What Does Job Loyalty Even Mean Anymore?

Bobby Allyn, the courts reporter who broke the Jack White/Karen Elson kerfuffle, was literally in the middle of working on the piece for the daily paper in Nashville when he got word that HR needed to see him. Unrelated to performance, he was being laid off, and with a goodbye kiss of zero-fucking-dollars of severance. So he trotted the hot scoop over to the weekly city paper across the street, who broke it instead.

Then he spoke openly about it at media blog Romenesko with what you might characterize as undisguised glee. Shrewd move or self-saboteur? Either way, this isn't really about newspapers. It's about the changing definition of what company loyalty even means anymore in a highly visible branding/Internet age where none of us has the slightest shred of evidence that our jobs are remotely stable anyway. Question: Can you bite the hand that feeds you when the hand already bit you first, or at least won't stop gnawing irritatingly away at whatever morale you had in the first place?

This also isn't even about layoffs: Most of us have had our fair share of perfectly shitty jobs/internships with inept bosses working for companies who ask employees to treat the business as if it is their own. Then they proceed to treat employees like, well, family — a really terrible, dysfunctional family where no one actually likes each other and everyone could die of demotivation.

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And yet, the burden is always on the employee: Give two weeks notice! Be graceful when you leave! Stay classy! And whatever you do: Don't tell the truth on the exit interview! (Kidding! There's usually no exit interview.)

Isn't that kind of insane? Seriously, don't tell the truth on the exit interview asking for your honest appraisal of working at the company. This is real advice given to employees all the time. See how we're saying to tell us the truth? Don't do that. Please? We can't handle it.

Why? Because if you tell the truth, a company might have to hear something unpleasant. People who say unpleasant things are bad-apple axe-grinders. Good employees realize that they are lucky it only sucks as much as it does, because the other option is eating barbed wire. #coolchoicesamerica

So it is with a vicarious thrill that those of us old enough to remember a lifetime's worth of never-tell-the-truth-at-work-no-really-don't-you-moron-you'll-be-sorry lessons to read about people like Bobby Allyn, who stuck it to his former employer a little. And also Olivia Nuzzi, who stuck it to her former employer a lot. And in her case, it was an employer who at least would have easily described himself as a fan of sticking it in things.

Olivia Nuzzi worked on the Anthony Weiner campaign trail as an intern. She wasn't one of his sexting buddies, though. She just dished about her experience as a lowly fetcher to the NY Daily News in a column that mocks his phoniness a little (shocker!), and mostly reveals that a lot of people joined his campaign to get close to Huma Abedin for her connections to Hillary, anticipating a 2016 presidential run.

It got a little ugly/hilarious: Weiner's communications director Barbara Morgan responded by calling Nuzzi not only a bad intern who didn't show up most of the time but also a "fucking slutbag" a "twat" and a "little cunt."

Sorry, I just want to just sit right here and relish that little hilarious lack of control from a COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR. It's like as if your whole entire job description is to not fart and then you can't help farting all over everyone you ever meet.

Then that old slutbag Nuzzo updated her Twitter profile accordingly, using the very taunts thrown at her as part of her branding. SASSY!

And as an interesting New York Magazine piece on Nuzzo called "Interns in the Age of the Employment Selfie" points out, that savvy branding has already landed the journalist/aspirational TV pundit a writing gig. Nuzzo might be a slutbag, but she's not crazy.

They quote an Atlantic piece from a writer who met with her for lunch:

There was no question when I met Nuzzi that she was on the make. But then so are plenty of other young journalists — the difference is that they are usually men. It's actually rather rare to meet a young aspiring woman journalist who is as aggressively networky and career-oriented as Nuzzi. Or as willing to burn bridges.

Yes, we usually have to settle for watching fictional versions of them on Netflix original programming. NY Mag goes on to define their term "employment selfie" thusly:

It’s not about your bosses, it’s not about the company, it’s not about the political campaign. It’s about you, and it’s how you show that self online, via social media, in the papers (if you’ve worked for Anthony Weiner), and to the world. Aligned with no one but themselves, with no real sense of visible shame, the interns have revolted. But can you blame them?

Not really. In their defense, they've been taking shit for a long time. But that's all changing:

Coming out of college, millennials might not find work at all, regardless of their degrees or how hard they've studied. They don't necessarily expect to be as successful as their parents. And even if there is a real job to be had, why in the world would they want to stay in that one role or place forever, particularly when the bosses they work for are nearly as overworked and underpaid as they are? But while bosses may take the perspective that someone’s lucky to have a job at all, the intern who thinks in selfie terms might just feel distrustful of corporate structures, a little bit angry, and most of all, confidently self-reliant. The latter quality seems to be generational side effect of the new empowerment brought about by the Internet, a place where you can make your own platform, create your own brand, add a cute hashtag and maybe a selfie, and there you go! Maybe we can’t truly depend on the people we work for, but we can depend on us.

Of course, that Internet blade of victory cuts both ways. The Internet can expose people or businesses for the assholes that they are, and it can also backfire on the Tweeter Pans who expose them. To wit: the food truck employee in NYC, Brendan O'Connor, who tweet-shamed a large group of patrons who bought $170 worth of grub and didn't tip. He got fired. And then wrote about it:

If social media is going to be used in one way to monitor worker productivity, why can it not also be used to advocate for a more civil exchange between worker and consumer? And why wouldn't a food service entity, while it's judging employees on social media, also judge its customers? The business practice of running a restaurant is to cultivate great customers and spurn bad ones.

No business is going to advocate for that civil exchange on their dime by insulting their customers — we all know that, and I think it's obvious from his essay that O'Connor knew that too. And yet, whether his fuck-you to bad tippers sounds awesome or entitled as fuck may merely depend on whether you've waited tables, and how much you actually needed the money.

Required point: My socioeconomic background requires that I note that these stick-it-to-the-man young'uns may very well be kids who have a safety net catching them when the last ember of the bridge turns to ash. But maybe not. As NY Mag points out, unpaid interns are suing like crazy, and low-wage earning fast food workers are on strike. Maybe thanks to viral media, sticking it to the man is a viable option for all of us. It could force the shittier employers among us to consider their staff a smidge more than their bottom line. Wherever you stand, there's something to the power of the Internet's ability to expose the working experience for the gross imbalance it often is. And if is just a phase, at least pass the popcorn.