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A woman quit her job on TV: Good news for the economy?

Engineer Gwen Dean quit her job in a Superbowl ad.

During yesterday’s Super Bowl, an ad for the web hosting company GoDaddy featured "Gwen," an engineer from New York quitting her job and announcing her new puppet business.  She did this in front of a TV audience of 100 million people -- but apparently, no one from the Department of Labor.

Because while the government tracks how many people quit their jobs, the data doesn’t provide a category for public quitters – like people who announce their departure on You Tube, or on national television.

"The Department of Labor does not track those numbers," says Kent Smetters, a professor of economics at Wharton.

Smetters says 480,000 workers quit jobs in accommodations and food services last November, and that we’re seeing high quit rates from other jobs with low pay, like retail. It's what he'd expect to see as the economy recovers.

"Those were kind of like holding jobs," says Smetters, "Temporary jobs they will quit... if they feel like they can move up."

But William Ward, a professor of social media at Syracuse’s Newhouse School, says public quitters beware – your need to vent on a large platform can come back to bite you in the tuchus.  

"It’s fun to watch on movies and on television and as entertainment, but it’s really never a great career move," he says.

Barbara Pachter, author of the Essentials of Business Etiquette, agrees.

"The bottom line is it’s just not fair to the other people. You’re only presenting one side to the story. There’s always two sides. I mean, people can publicly quit and they can be a bad employee," she says --which means future employers may be wary.

Jon Israel, a labor lawyer in New York, says GoDaddy’s Super Bowl ad could have been a lot worse. Gwen, the worker featured in the ad, appears to have been careful. She didn’t even mention the name of the company she was leaving:

"I suspect there was a lot of consideration given not to make difficulties for her employer," he says.

Or difficulties for herself. Israel says public quitting can lead to lawsuits. Or what Ward calls "social media hangovers,"  the feeling a public quitter might awaken to, the morning after.

"'Did I really do that? Can I take it back?' Unfortunately once you do it it’s out there forever," he says, "so you can’t take it back."

 

About the author

Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.
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