#Asia Dear 99.co, your decision to fire Sonny Truyen was 100 per cent correct


Startups are more vulnerable to hate campaigns on social media as they may often have to take tough decisions irking employees


A few days ago, a Bank of America employee, Christine Mcmullen Lindgren, made an extremely racist remark against African Americans in a Facebook post, which read:

“Go back to Africa get over your pity party you created this hatred and you own kind that brought your great great parents over here.” she said, who was apparently irked over having to “pay for” welfare of African American families.

As expected, the bank received thousands of phone calls and complaints against Lindgren. As soon as the bosses found out about her hateful post, she was immediately fired.

Lindgren’s was not the first incident, nor was it the last. There have been hundreds of instances for employees going on a rampage on social sites to vent their anger against something they don’t like.

The latest incident occurred in Singapore when an employee of realty portal 99.co made an offensive comment against the country. In a Facebook post, Sonny Truyen — an Australian who came to Singapore to join 99.co as VP (Digital Marketing) just a week ago — insulted the country and its people.

“You can’t f***ing catch pokemon in this piece of f***ing s***t country”, Truyen said in the FB post, apparently miffed over the inability to play the Pokemon Go game in Singapore (It is one of the countries where the game is not available).

The post evoked strong reactions from people in the country, one of whom took offence and engaged in an intense battle with Truyen, and even asked him to leave the country.

The incident spread like a wildfire and reached the top management of 99.co as well. With no further notice, Truyen was immediately shown the door. It all happened in a span of just 24 hours.

99.co duly apologised for the unruly behaviour of one of its employees.

In an official blog post, 99.co CEO Darius Cheung said:

“I apologise on behalf of 99.co, we pride ourselves to be a principled company that celebrates values like diversity and equality. We take responsibility for the public behaviour of any employee or consultant affiliated with us as a reflection of the company.

We are truly sorry, do accept our apology,” the post reads.

“Insulting behaviour is not acceptable regardless of whether it came from a foreign person or from a local. And the truth is, everyone of us have our best and worst moments. It is a conscious choice we should all be making to focus on the positive,” according to the 99.co CEO.

He also says that their challenges today in Singapore are still relatively small, compared to say, the systematic and fatal displays of discrimination in the US. “Our forefathers have worked hard to prevent the deadly racial riots of the 60s from repeating as well as designed policies and campaigns to ensure Singapore stays strong and tightly knitted. However, it seems lately the influx of foreigners has increasingly caused resentment.”

When compared to large companies, startups are more vulnerable to hate campaigns on social media. Startups which will often have to resort to mass firing and take other unpleasant decisions to keep the business abreast comes under fire from sacked employees. Employees take it to social media to attack the company and the management, putting the brand at risk.

Unruly behaviour can land anyone in trouble, even the CEO, as we have seen in the case of Rahul Yadav, Co-founder and former CEO of SoftBank-backed realty startup Housing. He was fired after he insulted the company Board and investors by calling them “intellectually incapable” in a Facebook post. After days of deliberations, the company stripped him of his role as CEO and fired.

At a startup level, India has also witnessed religious discrimination. Three years ago, real estate platform 99Acres had to remove an ad posted by a property dealer which carried a rider ‘Muslims not Allowed’.

At a time when racism and intolerance are at its peak across the world, startups need to be very cautious in dealing with such situations. People who they think are unfit into the culture of the company should be immediately fired, irrespective of the possible repercussions of the decision. Else, it will cause letdowns among other employees of the company and damage its reputation.

We don’t want to see Donald Trumps in our startups.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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