A culture to swear by

There has been an interesting and good natured stoush this week over the use of the F word in a job advert. Clearly this has been quite polarising for a few people.

In one corner is Troy Hammond, a recruiter/sourcer of some repute now plying his trade alongside Kirsti Grant at Vend. In the other is Ross Clennett, a respected commentator on all things recruitment from across the Tasman.

Ross spotted the advert for Vend’s VP of Global Marketing which points out what an effing great company Vend is to work for.  Ross’s view is simply that whoever wrote the job ad overstepped the mark. In his latest blog post, Ross talks about using the F word in the right context and suggests a job ad isn’t the right context. He describes it as “look-at-me showmanship” and says it’s neither clever, funny, appropriate or necessary.

Innovation – tick. Disruption – tick. Unicorns – oh dear.

Vend2

In response, Troy has penned a post of his own defending Vend’s position. He suggests Ross doesn’t get it and that dropping the F bomb is part and parcel of working at Vend on a daily basis. He talks about authenticity and values (“just fucking do it” is one of Vend’s values) and that, as a start up, they are somehow thinking differently from the rest of us. If people are put off from working at Vend because of the F word, then “we don’t want them anyway” seems to be the gist of it.

I wrote a post last May after attending the IT18 event in Auckland at which I suggested that using the F word in your company values was far from edgy, and actually offensive to some people.

Now let me say I have no problem with dropping the F word at work in the right context and with the right people. Hell, I work in HR and sometimes even the C word is the only appropriate way to describe some people I have come across! I occasionally use the F bomb in my blog posts and on social media so I am not being all self righteous here.

However, I find myself of the view that using it in company communications or branding material smacks of lazy and unprofessional behaviour. No doubt the good people at Vend (and they are good people) will simply say they don’t give a toss because everyone thinks they are cool. Maybe I’m just not young enough to “get” this stuff anymore, but I have always believed the pen is mightier than the sword. If you can’t get your point across in print without resorting to four letter words and the risk of polarising people then you shouldn’t bother.

Vend1

Just a thought, but will “just fucking do it” help Vend when somebody one day takes them to court for bullying and harassment, or when a staff member gets caught with their fingers in the till, or when they are battling with regulators?  Will people not perhaps point to that and say their culture encourages people to get the job done whatever the cost to others and the law? And they will.

Vend are very proud of their culture and they clearly attract a certain type of person to work there. NZ loves a good start up success and we all want to see them do well. But wouldn’t you just love to see them market themselves in a really clever and inventive way which is more typical of their innovative culture as they continue to grow? They are better, dare I suggest, than behaving like an embarrassing child who has just learned their first swear word.

Time to stop dreaming of unicorns and grow up? Something perhaps for their new VP of Global Marketing to get stuck into!

6 thoughts on “A culture to swear by

  1. I knew this blog would be about without even knowing the content…lol
    Richard I think you are right. Its not so funny or cool to resort to swearing. My husband admonished me for it and said I’d let myself down in one of my blogs – same sentiment – pen is mightier that the sword.

  2. Rich, a well written blog as always and I agreed with your overall opinion on this … until I clicked on the screenshot and actually read the advert for the first time.

    Seeing it in context in the actual advert and knowing the people and culture at Vend as many of us do in the industry do – I don’t think the word is out of place at all and adds weight to the sentence where a ‘softer’ word would not.

    Try substituting this word with ‘jolly’ or ‘really’ for instance. It just doesn’t have the same kick to it.

    I swear often and am very conscious of it having 4 impressionable children. I think there is a time and a place to ramp it up or down. In this instance I think it was totally appropriate, had more than the desired effect and acted as a great screening tool for the job. So objective achieved and then some… nice work Troy and good objective blog Rich.

    • Thanks Adam. Interesting following the debate online which has ranged from “someone should lose their job” to the “whole thing is a non-event.” Each to their own I suppose!

  3. I’m as big a big fan of a well-placed anglo-saxon admonishment as the next man. I think it’s interesting that the response has come from Ross Clennett, whose use of language in his newsletter I’ve found pretty interesting in the past. Maybe, just maybe, it’s all about profile

  4. As a manager, if a recruiter reported to me and they used this sort of language in any formal communication, especially an advertisement, then I would look to sack them for serious misconduct.

    I would suggest that Troy may lack in business acumen. He obviously doesn’t understand competitive advantage or the competitive nature of recruitment. The attitude of “we don’t want them anyway” may come with a two fold cost, the cost of missing out on good talent and also the cost of good talent being employed by a key competitor.

    In Troy’s blog he outlines that this is typical of a “new way of working” and that the F word is even incorporated into one of their key values. They encourage people to be themselves and to bring their whole personality to work with them. He comes across as thinking that other people don’t understand the importance of corporate culture or that the focus on culture is a new thing. Wrong and wrong!

    The two key factors to the success of any culture are trust and respect. Vend appear to miss the mark with this.

    While the advertisement was bad enough, what makes it even worst is the blog post written by Troy. His explanation of why and how they do things is even more damaging to the Vend brand.

    In summary, I will not be applying for a job with Vend, I will not look to buy any of the products and I will not recommend them to people (and yes, I have influence with several retailers). Troy, you should have also thought about your customers.

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