How to Deal With a Scathing Attack on Your Company Like Hubspot

How would you deal with an ex-employee who speaks out badly about your company in public?

It can be frustrating when an ex employee is trash-talking your company, and even worse when they go on to publish a book about it.

Sometimes the best solution is probably to stay out of it and let it run its course. If you try to prevent this person from reaching your employees or clients, you’ll look heavy-handed and like you have something to hide.

It can actually add credence to their story, which is the opposite of what you want. And keep in mind that many of your employees and customers are going to be annoyed by what this former employee is doing, and they may well end up discrediting themselves in the eyes of a lot of people.

These has recently been the case for inbound marketing software company Hubspot, who came under a scathing attack from former employee and technology journalist Dan Lyons in his new book “Disrupted: My Misadventure In The Start-Up Bubble.”

In short, Lyons accused the U.S Cambridge, Massachusetts based company of having a shoddy product, capricious management and a homogeneous culture steeped in ageism.

The epilogue also contains information about how two senior Hubspot executives ― to whom Lyons reported ― left the company (one was fired, one resigned before he could be fired) for allegedly seeking to obtain a copy of his book via illicit means.

“Disrupted” was officially released at the beginning of April and HubSpot’s stock is down more than 14%.

Founders of Hubspot Brian Halligan & Dharmesh Shah gave an open response in the form of a linkedin pulse post uploaded through Dharmesh’s Linkedin account on Apr 12, 2016.

In their response, Halligan and Shah begin by saying that they want to provide their “honest take” rather than a “take-down” of the book. And while it is true that they take the high road vis-a-vis Lyons, they also do not respond to some of his more serious complaints.

On the flipside, HubSpot was awarded #4 best place to work in the U.S. in the most recent Glassdoor rankings.

Extracts of the response

It has been almost 10 years since the two of us founded HubSpot. If someone had told us then that someday, the company would grow up to be publicly-traded and have over a thousand employees, we would have been cautiously hopeful. After all, the plan from the beginning has always been to build a successful, enduring company. But, if someone had also said that we’d have a satirical author write a scathing book about us, we would have never believed that. That was definitelynot the plan. Besides, who’s going to want to read a book about HubSpot?

Last week, Dan Lyons, a former employee of HubSpot released just such a book: “Disrupted: My Misadventure In The Start-Up Bubble.” And as it turns out, a lot of people are reading the book. We have now had a chance to read it ourselves and reflect on it a bit.

Warning: This is our honest take on the book and not a take-down. If you were expecting harsh, retaliatory attacks on Dan or his book, you can safely stop reading. You will be disappointed. This is not that kind of article, and HubSpot is not that kind of company. Instead, we’ll share some of the story, acknowledge some of the lessons learned and attempt to answer some of the questions that we know are swirling around.

The Story Behind The Book

A few years ago, we interviewed Dan Lyons for a job. You may not recognize the name, but you’ve likely enjoyed some of his work. He’s a professional satirist, and a very good one at that. He is known for his sharp, biting wit. He was the author of the once-popular “Fake Steve Jobs” blog and writes for the funny HBO comedy “Silicon Valley.”

Dan had applied for a job and we were pulled into the process. He was looking to transition away from a lifelong career in journalism after a long tenure at Newsweek. He wanted to join the wacky world of tech, an industry he had written about for many years. We respected that. So, we offered Dan a job at HubSpot, and he accepted.

About 20 months later, Dan resigned from HubSpot and then went on to write “Disrupted”. It is a broad criticism of the tech industry including companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb, Uber, Box, Salesforce.com, LinkedIn, Amazon and Netflix. But mostly, it’s a scathing and sweeping criticism of HubSpot: our culture, our people, our business, our inbound philosophy, our office, our logo, our IPO, our company color, and our annual event — pretty mucheverything about us. Dan pokes particularly hard at HubSpot’s culture.

HubSpot Culture

HubSpot is by no means a utopian workplace and we don’t appeal to everyone. In early 2013, we published a slide deck called the HubSpot Culture Code. It’s 128 slides long and details what we believe, how we think and how we operate at HubSpot. The deck has been popular and has received over 2 million views since we published it. Here’s a link:  HubSpot Culture Code Deck

To read the rest of the full response here is the link

Here are some tips on dealing with a disgruntled staff or ex-employees

Assess the situation

Though only a few letters different in spelling, assess and assume are two very different words. Before you jump to any conclusions, take the time to dig in and really find out what’s going on with the individual.

Don’t delay

The best time to address the situation is now. The longer you wait to address the issue after it’s been identified, the more time it will have to fester, adding fuel to the fire. It may not be a fun-filled conversation, but it needs to happen sooner rather than later.

Privacy is important

While the staff as a whole may need to be addressed after the situation is resolved, initially, it’s best to meet with the unhappy staff member one on one. This option not only protects you from the employee voicing their complaints for everyone else to hear, but also provides a perception of safety to the employee.

Keep calm

Working in a hot office is uncomfortable, whether you’re referring to the temperature or to the level-headedness of the bosses. It’s more important than ever to keep your head on straight when handling an unhappy employee.

Be patient

As business professionals, we want to fix things immediately. While this is a great attitude to have overall, it doesn’t work in every situation. A quick turnaround in employee morale can really drive efficiency and productivity, but it isn’t always possible.

Keep a record

Above and beyond all else, document your conversations, meetings and outcomes. This is for your safety and the employee’s, and it just might save you from a lawsuit. We all hope to resolve meetings with everyone wearing a genuine smile, clapping our hands and admiring our dedication as they tell us, “Thank you for everything you’ve done.” Productivity picks up, and everybody goes back to being one big happy working family.

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