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The Artist and Employment - Best Buy Offers to Bring Suspended Employee Back, Kid Declines (Welcome to Thunderdome)

If your not aware of a Best Buy employee named Brian Maupin, you should go get the rundown over at TLNT.  John Hollon does a nice job of running down the story, which basically goes like this. 

-Maupin works at Best Buy as a blue shirt selling cell phones.

-Maupin created videos away from work that openly mocked iPhone buyers as unsophisticated. Those videos don't reference Best Buy or Maupin.

-Maupin was tabbed as the creator of the videos, and Best Buy suspended him and started making moves to fire him.

Here's one of the videos - analysis after the jump (email subscribers click through for the video - you'll want to see this - warning, lots of language):

Most of the conversation at TLNT and outlets like TechCrunch have centered on whether Best Buy has the right to suspend and fire someone for activities that don't identify the company or the employee in any way.  I think Best Buy can do what it wants to do under employment at will, but let's be clear - Best Buy is a company that clearly has engaged customers and employees alike via social media, which is to say they're more progressive than most.

But when it comes to the combination of artist (Maupin), social media (his youtube page) and company (Best Buy), Run-DMC was right: It's Tricky. Why is it tricky?  The latest on this case is that Best Buy has looked at all the factors involved in the situation and has offered reinstatement to Maupin.  Maupin has declined.

That's right.  A 25-year old, snot nosed kid DECLINED reinstatement.

Whoops.  It's not supposed to work like that.  Employees are supposed to take a suspension like a (wo)man, then come back when the company deems they've finished the investigation and the employee is clear to return.

Unfortunately, the artist has other choices.  In the situation of Maupin, let's assume that he's in the 1% of Best Buy employees who can create content like the video shown above (which by the way, is debatable since he created the video by typing in text).  Some friends rat him out, Best Buy reacts like you would react when you find out an employee has created a video that disparages a preferred vendor and customers in general (regardless if he or your company isn't identified).  Which is to say they act like a traditional company and suspend him, with the intent of firing him.

If you are Best Buy (lots of media scrutiny and visibility), suspending the artist actually gives the artist 1000x more distribution for his work than he otherwise would have had.  The artist goes from snarky employee to thought leader, or at the very least, more employable outside of Best Buy.  Which is why Maupin, a 25-year old kid, has declined reinstatement.  My take is that he'll parlay this situation into work at an ad agency or related play, somewhere appealing to the artist side of him.

Welcome to the new Free Agent Nation.  Good luck.



i am equally fustrated


I have to laugh at this as I truly am a believer that (for the most part and within reason) what's done on-site or on-the-clock is up to an employer. However once the employee leaves the premises and doesn't indicate in any way he's representing the company's viewpoint, he should be left alone. If I had this employee on the payroll I hope I'd have been more alert to his potential value by using him to promote products for us rather than firing him for sharing his personal opinion (and customer fatigue) in a really inventive way. This is a talented person finding a way to use the creativity that his company obviously overlooked.
P.S. I loved the video - thanks for sharing.

John R

Shoutout: I cited either your blog (though I can't seem to find the reference) or your inspiration over at bigidea:

Thanks for keeping it real. About your frequent posting, thanks for the inferiority complex. Carry on, role model. John

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