Corona Crisis: Separating The Good From The Bad

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- 4 min read

Nothing reveals character like a crisis. As corona spreads, companies reveal their true colors. Some seem rotten to the core. Others show tenderness, love, and care.

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Recently I wrote about different approaches to remote work during the pandemic (see  remote work tips). One (Basecamp) was based on trust, and the other (The Wall Street Journal) on a complete lack of affection.

True colors

As the crisis spreads, more companies show their true colors. Some do everything they can to support employees, customers, suppliers, and communities. Others double down on micromanagement, control, and distrust.

The bad

Axos Financial Inc.

This online banking company pushes micromanagement to a new level. Bloomberg called this out after an internal message from the company's CEO, Gregory Garrabrants:

"'We have seen individuals taking unfair advantage of flexible work arrangements' by essentially taking vacations [...]. If daily tasks aren’t completed, workers 'will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.'"

An Axos spokesman explained: “the enhanced monitoring of at-home employees we implemented will ensure that those members of our workforce who work from home will continue to meet quality and productivity standards that are expected from all workers".

"Welcome to 1984!", George Orwell would say.

Here's another lovely touch from Axos Financial Inc. When the spokesman was asked if Garrabrants - one of America's highest-paid bank CEOs - is subject to the same Big Brother surveillance scheme, he declined to comment.

What a great place to work!

Surveillance swell

Painfully, companies supplying surveillance software have seen demand explode recently. Companies like Time Doctor, Teramind, VeriClock, innerActiv, ActivTrak, Hubstaff and InterGuard benefit from the huge lack of trust that characterizes today's workplaces.

Proudly, their websites boast the many possibilities when it comes to employee monitoring (a.k.a. micro-management gone wild).

Take a deep breath - this stuff will make you sick.

  • Track login / logoff times
  • Track number of emails sent
  • Track active and idle time
  • Continuous screenshots
  • Screenshots when specific words are typed (like 'job search')
  • Identify frequently used unproductive apps or websites
  • GPS location tracker
  • Social media activity reports
  • 'Anomaly detection' (i.e. when a person sends more/less emails than usually)
  • Keystroke logging

For fuck's sake, people.

The good

On the other side of the spectrum there are organizations that really care about employees and, especially in tough times, put them first.

Gravity Payments

One is Seattle based Bucket List pioneer Gravity Payments. CEO Dan Price is known for once taking a million-dollar pay cut so his staff could make at least $70,000. It is one reason for his nomination as "best boss in America".

This time, Gravity Payment's existence was threatened by COVID-19. The credit card processing company saw revenues drop by 50%. The options for Price were clear: lay off 20 percent of employees or go bankrupt.

He chose neither. Dan: "As CEO, I told all employees our full financial situation. I asked all 200 of them what they would do." This time, the staff were the ones making the bold move. After 40 hours of conversations, 98% volunteered to take temporary pay cuts.

Some offered to take a 50% cut, or to work for free. Price would not allow that. But pay was cut by ~20%. And Price cut his to $0!


The result? No lay-offs. Price: "This was the most humbling experience of my life. [...] Just like the corona virus we all have to work together to defeat it."

Dan Price criticizes the approach of companies like Boeing, who are about to cut jobs after:

  • Giving the CEO it fired over the recent 737 MAX scandal $80.7M on the way out, enough to pay 939 workers' salary
  • Getting up to $17B in COVID aid
  • Spending 74% of free cash flow on buybacks in the last 10 years
  • Receiving a $8.7B subsidy from Washington state.

Judgment day

The current crisis will continue to push companies toward losses, both human and financial. There is no denying that. But it is how you deal with such shitty situations that define you. Now is the time to show your true colors.

And even if you fucked-up with first actions and shitty reflexes, now is the time to fix things. To paraphrase Maximus Decimus Meridius in Gladiator: What you do now echoes for eternity.

I'm curious to hear more about the 'good' and the 'bad' responses. Drop a note on the ones you know about in the comments below.

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