How do you typically congratulate an employee who has just earned a promotion? Do you highlight the person’s accomplishment at a staff meeting? Send out a congratulatory email to everyone who works at your restaurant? Write a Facebook post that honors the employee’s hard work and determination?
Or would you post a sexist meme that makes fun of how a female staff member earned said promotion?
Sadly, that’s exactly what Seth Freidus, the bar manager at Alden & Harlow, did to recognize a coworker. As first reported by the Boston Globe, he posted a picture of a woman with skinned knees and a caption that read, “A big congratulations to my friend Debbie on her third promotion in a week, I don’t know how you do it.”
I think we can all surmise what the photo was meant to imply (if you’re not sure, ask a friend).
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Freidus’ post was met with anger and vitriol from people across the hospitality industry. Apparently Freidus kept the picture up for 24 hours among waves of negative feedback until he was approached by a member of the press.
Though Freidus deleted the post and apologized, in the age of social media, once something is out there it’s out there.
A larger issue at hand
The meme sparked a debate which focused on the restaurant industry’s historical sexism toward women. Many commenters expressed disappointment and anger that a man in a leadership position would even think to post such a derogatory image.
“Disgusting,” wrote Lacy Hawkins, a bartender in New York.
“It’s so ignorant!” wrote Ashtin Berry, a bartender at the Ace Hotel in New Orleans. “It’s almost as if men forget that women aren’t here for their entertainment.”
“The fact that a bar manager at a top bar, and restaurant in my city, this country, would post something as negative as this, makes my stomach turn,” wrote Nicky Bandera, a bartender at Felipe’s Taqueria in Cambridge.
It’s important to note that the feedback wasn’t all negative. Some of Freidus’ woman coworkers actually chimed in and defended him. One even called him a “stand up guy” who shouldn’t be scapegoated for a hot-button issue plaguing the entire industry.
What Freidus posted was in really bad taste. As a person who manages men and women, he should have recognized that such a post was crass and would undermine his position as a leader. We often speak about the unique nature of the restaurant industry and it’s work hard, play hard environment. That doesn’t justify making a joke which doesn’t belong in any workplace.