Here’s what you can learn from the Twitter employee who deleted President Trump’s account
Hillary Clinton once taunted President Trump to “delete your account.” A rogue Twitter employee finally made it happen.
Trump’s account — his colorful, controversial megaphone for both policy and public spats — vanished Thursday for 11 baffling minutes. After reinstating the account, Twitter revealed “this was done by a Twitter customer support employee who did this on the employee’s last day.” The employee was a third-party contractor, the New York Times later reported.
Outgoing workers have caused chaos offline, too: Before passing the baton to George W. Bush’s team, for example, Bill Clinton’s White House staff infamously removed “W” keys from keyboards, trashed offices, unplugged refrigerators, left obscene voicemail greetings and engaged in other hijinks, according to a 220-page GAO report that catalogued the offenses.
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The Twitter episode delighted Trump’s detractors and raised serious concerns about employees’ access to and authority over individual accounts. But it also begged the question: Is it ever a good move to leave a job in a blaze of glory?
My Twitter account was taken down for 11 minutes by a rogue employee. I guess the word must finally be getting out-and having an impact.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 3, 2017
“I’m not one for burning bridges, which departing in a blaze of ignominious glory can quickly lead to,” Karen Wickre, a senior editorial team member at Twitter and Google for about 14 years, told Moneyish. “If you plan to leave the field you’re in (or move immediately to Bali), maybe sweet public revenge is worth it. But no one can predict their path or guarantee they won’t need anyone from their past again.”
Monster.com career expert Vicki Salemi was even more emphatic, stressing that “your reputation is everything”: “Do not screw over your employer on the last day,” she told Moneyish. “Refrain from doing anything that’s unprofessional or that may seem vindictive … The damage that you think you’re doing to the company is actually going to have a negative effect, and almost bigger effect, on you.”
For one, Salemi said, “you never know when you’re going to cross paths with anyone in an organization again.” Even if you’re changing careers or heading to grad school, there’s a good chance your bad reputation will catch up with you during a job search. And with so-called “boomerang employees” on the rise, it’s not uncommon to return to a former employer, Salemi added. “This person will probably never, ever be able to work at Twitter ever again.”
There’s also the case of whistleblowers like Anita Hill, whose 1991 testimony about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas alleged harassment marked a watershed moment for women in the workplace, and ex-Uber engineer Susan Fowler, who exposed the company’s culture of sexism this year after her departure, executive coach Michelle Friedman said. It’s possible that Twitter employee was trying to send a message to the company about Trump’s use of the platform, as critics have argued some of his tweets violate the site’s rules on harassment and threatening violence.
“Maybe the statement was being sent to Twitter … ‘You guys are being cowardly. You should really consider what constitutes a reason to take an account down, and here’s my thinking on this,’” she speculated. “We could be sitting here two years from now and Twitter may say, ‘OK, yeah, that is grounds for (taking) down an account’ … This person was taking that action independently before the organization had evolved and gotten to that level of thinking.”
If you do feel that you need to take a controversial public stand on our way out, Friedman said, “be prepared for the blowback” and “think about the mark that you want to make.” “It becomes a matter of the employee’s principles,” she said. “How much do you want to make a statement about that, even if that might have negative repercussions for you?”
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