February 11, 2013 at 10:14 PM
Seattle’s ‘Bitter Barista’ fired over snarky site: Three reactions
Welcome to yet another installment of Someone Getting Fired Over Something They Posted Online — Seattle edition.
Less than a month ago a blog called Bitter Barista began posting quips like “My only goal for the month is to figure out how to pour a picture of a middle finger in latte art” and “Instead of buying your kid rice-milk-hot-chocolate, just punch them in the back of the head & tell them life is full of disappointments.”
Fans shared the joke and traffic soared.
Then a site called Sprudge.com, which serves up “coffee news and frothy gossip” decided to reveal the identity of the site’s author. It didn’t take much digging, the site later revealed, to confirm that the voice behind the blog was that of a barista at Seattle’s All City Coffee, a great coffee shop in the Georgetown neighborhood.
The barista was fired.
KIRO radio called me asking for reaction to this — here’s Erik Lacitis’ story here at the Times and the KIRO story that quoted me — and to the larger question of social media etiquette in the workplace.
I gave some quick thoughts. Here they are, loose and expanded.
It’s not about staying quiet, but being mindful. Each time one of these stories hits, there’s a temptation to use it as a cautionary tale and say that you should “never” be angry or vent or be snarky online — especially about work — because it could have serious consequences. It’s true that there could be serious consequences. But the lesson isn’t to never do it. It’s to be mindful about when you do it and how you do it. Many people prefer to keep things simple and stay positive. Expressing negativity can be damaging, or it can be thought provoking, therapeutic and even creative — if you do it responsibly.
Anonymity has its purpose. Before Sprudge outed the Bitter Barista, readers of the site could imagine he was anyone, anywhere, and enjoy the humor accordingly. Unidentified, the Barista was lewd and crude, but struck a cultural chord from a caffeinated city and was essentially harmless. Exposing him changed that. It undermined the ability of readers to relate in a safe way to his content. And, as the barista’s boss explains in Erik’s article, the ability of All City Coffee to keep him on board.
Why out? As I thought about this, I kept coming back to one thing. Why did Sprudge reveal Bitter Barista’s identity? If it’s because they thought its crudeness plus its popularity justified an out, I’d say that’s weak. The Bitter Barista gave voice to the workplace cynicism we all share with our closest friends, the very real and often very funny stuff of bad days and bad attitudes. Apparently the guys didn’t approve. Guess it really was just frothy gossip.
The upside: the barista says he’s got job offers at other coffee shops.
And he says he’s not shutting the site down.