If you wish, you may opt out... of your job

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There's been an interesting discussion over at the TulsaNow forum, looking ahead to the river tax vote in October, and looking back to the Vision 2025 tax vote back in 2003. There were persistent rumors that certain major companies blasted e-mails to their employees, urging them to vote yes, and that one company in particular, the Bank of Oklahoma, pressured employees to allow the vote yes campaign to put signs in their yards. BOk was one of the largest donors to the vote yes campaign, and a subsidiary of BOk Financial Corp., Leo Oppenheim, got half of the Vision 2025 revenue bond business.

In the course of the discussion, a user identifying himself with the handle "bokworker" was denying that there had been any sort of pressure on BOk employees to support Vision 2025, but he finally acknowledged this much (emphasis added; "Oil Capital" and "FB" are other participants in the discussion):

Oil Capital, as I recall the "incident" in question, there was an article posted on the banks' internal intranet informing employess about the Vision 2025 initiative and that the bank, as an entity, supported the initiative. The article stated that those employees that also supported the intitiative could ( note, it said COULD not WOULD) have a sign placed in their front yard to indicate their support. Those that did not want a sign or were not in support of the issue could "opt-out" by clicking the attached link and it was done. There was no effort in opting out besides a finger click. I will agree that I am not good at reading the minds of thousands of BOk employees any more than FB is. I can relate however that the so called "implicite coersion" was not felt by me or any of my co-workers. Is it possible that one or more employees felt uncomfortable in opting out? I suppose, but I did not.

Could the bank have worded the intranet article in a manner that you had to "opt-in" to get a sign put in your yard? I suppose but since I didn't feel like the bank was doing something that put my future with the organization at risk by "opting-out" I didn't give it a second thought. My angst with FB was that the banks actions were some sort of a conspiracy on the part of management to force the actions of its' employees to follow the company line. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It's 2003, and Tulsa has lost over 25,000 high tech jobs in the last two years. You go to work, sit down at your desk, log into the network, and you see an article telling you the company supports the Vision 2025 tax increase, and if you don't support it or don't want a "vote yes" sign in your yard, you can click a link and opt out. Would you click that link, knowing that there will be a record made of your decision?

Or would you suddenly remember your friend at that oil company who opposed the Tulsa Project and was fired after the election? Would you decide that it's not worth it to rock the boat?

There may be an honorable situation for forcing employees or subscribers or customers to "opt out" instead of allowing them to "opt in" but I can't think of one. At the very least Mr. Opt Out is hoping you'll forget to uncheck the box. Or maybe he'll set it up so that opting out requires checking a box, with the hope that you won't read closely enough or will just overlook it.

What BOk did, if this employee's story is accurate, is far worse. If you disagreed with your company's position on the tax, you had to conspicuously identify yourself as an opponent. Making the signs opt-in would have allowed opponents of the tax to blend in with those who just didn't get around to requesting a sign.

While I haven't heard this kind of story yet in this campaign, I am already hearing about pressure being applied by supporters of the new tax to shut down opposition. I've already heard of a neighborhood leader is being pressured not to allow an opponent of the tax to share the stage with a representative from the county at their neighborhood meeting. This is a sign of insecurity on the part of the proponents. If they believe their spin won't stand up to cross-examination, they'll refuse to debate someone who is able to use facts and reason to rebut their claims.

You tax supporters: If this is such a good deal, let it stand on its own merits. You shouldn't need to use threats, either explicit or implicit, to win support.

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13 Comments

RecycleMichael said:

But couldn't the employee just remove the sign when they got home?

Are you implying that their supervisor or a campaign staffer was checking on their home and making sure the sign was still out?

I just think the boss felt strongly about something and wanted his employees to agree. I wouldn't have wanted to go that far with my employees, but then my staff is so underpaid that they all would just leave if I tried to do something like this.

susan said:

Very interesting that Bank of Oklahoma allowed that, and apparently no Bank of Oklahoma employee felt comfortable enough by sharing that information with the news for the Vision 2025 tax increase. The Tulsa Arena that cost millions of dollars at taxpayer expense also has the BOK sign.

