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Hate your job? Don't pull a Slater

The fed-up flight attendant's heated departure was a blaze of glory to some folks, but such bold antics can backfire.

By Karen Datko Aug 11, 2010 1:36PM

Flight attendant Steven Slater is a hero to many people. But, we have to wonder, would anyone have cared about his "take this job . . . " moment before airlines turned planes into cattle cars and Wall Street nearly blew up the economy?

And, more important for him, does Slater have any job prospects now that he "fired the 'I Quit!' shot heard round the world"? You can't survive on compliments, even if the way you quit your job enters the popular lexicon. MSNBC writer Allison Linn referred to it as "pulling a Steven Slater." "Hit the slide," The Washington Post reports, is now in the Urban Dictionary: "To quit one's job in a truly stunning fashion."


For those of you who missed the news, here's Slater's bizarre story (post continues after video):

Linn wrote:

Slater, a flight attendant on JetBlue, instantly became a folk hero in many people's eyes Monday after he grabbed a microphone and ranted at a passenger who had refused to apologize for hitting Slater with some luggage. Slater then grabbed a beer from the galley and fled the plane via the emergency exit chute.

According to prosecutors, Slater said on his way out, "Those of you who have shown dignity and respect these last 20 years, thanks for a great ride." Classy. (Other parts of his statement were reportedly much less so.)


How the whole thing went down is still kind of hazy, although it sounds as though the passenger went out of her way to be rude. The outcome: Slater has been charged with felony criminal mischief and reckless endangerment. As far as JetBlue is concerned, he still has his lousy job. He's been suspended, pending a JetBlue investigation.

How has the blogosphere responded to Slater's outburst? (To register your opinion, MSNBC has an online poll, and, of course, there are numerous Facebook pages. You can find a list of them here.) We'll sum up the points of view:

  • People are beyond rude to flight attendants and other workers in customer service. "Every single one of my friends said, 'Good for him!'" a flight attendant told the Post.
  • Airlines have turned airplanes into flying feedlots (without the food). Crowded planes, too few flights, fees for this and that. Spirit Airlines, which brought us the much-maligned fee for carry-on bags, is now considering a fee for talking to a live agent at the airport.

"As service on many U.S. airlines has changed, delivering less amenities and more delays, the frontline employees have been put in a virtual war zone, left to deal with irritable customers and more tension-filled cabins," Gailen David, The Sky Steward, said. "The JetBlue incident illustrates how this type of stress can bring about very unexpected results."

  • It was a wussy display, compared with some. The New York Times recalled the story of a bus driver who got sick of it all and took his bus on a 1,300-mile spin, without passengers, 63 years ago.
  • Slater put people at risk. The plane was safely on the ground at JFK. However, prosecutors said employees on the tarmac could have been hurt by the slide. Slater's lawyer pretty much says that's bunk.

The dominant sentiment: We're all frustrated by the economy, whether we're unemployed or forced to work harder at our jobs, so we admire this guy. James Poniewozik wrote at Time:

But it may be the impracticality, the ballsiness (yes, Time used that word), or the craziness of Slater's gesture that makes it so fascinating. Quitting your job dramatically, after all, would seem to be the last thing you want to do in the middle of an economic downturn. Maybe that's the appeal.

So back to the point of this post: Pulling a Slater is not a wise move. He burned bridges -- with a flamethrower. If you feel the need to quit a job, here's our advice:

  • Make sure it's the right decision, particularly in this economy. If you quit, chances are you won't get unemployment benefits. If you don't have another job lined up, what's your backup plan?
  • Keep it private. "The advice I give is 'Do not aim for your 15 minutes of glory just to get back at some silly boss,'" Anil Verma, an industrial relations professor, told Postmedia News. (However, if you want to share your "take this job" moment with the world, you can post it at The New York Times or in the comments below. But keep in mind that anything online that can be traced to you will likely be seen by potential employers.)
  • Give two weeks' notice. And actually do some work while you're there. You might want to stick it to The Man, but you'll only be hurting co-workers who have to cover for you when you don't show up.
  • Be constructive. In an exit interview, bad-mouthing will be perceived as sour grapes. You likely want a good recommendation from these folks.
  • Think long-term. Sometimes you just have to let a bad job go, but there's no sense in damaging your reputation. If you have a track record of excellent performance, new bosses will overlook a minor blip. They've probably been there themselves.

What is Slater's work future? The New York Daily News addressed that question:

Will Slater go to jail? Will he ever work as a flight attendant again? Is this the beginning of a lucrative career as a reality television star? The nation will have to wait and see.

Jail time seems unlikely. Flight attendant? Hmm, probably not. TV star? Perhaps, if he acts quickly.


"Of course, as Steven Slater is bound to find out soon, in the Internet era, folk heroes have about the same enduring presence as the feeling of cleanliness you get from a moist airline towelette," Chris Rovzar wrote at New York magazine.


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