This is Breanna. She’s a teenager who tweeted out this picture (selfie, if you will) at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. She tweeted and emoticon that she is smiling. Obviously, this picture is getting a strong response on Twitter because of Auschwitz’s terrible history and the assumption why Breanna is happy could send a wrong message. Later, Breanna clarified that she is smiling because this was suppose to be a trip with her dad, but her dad passed away a year ago and was smiling just for him.
You can read the full story on Buzzfeed. Strong language is in the story.
Of note: I will not focus on her responses to detractors because if she were an adult and had this behavior, she would of been fired in most workplaces. I’m focusing on the initial picture and caption.
In my opinion, although I’m uncomfortable with this picture, I don’t know her motive was and she is not doing anything crazy. A picture only speaks to a millisecond of her life and we’re suppose to be rational about everything. I wish she could tweeted her caption like “For you, Dad” or something like that, but she’ll learn since she’s a teenager. I know I’ve seen people smiling at cemeteries; even I do questionable stuff while caught on camera. Everyone has a different reaction to a situation and we need to be respectful of why they react.
This leads to my point in recruiting and HR and one of the issues I have in my profession, and I’ll say it over and over, is most look everything at face value. When they see, what they perceived, a disturbing picture, most will move it, but not knowing the context of the picture or statement. What if it’s someone who has the skills you need the most in the workplace and they made, in their opinion, a mistake? You could make an argument that our soundbite and instant culture has made this worst because of the visceral responses when we see something that can be questionable, like Breanna.
People do questionable stuff and some do step out of line, but that’s where HR and recruiters need to determine if this person, who made a mistake, was a one-time thing or it’s constant by looking at their previous tweets and posts. Look at the Justine Sacco case for example; she tweets out insensitive comments about race and diseases and gets fired. Most people will say it was the tweet before she headed home to South Africa. If you saw her timeline, before she deleted it, there were questionable tweets about race and culture, so her personality was not that out of line to the tweet that fired her.
The lesson for HR and recruiters is a basic morale: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” When we see things that initially shock us, we’re suppose to have a deep reaction and that’s fine, but given time and when you settle down, maybe it is not as bad as it seems. HR and recruiters should always investigate the matter, but need to make sure the pieces make sense and talk to the parties before render out a decision, either on a hire or conflict.
What Breanna did should had more context, but it’s not as bad as people would assume. Now, if she was a employee working in a cubicle, singing songs with the n-word? That’s another story.