Many high-level leaders will have gone through spells of unpopularity but there’s very few who have had to deal with a 200,000-signature strong petition calling for their immediate resignation – Reddit CEO Ellen Pao is facing just that.
Users and volunteer moderators of the news sharing site – self-styled as “the front page of the internet” – have become increasingly concerned in recent weeks that Pao and her executive team are doing more damage than good.
Then, over the holiday weekend, news emerged that popular Reddit employee Victoria Taylor had been unexpectedly terminated – the poor communication of her sudden departure left many moderators in the lurch, struggling to maintain discussion boards and with no feasible plan for the future.
It’s a situation that many companies may have found themselves in without realising – are these volunteers saying what your employees couldn’t? Irresponsible succession planning hits your employees hard but they’re less likely to speak up because they’re being paid.
Thanks to Reddit’s unique structure, that’s not the case – almost 300 of the site’s most popular subreddits were deliberately shut down in protest, offering valuable insight into how your employees may really be feeling when the executive team makes a hasty decision and fails to keep everyone informed.
“We have chosen at this time to set /r/AskReddit
private. Communication and support between admins and moderators has been deteriorating and basic tools such as moderator tools and modmail are sloppy at best, with constant promise for improvement never coming.
Communication has also been lacking as evidenced by todays mishandled firing of Chooter. Feel free to use the comment section to discuss or ask questions,” one moderator wrote.
Another moderator from the wildly popular AMA serious – which Taylor had become most synonymous with – complained they had been “blindsided” and felt “betrayed.”
The discussion board allows users to pose any question they like to high profile celebrities, politicians, and anyone of public interest. Previously, Taylor has liaised with the likes of Bill Gates, Bill Murray and even President Barack Obama.
With the social site in meltdown, Pao was forced to realize the full extent of her actions. She gave a full and frank apology.
“We screwed up,” she wrote. “Not just on July 2, but also over the past several years. We haven’t communicated well, and we have surprised moderators and the community with big changes.”
“We have apologised and made promises to you, the moderators and the community, over many years, but time and again, we haven't delivered on them. When you've had feedback or requests, we haven't always been responsive. The mods and the community have lost trust in me and in us, the administrators of reddit."
Despite the candid apology, signatures still poured in and Change.com confirmed it was the largest response to an anti-CEO petition.
Centerplate CEO Des Hague – who was caught kicking and chocking a puppy – resigned before a similar petition exceeded 200,000 signatures and, after that, the next largest anti-CEO petition was against United Airlines chief executive Jeff Smisek – it gained just 11,000 supporters.
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