Did you hear about Tony Piloseno, the paint-mixing TikTok star from Ohio who was fired from his job at Sherwin-Williams Paints Company? In his videos Piloseno mixed paint for his 1.2 million TikTok followers, and tried to convince corporate office to use his new-found fame as a marketing opportunity and a means to attract younger customers. Instead, the multibillion company fired him for “gross misconduct” with offenses such as “seriously embarrass[ing] the Company or its products.”
Piloseno did a video on that, too. The last time I checked, it had 7.3 million likes.
This example is a valuable lesson on how the treatment of employees and underestimating the power of social media can work against an organisation. If workers are treated in a negative way, it tends to come out sooner or later. The organisation is easily seen as the big bad wolf that picks on the hard-working ‘little guy’. The masses identify with the little guy and are quick to defend them. People are moved by stories, and Sherwin-Williams accidentally gave Piloseno a great brand narrative to complement his already likable paint-mixer character.
So, how to avoid HR mishaps from turning into PR nightmares such as this? For the last several years I have worked in different sized companies in various fields, and have seen a fair share of HR-whoopsies. Most of the time problems seem to surface when the employer refuses to see the potential in a worker due to a set of overly strict and often out-dated rules. As a result, I have created three requirements for my employer if I ever am on the market for a new job. And boy am I glad I started working at Haaga-Helia: they see my “rules” as actual values!
- Courage. Create an environment where everyone’s input and ideas are just as valued, no matter what the job title is. Appreciate your employees for coming up with unconventional or creative methods to develop your organisation, don’t shoo them off. This is especially encouraged in StartUp School, and we want to inspire our students to likewise thinking.
- Collaboration. People tend to work harder and better when they feel appreciated and secure with their job. The work community reaches all the way down to the lowest organisational ladder – there are jobs you might not even realise someone has to do, so be mindful of the details in the big picture. Commit to your employees and they will commit to you. Be loyal and trustworthy, and you shall receive. Motivation with the help of collaboration is key to dedication.
- Respect. And if you do get your company tangled into any sort of mess, just own up to it, and do it swiftly and humbly before it blows out completely. The way this paint-mixing incident was handled was a miscalculation on Sherwin-Williams’ part from start to finish, including their no-comments-approach to the media. What happened and why soon becomes irrelevant, it’s all about the actions of the ‘big bad wolf’ that matter.
To wrap it up; passionate and appreciated employees will eventually drive your organisation towards success. And my advice to the ‘big bad wolf’ is actually a quote from the great Vanilla Ice: Alright stop, collaborate and listen.