Erika Nardini, CEO of renowned slut-shaming publication Barstool Sports, ignited the internet outrage machine this past weekend when she revealed she tests job candidates by texting them at odd hours on weekends and gauging their response time.
Nardini to The New York Times:
If you’re in the process of interviewing with us, I’ll text you about something at 9 p.m. or 11 a.m. on a Sunday just to see how fast you’ll respond.
What’s the right response time?
Within three hours. It’s not that I’m going to bug you all weekend if you work for me, but I want you to be responsive. I think about work all the time. Other people don’t have to be working all the time, but I want people who are also always thinking.
Part of the backlash is due to Barstool’s reputation as a sexist bro-rag, and people’s shock at learning that the CEO is, in fact, a woman.
But critics of Nardini’s evaluation tactic see it as a breach of professional boundaries. Technology has blurred the line between work and personal time to an unrecognizable degree for many workers—with emails, Slacks and phone calls frequently impeding on what should be down time. And to expect to answer texts from your boss, on a fucking Sunday, is a step too far in that direction, they say, especially before you even have the job.
But HR experts say that while Nardini’s practice may be extreme, it’s also entirely defensible. If anything, Nardini is being refreshingly transparent. She’s setting clear expectations from the outset, and letting job candidates decide for themselves if they want to work in such an environment.
“If that’s what she expects, and you accept the job, then that’s what you should expect,” says Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach, a business etiquette consultancy. “Every company has its own culture.”
Critics should also note that Barstool is a high-volume online publisher that produces content 24/7, so communication on weekends is often necessary. And Nardini’s comments are unsurprising when you consider she comes from the advertising industry, where work-life balance is non-existent.
Still, texting on weekends seems like an overreach to some. For one, there are religious considerations. Nardini specifically says she texts on Sunday morning, when some employees might be attending religious services (although that probably doesn’t apply to anyone in the Barstool office). Others treat Sunday mornings as precious family time that should never be intruded upon.
The method of communication also comes into consideration. There are email and Slack accounts specifically designed for workplace communication. A text feels strangely intimate by comparison.
“What’s the difference?” Whitmore responds. “You’re getting a message anyway, whether it’s through your iPhone or Slack.” She’s got a point: An email or Slack notification buzzes your pocket the same way a text message does, so the idea that one is more intrusive than the other is arbitrary.
Others would argue texting is fine for the upper levels of management, where pay is high and the expectation to always be available is clearly understood. But is it appropriate to text a low-level employee?
“That’s all up to the company to decide,” Whitmore says. “And hopefully when they hire a person on a certain level, they communicate that.”
There is, of course, a larger argument here about the state of labor in the U.S. and how companies are increasingly able to exploit workers for their time and energy. But barring the establishment of a Barstool Sports union or the overthrow of Western capitalism, that’s unlikely to change any time soon.
Companies love to rave about how much they value their corporate culture. And while you may disagree with Barstool’s, you can’t say that Nardini isn’t upfront about it.
In other words, if you don’t like the idea of the Barstool Sports CEO texting you when you’re off the clock, you don’t have to work there. The Barstool employees certainly don’t seem to mind.