Cancel Culture at Work: The Case of (Former) Mets GM Jared Porter
Taking a break from my series of I/O psychology concept posts to focus on a serious issue which reared its ugly head this morning: cancel culture.
The latest victim: Jared Porter, the now-former general manager of the New York Mets baseball team. Porter, hired only 37 days ago, was immediately fired after it was revealed that back in 2016, while working as director of professional scouting for the Chicago Cubs, sent a series of explicit text messages to an unnamed female reporter at ESPN.
That's the key issue here.
In announcing Porter's firing, Mets president Sandy Alderson noted that the Mets would never have hired Porter, 41, if this information had been known before. OK, I'll buy into the fact that the firing was merely a reversal of a decision based on new information. But even if this had been made known prior to Porter's hire, it creates a situation where someone who has spent his entire career in professional baseball front offices (beginning with the Red Sox shortly after college) can now no longer get a job because of an incident that occurred four and a half years ago. Is that right?
Look, I'm not trying to defend Porter's behavior. What he did to that ESPN reporter was wrong on so many levels. Sexual harassment is a serious issue which most organizations have a zero tolerance policy for, and anyone who has ever taken the mandatory sexual harassment training every year would know that the victim does not need to be a work colleague. A reporter for ESPN, whose contact information Porter acquired in connection with his job, would more than qualify. Also, given that he continued his barrage of text messages after it was made clear to him that his early messages were unwelcome, this is a textbook example of harassment. Had the Cubs known about it at the time, they would likely have fired Porter, and that would have been a proper decision since it could have unwittingly reflected the actions of the Cubs organization. Instead, it was the Mets holding him accountable, again, albeit over four years later.
But putting aside the what-if scenarios, there comes a point where people have to move on from past transgressions. It's one thing to be fired from a job at the time an incident occurred, but a completely different thing to be, for all intents and purposes, blacklisted from getting a future job - or in Porter's case, being fired from a later job - based on actions from years past. I am reminded of the fallout Billy Bush suffered when the infamous Donald Trump Access Hollywood tape was released. Despite 11 years having passed and Bush being a more mature person, he was fired from Today as a result (in fairness, both are NBC programs). Of course, Bush's actions were not nearly as severe as Porter's, and he did later get a new job hosting Extra, but the stigma always remains.
Like Bush, Porter, in his mid-thirties and less mature, showed remorse for his actions from years past. The only questions remains, will anyone hire Jared Porter again? And if not, what is Porter's next career? This goes to show why sexual harassment can have consequences that reach far beyond your current job. But at some point, someone has to give you a second chance. Otherwise, how will you survive?