The Arguments For and Against Josh Olin's Dismissal

Should former Turtle Rock Community Manager Josh Olin have been fired for his remarks concerning Donald Sterling?

The Internet world is awash in debate.

Turtle Rock Community Manager Josh Olin was fired for some comments he made on Twitter concerning the Donald Sterling scandal. If you're unfamiliar, Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, was banned from the NBA for life after making racial comments.

Olin called Sterling a "victim" and not long after, he was fired. Olin has since clarified his remarks by providing statements to Kotaku. He also took to Twitter again to explain his position.

Now, I'm not here to take a side; I'm not stupid enough to voluntarily throw myself on that particularly explosive grenade. However, considering all the arguments, I thought it might be a good idea to look at this from both sides, so:

The Argument For Firing Olin

The company has a right to do it

From the company's standpoint, they didn't want to be associated with anyone who makes comments that would denote them a racist. Whether he is or not is probably irrelevant in the company's eyes, as they're only worried about protecting themselves from future backlash. For instance, if they come out and support Josh and his comments, those who found his statements offensive might boycott Turtle Rock and their upcoming products (in this case, the anticipated Evolve).

The company has every right to protect themselves. It's nothing personal; it's just business.

You don't make personal comments in the company's world

This is tricky because while Olin obviously wasn't speaking for his employer and he was on his personal Twitter page, he's a Community Manager. He gets the word out; he's essentially PR. Just about everything he says and does in the public realm can be tied to the company, which, by the way, must suck. It means that you really can't say anything at all on the Internet because honestly, where do you draw the line? What's "personal" and what's "business?" If it's all available for public consumption, it's tough to say.

Besides, you just don't do it. Olin had to have known his comments would've been controversial, and he had to know they might get him in trouble. If I'm a high-profile Community Manager, I would never think of addressing a situation such as the Sterling debacle. It's just suicide and he should've known better.

The Argument Against Firing Olin

The company misinterpreted Olin's comments and, as he says, "bought into the hysteria"

Olin has since made it plain that he does not condone Sterling's words and actions, and he was expressly attacking sensationalist media, and the fact that our privacy is no longer our own. From a personal standpoint, I wholeheartedly agree with him in this respect. The problem is that his employer apparently didn't even ask for an explanation from Olin; they just fired him on the spot.

One could argue he had violated some sort of company policy - and that'll likely be very subjective - but if the company misinterpreted, they were wrong to fire him, right? Yes, they have a right to protect themselves and if I was the boss, I might cut ties and run ASAP. It's the fastest, easiest, safest solution. However, if you don't even ask to hear your own employee's side, one could contend that you really are simply "giving in to hysteria."

What's wrong with speaking out in favor of privacy and against sensationalist media?

If Olin is being truthful, are we really going to find fault with his position? The problem with firing Olin on the spot without determining the facts is this: It looks like a knee-jerk reaction and an automatic "OMG, you're racist" accusation that is extremely hurtful when it's false. If people believe Olin - and it looks like many do - Turtle Rock and 2K are coming across as the companies that spat in the face of freedom of speech. Furthermore, they seem more interested in damage control than ascertaining the facts, a tactic that doesn't go over well with the public.

Of course, this is all assuming that Olin's comments aren't damage control. They seem genuine but you can't be certain.

One personal statement

I've presented both sides of the argument, as I see it, and I'll remain a bystander. However, this is for Josh: Whether it was right or wrong to fire you, you just don't do what you did. It's a mistake, plain and simple. Even if you're right, even if you think it should've been said, it couldn't possibly end well, especially when you're in the position of Community Manager. And you definitely don't do it on Twitter, where you can't properly explain your position.

Just bad judgment, dude.

Published May. 1st 2014
  • gew228
    Please pardon my ignorance in this post-Orwellian world, but can you kindly give me thet statute that made political correctness law?
  • jvp_9632
    As poor as Josh's judgement may have been in tweeting about it - I thoroughly disagree with your take away.

    I would rather there be 1000s more people like Josh that aren't too scared to voice an unpopular but crucial opinion. It's an incredibly important conversation that won't happen unless people stop being worried about the sensationalized media and social media frenzied mob. Unfortunately with TRs actions it sends the message you SHOULD be afraid to have a conversation.

    At the end of the day, turtle rock handled this poorly because they threw gasoline on a fire. Their apology, which is still up on twitter, uses the language 'we don't condone those views and they are in stark contrast to our values." Which is incredibly inflammatory to anyone who's familiar with Joshs statements.

    They're going to suffer a far worse PR hit because of it, hope they learn a lesson.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    ...uh, that doesn't run counter to my take-away, and I explained both sides of the argument.

    I completely agree with you. My point is that it was just a bad idea to do, and I would never have done it had I been in Josh's position. It's just too likely for companies to do what Turtle Rock did, which is why I'd avoid it.
  • jvp_9632
    shrug, you don't agree with me because you don't think he should have tweeted. You wouldn't have done it because you think your employment would be jeapordized for publicly defending a bigots right to privacy.

