If JetBlue (Nasdaq: JBLU ) flight attendant Steven Slater were a stock, I'd sell my shares. Warren Buffett has said that the most important quality for an investor is temperament. The same can be said about flight attendants.
Slater has become a cult hero since his dramatic "I'm not going to take it anymore" exit via inflatable slide. He's racked up hundreds of thousands of fans on Facebook. He's been called a working-class hero for anyone who has suffered the slings and arrows of incivility, an inspiration for anyone who dreams of quitting their job.
There's only one problem: Steven Slater is no hero. He's a guy who didn't want to do one of the more difficult parts of his job: keeping it together even when customers can't. He's the firefighter who doesn't want to deal with fire, the doctor who doesn't want to be around blood, the parent who doesn't want to do that whole "parenting" thing. That's nothing to celebrate.
When my 4-year old son has a tantrum, as he did last night, I don't get to respond in kind, throwing a tantrum and matching my son's emotions mano-a-mano. It's my job to rise to rise above the fray and deal. In the words of Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan, it's my job to be "calmly assertive."
Granted, it's a job I fail at many times. My emotions get the best of me; I engage on my son's level, and I give up the high ground to a 4-year-old. But no one celebrates me in those moments -- and no one should.
So why are we celebrating Steven Slater? Yes, it's a great story. The underappreciated, hard-working Joe who decides that he's had enough, publicly calls out his nemesis, and makes a dramatic exit. And the fact that he grabbed a couple of beers before deploying the emergency slide is a particularly underappreciated part of the story. But heroic? No.
As I was thinking about this story yesterday, I wondered whether other people shared my feelings. I emailed Corporate Library co-founder Nell Minow, a woman whose job includes calling out bad corporate behavior, and told her that I was inclined to sell my shares of Steve Slater because of his rich valuation -- Facebook following, national news, near-universal praise/admiration -- and because he cussed out paying customers, never a good practice.
I asked Nell whether she'd be buying, selling, or holding Steven Slater. She replied:
Hold for now -- until the book deal gets signed. He's about 12 minutes into his 15, unless he can come up with a second act. It's a perennial -- there's always a silly August news story that captivates everyone briefly. But this one does have that "take this job and shove it" wish fulfillment element that will keep it, well, aloft, just a bit longer.
I hope Nell's right, and that Slater's 15 minutes are quickly ticking away. I expect to see him on The Apprentice. And according to his lawyer, Slater now wants his job back. Shouldn't he have thought of that before the profanity-laced tirade and emergency slide deployment?
I'm no fan of Steven Slater. I'm a fan of all the flight attendants who don't take the easy way out. And I'm a fan of the millions of people going about their day-to-day lives with a quiet dignity, working jobs that can be difficult because of people who can be difficult.
That's my two cents. What do you think? If he were a stock, would you buy, sell, or hold JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater?
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