Should You Lose Your Job For Being A Jerk?

Social Justice. It’s a modern term but has been around since time has begun. It’s been social commentary fodder for books marking its place in time. Think The Scarlet Letter, published in 1850.  The term mob rules and vigilante justice are forms of social justice. How often are those terms associated with the moral high ground?

Social Justice in 2018 has reached a point where it has potentially become unbalanced in how the accused are punished.

We are speaking of how men or anyone is punished for their civil behavior and societal transgressions when their behavior has not crossed the line into a criminal act.

The Me Too movement began as a good thing. It rooted out horrible men that used power over women. It’s wrong, no one should deny that. Since Me Too’s inception in 2017 it has spawned a new type of social justice, that is making the act of being a jerk cause for extreme punishment.

Keep in mind this is not a defense of men. This discussion is about how we dispense justice outside of the court system. People are losing jobs and livelihoods for their transgressions.

The question is should people lose their livelihood and for how long? Social Justice seems to suddenly have unlimited power to censure.

Consider the case of actor Mel Gibson. He had two forms of proof to his bad character. First was his publicized recording of being detained by the police in 2006. Gibson tossed insults in a drunken anti-semitic rant at the arresting officer. The recording was proof of where his heart was. Society and Hollywood judged Gibson.

Mel Gibson 2006 and 2001 mug shots
Mel Gibson 2006 & 2011 Arrests

Soon after in 2009 Gibson was outed again during a divorce with photos of physical abuse and audio recordings that may have been altered but still painted enough of a picture to see he was someone who flew off at the mouth with extreme words. It’s been over 10 years since Mel was punished by society.  What is the time limit to which we let him back in? We have no standard.

We could explore the importance of accused vs guilty. This matter is about punishment in general. Don’t misunderstand – accountability is great. I believe in it. If you have children you teach this concept to your children from the time they speak.

Like Mel Gibson, many have been punished by losing their livelihood. There is no jail time or being sent away to relearn proper societal behavior. Instead we jettison that person to oblivion. We turn our back on them like sweeping dirt under a rug.

What we do and do not tolerate has changed throughout history. One example is that the gay lifestyle now is celebrated.  In Ancient Greece homosexuality was accepted. Then it was not. Just 30 years ago homosexuality was taboo, mocked and condemned.  Did society have the right to make outcasts of gay people in the 1970’s?

The same could be said for those that smoke marijuana. The list of things we reject then accept as a society goes on.  In 2009 Christian Bale blew up on the set of Terminator in an ugly rant. Even he called it inexcusable. Had that happened now would he be ran out of Hollywood?

Beyond the timing of when a social justice infraction takes place is the question of do we have the right to take away someone’s livelihood as punishment?

Social Justice now demands that at the time we learn of an offense we make the accused an outcast. Do we have that right?  How far do we go? This isn’t a defense of people who clearly do wrong. It’s a question of who decides how people should be punished outside the legal system.

Some who have lost their jobs are slowly making their way back into the public eye.  Is taking away a person’s livelihood the only way this should be handled? To take the question even further, should we take away a person’s livelihood for just being a jerk? Because we’ve reached that point.

Nerdist FounderThat is how the latest case is playing out with Chris Hardwick. He’s the founder of a million dollar empire, Nerdist.com.  Recently he’s been outed by his ex girlfriend Chloe Dykstra in her online essay Rose Colored Glasses: A Confession.  From her article Ms. Dykstra infers Mr. Hardwick mentally abused her during their years long relationship. His downfall has been an instant elevator ride to the bottom. He’s been removed from the Nerdist history books as founder, scratched from multiple TV jobs and all but erased from our sight.  His punishment has all come without a trial, nor any credence to his response.  No one is diminishing Chloe Dykstra’s hardship. I for one think what she says is true. I think Chris has as much said he’s bad in relationships. His insecurity of holding onto someone in the L.A. lifestyle is no excuse. There is no excuse. The question is has his pitiful behavior in a relationship given cause for him to lose everything he’s worked for?

Unlike the recent MeToo (women in business taken advantage of by predatory men) movement where men have been losing jobs and companies they own due to criminal behavior, Chris Hardwick’s case is new territory. It’s now about civil behavior outside the workplace. He’s being accused of being a shitty person. Hardwick is not being accused of  being sexual stalker or sexual predator like others. Instead he’s being accused of being a jerk. A really bad jerk to put it mildly.

Chris Hardwick has maintained for years he’s not good at relationships. He’s owned up to his bad behavior without actually broadcasting it over the air or memorializing it in writing. No one is disputing that if what his accuser is saying is true that Chris is a jerk in his personal life.

That’s where we are now.  The question is now – do we punish people for just being crummy personalities?

In business, sharks make it to the top. We all know some very ugly personalities in the workplace that we ask in wonder, “How is this person in a position of authority, let alone employed here?” To that end, karma usually catches up with them. Sometimes it does not, but on balance those people are moved out of those positions or fired from their jobs left to soul search and hopefully learn from their bad ways and change for the better in their next job. That has been the way of things. The natural order and the business world solve the problem of ‘bad eggs’ for the most part.

Sexual harassment in the workplace has come a long way in my lifetime and still has some work to go, but it is beginning to be applied to those at the top like it has those at the bottom. That’s a good thing.

As for Chris Hardwick, it may yet come out he has committed some form of physical or sexual abuse. Until that is proven, should he lose all he has worked for because he’s a bad person in relationships? For years he was the darling of the millennial generation adhering to every hip norm becoming the poster boy of all that is cool. He made being a nerd or geek okay. Now he is suddenly not okay because current Social Justice demands people lose their jobs.

But again… social justice has now worked it’s way outside the workplace – to affect livelihoods. We need to get that right. Chris Hardwick’s case illustrates this need and we should all be a bit more careful lest that stone be cast at our own glass house.

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