    That's a big part of the problem. People are silent because they fear the backlash. My point is that it was a good thing to do because conversation moves society forward and no one should be afraid of expressing a perfectly reasonable viewpoint in public.

    And your take away tells any other Josh Olin that if they have an opinion that could possibly be unpopular - keep it to yourself. I don't agree with that. Doesn't mean you didn't argue both sides fine, just would rather see a takeaway like "maybe turtle rock should have handled this better".

    Both Josh and TR made a mistake, one is more forgivable than the other though.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    If you have an opinion that's unpopular, by all means, voice it. You do NOT voice it at work, or in any situation that can be deemed a work situation. Josh was the Community Manager so just about everything he said online could be tied to Turtle Rock and 2K, and he should know that that reflects on those companies. I'm sure they told him as much when he took the job.

    You don't do that. You can be all idealistic if you like, but you're talking about public. I'm talking about a work environment. Yes, Josh made a mistake because he should've known better. Nobody walks into the office after the Sterling story broke and calls that guy a "victim." Nobody. Not unless they have every intention of getting fired.

    If you wish to speak up elsewhere, by all means. Use social media or blogs, write a letter to the papers, discuss it with anybody who wishes to listen. You just don't do it at work. Everybody knows this.
  • jvp_9632
    I think my issue is his point was in no way controversial, or should not have been anyway.

    His opinion was not 'I hate Mexicans' or something hateful and divisive which I'd agree was a fireable offense - it was 'I believe in an American citizens right to privacy'.

    The fact that you think coming into your office and saying you think Sterling was 'a' (not "the", BIG difference) victim is a fireable offense is depressing. You don't have to like the man to see how he was in some way victimized in this. We all say things in private we wish the world didn't hear. That's not some taboo thing to say, it's just not.

    And I don't think he was at work, though you can argue that as a CM You're on all the time. But that's irrelevant Imo,.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Again, you're not being realistic. It sounds like you have no experience in a professional setting. The fact that you think it's "irrelevant" sort of proves this.

    If there's any chance of offending people around you, and if there's any chance of saying something that reflects poorly on the company, the only "irrelevant" factor is your intent. It's what you learn: "Intent is irrelevant." It's what hinges on every harassment lawsuit out there. Doesn't matter what you meant; what matters is how it was interpreted.

    Whether YOU think it's a fireable offense or not matters not at all. You have no say. Whether it's controversial or not matters not at all. These are things you must adhere to in a work environment, and I'm not sure you have any experience in one. Doesn't sound like you do, anyway.
  • jvp_9632
    feh no experience. I'm typing from my phone right now because I'm so corporate this website is blocked.

    So because society isn't mature enough to be able to talk about this Donald Sterling controversy with a level head, no one should talk about it if they might be able to be tied back to their employer and outted as potentially 'maybe kind of sort of actually not at all' defending sterling.

    I have a say, and what I think does matter - because I make up part of society and I don't like how we handled ourselves in this last controversy. Hence my vigorous lambasting of turtle rock for taking action without thinking, and my disapproval of you not defending a person's right to voice a non controversial, non offensive opinion. Don't want it to continue happening, time to grow up a little.

    But you've grown defensive and snarky, so I'm done. Just wanted to let my displeasure be heard. Good article though.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    You've been purposely obtuse. I never once said I disagreed. In fact, I said I did agree with everything you said, and wondered what you were even talking about.

    I said Olin shouldn't have made those comments in a work setting. That's not an opinion; it's a fact. Had you done the same, at the very least, you would've been reprimanded and you know it.

    You can accuse the whole corporate world of being immature and not "growing up." I accuse society of that all the time. Unfortunately, none of that changes reality, which you apparently flat-out refuse to acknowledge.
  • jvp_9632
    I accuse society of being immature and not growing up, which in turn affects corporate world. I know (or at one point knew) what will and won't get me fired, and so far I've yet to lose a job.

    But at some point saying 'I don't agree with what you say, but agree with your right to say it' became a fireable offense and that's unacceptable and needs to be called out.

    turtle rock made a mistake. I'm sure there were outside influences; like being partnered with 2k and heavily courting the bball/hip hop demographic - but that doesn't excuse their action and whoever wrote that apology and left it up for the past 3 days needs to go back to business school. Because they took a minor PR issue and warped it into being anti-privacy, which isn't a good look for a gaming company.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Again, I completely agree.

    But the reality is that a sentiment and political correctness have become laws. They've become our doctrines and no principle of ideal can override them, especially in the business world.

    Turtle Rock handled it badly. But no matter how it's handled, it will undoubtedly end badly for the person who started it. Because in this world, if anyone thinks, even for a second, that you're a racist, it's over. Reality and fact have no bearing, and companies know this.

    Out in public, people will stand behind the "I don't agree with what you say but I support your right to say it" ideal, but in the corporate world, it doesn't work that way. As you say, you're not even sure what could get you fired these days. Well, this is definitely one thing that could (and will).

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