Obviously the Tulsa World newspaper never reported that type of Bank of OK news, but they did report when Oral Roberts University had a staff member that sent out an email concerning a particular vote.

susan said:

What has the Governor of Oklahoma and Mayor Kathy Taylor done about the 25,000 high tech jobs Tulsa lost over the last two years.

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

Resike-Mike,

Its not always about what the employer feels or thinks.

In this case, its about what the employee feels and thinks. Perception is often times reality. It's more undue pressure and stress.

It's like the pressure Darrin Stephens felt from his boss, Larry Tate.

Employers, intentionally or unintentionally, put undue pressure on people like this. Entities can't vote, after all. People do. So it's completely possible and plausible that certain corporate entities would "hard lobby" their employees, as they "soft lobby" the government.

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

Resike-Mike,

Its not always about what the employer feels or thinks.

In this case, its about what the employee feels and thinks. Perception is often times reality. It's more undue pressure and stress.

It's like the pressure Darrin Stephens felt from his boss, Larry Tate.

Employers, intentionally or unintentionally, put undue pressure on people like this. Entities can't vote, after all. People do. So it's completely possible and plausible that certain corporate entities would "hard lobby" their employees, as they "soft lobby" the government.

susan said:

When we vote, we also have privacy. There once was a candidate that put their signs on election day in places that were against the law. I actually saw that candidate doing it, so I called the election board to have them come out and investigate their decision on the matter. Not long after, all of the signs were gone and the candidate lost by a huge number of votes. There are rules, and since the Bank of Oklahoma is very aware of knowing what is right and wrong in that situation knowing their I.T. computer management department now has their own Bank of Oklahoma list who is voting for what BOK is obviously influencing as to the voting decision for what is on the signs. Bank of Oklahoma never realized they are opening themselves up to all kinds of legal problems if one of those employees that did not support BOK on the sign matter ever gets fired unfairly without warning or without fair reason.

When large companies in days past were faithful and fair to their employees, you get a brand new general manager or bad politics is suddenly going on in the company, you can without warning and without reason suddenly get fired (which the "at-will" law should definitely be rewritten for those with "just cause" that can be proven only). There are states have lawmakers that have done this. Of course, if the company is wrong, they will end up paying the employee in unemployment compensation and the employee can sue the company for wrongful termination, etc.

RecycleMichael said:

That is a funny analogy about Darren Stevens and Larry Tate.

I don't know what to think about the poster who says that BOK strong-armed employees. I know that they are a major employer, but they also have turnover like any other big business. I never heard any BOK worker complain about this practice, yet someone who doesn't work at the bank tries to make a big deal about it. I would have thought some disgruntled (are there ever "gruntled" workers?) employee would have made a big deal about it at the time.

I question the authenticity of the information and am interested in knoing what BOK workers remember and think about it.

RM, I wouldn't even be bringing this up, except that "bokworker" on the TulsaNow forum, who identifies himself as a BOk employee, acknowledged publicly that BOk required employees to opt out if they didn't want Vision 2025 vote yes signs in their yards. The fact that this "bokworker" didn't think the practice was a big deal adds credibility to his report. And it confirms rumors that were rife at the time.

Do you really think a BOk employee would have gone to the media with his complaint about the "opt out" practice? This is what we call a "career-limiting move." And if someone had gone to the media, would the media have paid attention?

XonOFF said:

Well, at the very least, we would want to know if this happens again for the River Tax vote in October.

Any BOK employee who discovers such is encouraged to anonymously let us know, giving enough particulars to be independently varified.

RecycleMichael said:

You make a good point at the end about "would the media pay any attention".

Why would they?

A private employer wants his employees to support a cause he believes in.

What part of that is news?

Booksider said:

Is it a condition of employment to support an employer's political causes? I can vote any way I wish, but if I am forced or manipulated into appearing to favor one side or the other against my convictions to keep a job, that should be news, very bad news, for that employer.

JW said:

I think what is really disturbing is that BoK would come out to each employees' home and stick a sign in their yard. That is so big brother creepy I can't begin to describe it. if my co ever did that I'd be finding a new place to work.

The A team said:

The biggest irony is companies like this scratch their heads, fret and wonder why we can't attract or retain young professionals. Hey, BOK, here's your sign.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 4, 2007 10:22 PM.

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