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Leadership Lessons from the YouTube Job Quitter: What You Can Learn from a Very Public Resignation

Leaving a job is never easy, no matter how it happens.  It can involve awkward conversations, intense emotions, and a lot of uncertainty.  Marina Shifrin, however, made quitting fun.

A couple of months ago, she posted a YouTube video in which she dances to a Kanye West song while subtitles explain her reasons for leaving, most of which involve the Taiwanese animation company’s failure to recognize her efforts or value her free time.  To date, the video has gotten nearly 17 million views.  Obviously, she hit a nerve and lots of other people relate.

Though this is obviously an exaggerated and all-too-public way to express displeasure with an employer, Shifrin does make some valid points that could teach all business leaders a thing or two.

1.  Reasonable Hours

Shifrin created the video at her employer’s office at 4:30am, just after the rest of her fellow employees had left the office.  There are very few professionals who should be working at such an hour.  Of course, we realize that working after hours is sometimes necessary in order to get the job done, but your employees shouldn’t feel that working into the wee hours is expected.

We all know those workaholic perfectionists who will keep working if you don’t kick them out of the office.  Kick them out.  If you want productive, healthy employees then you sometimes need to be the one who tells them it’s OK to stop, go home and get some R & R.

2.  Respect Personal Lives

One of the first subtitles that appears on the screen says that Shifrin sacrificed relationships, time and energy for her job.  While it’s normal for professionals to make occasional personal sacrifices for their job, it shouldn’t become a routine.  If work requires so much time and energy that employees are unable to see friends and family or do personally-fulfilling activities outside of work, there’s a problem.

More than likely, one of the reasons you hired your employees was their personalities – the unique experience and perspective that they brought.  This probably included a positive outlook.  As you probably know firsthand, the more we neglect personal relationships and the things that make us happy, the less we embody our true selves and the less joy we bring to what we do at work.  Become a guardian of your team’s personal lives by encouraging them to leave work at a decent hour and by genuinely inquiring about their lives outside of the office.

 3.  Quantity vs. Quality

Shifrin worked at a company that produced videos.  According to her own video, the company valued the number of views each video got much more than the quality of the videos (we’d be willing to bet that hers got more than any of the videos the company created). Most business leaders can probably somewhat relate to her numbers-driven managers.  In the majority of industries, measurable indicators of success are pretty important.

The key here, however, is balance.  While employees’ performance must be measured and assessed with some form of data, it’s important not to forget the real people behind the numbers.  Some jobs may take longer than others, some employees may work more slowly but create very good work, and some forms of success just can’t be measured in numbers.

 4.  Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

Though Shifrin didn’t mention her employers by name, it didn’t take long for people to do a bit of internet research to find out where she worked.  This could have been a PR bomb for that company, but it wasn’t.

Instead of making a public apology or cowering quietly, they created a spoof of Shifrin’s video, in which they delivered a light-hearted response to her complaints and ended by telling viewers that, incidentally, they were hiring.

Marina Shifrin was smart to know when enough was enough.  She used her creativity to send a message to her employers, and this resulted in overnight fame and a whole host of job offers from companies who prize unconventional thinking and risk-taking.

Make sure that you hold onto intelligent, inventive employees by rewarding their success and by making it clear that you see them as whole people who exist outside of the four walls of your company.

Make sure that you hold onto intelligent, inventive employees by rewarding their success and by making it clear that you see them as whole people who exist outside of the four walls of your company.