up with a marching band to resign in front of his poor boss.

Here’s hoping Shifrin doesn’t start a trend — HR professionals already have enough sleepless nights.

Reader Comments

“As an employment lawyer, there’s nothing more annoying than receiving a letter from opposing counsel demanding 20 months’ salary for a window-washer (or what have you) based on a belief they get one month per year of service. It’s lazy advocacy to not review the case law to determine what a court would actually award them, and sets you up with the upper hand because you can assume you’re dealing with someone not familiar with the nuances of the field.”

— Andres, commenting on Stuart Rudner’s blog
“There is no rule of thumb for ‘reasonable notice’”

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