Three lessons from the controversy leading to Rahul Yadav's resignation

It's easy to blame the speed and reach of online technology for the problems leading up to's CEO's resignation. But technology only quickens and amplifies people's actions

N S Ramnath

[Photograph by Neil Turner under Creative Commons] CEO Rahul Yadav has resigned. One might be tempted to think it's the tech, with its speed and reach, that led to this situation. You send an angry mail and within seconds, it’s everywhere; you delete a rude post and it refuses to go; you call someone names, and it echoes louder and louder.

In the last few months, Yadav experienced some of that. He threatened a Sequoia Capital partner in an email and it got leaked on Quora. He called him names in a post, and the screenshot was captured before he could delete it. He made fun of a newspaper in an internal mail, and that triggered a law suit from the paper. He dismissed a highly regarded entrepreneur as dumb and people started speculating about when he will step down.  

Perhaps, if he had lived in another age when it was not so easy to shoot off mails, or to post on social media and when the reach of private conversations was limited, it wouldn't have turned out to be so bad for him. But then, where would be without the internet? Those who live by it, die by it.

If one defines the problem thus, the answer is also simple—something that can be solved by a bunch of engineers. For example, through alerts that ask  'do you want to send this email' when you hit the send button and before the mail is actually sent.

One might be tempted to think along these lines—and yet, one shouldn't yield to that. Never attribute to technology that which is better explained by human behaviour.

For what technology does is to quicken and amplify what people do. The fix, then is not in the technology, but something more basic. It is in the attitude that people bring to the table. And, judging purely based on the mails that have been made public, there are three lessons one can learn from this episode.

Be realistic: Accept the facts of life—people leave jobs, journalists question businessmen, partners come with different perspectives. There is no point getting emotional about these. Read up: Fundamental attribution error, where people tend to attribute their behaviour to a situation rather than to their own personalities. 

Be willing to learn: Never respond to feedback by calling it dumb. Because, we might know what we know, and feel justified about our sense of superiority, but we often don't know what we don't know. Read up: Dunning-Kruger effect

Be less self-centred: If your resignation letter is 110 words long, there is no point having 34 words of it explaining how you arrived at the number of hours left in your life. The world might not be that interested in you.


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About the author

N S Ramnath
N S Ramnath

Senior Editor

Founding Fuel

NS Ramnath is a member of the founding team & Lead - Newsroom Innovation at Founding Fuel, and co-author of the book, The Aadhaar Effect. His main interests lie in technology, business, society, and how they interact and influence each other. He writes a regular column on disruptive technologies, and takes regular stock of key news and perspectives from across the world. 

Ram, as everybody calls him, experiments with newer story-telling formats, tailored for the smartphone and social media as well, the outcomes of which he shares with everybody on the team. It then becomes part of a knowledge repository at Founding Fuel and is continuously used to implement and experiment with content formats across all platforms. 

He is also involved with data analysis and visualisation at a startup, How India Lives.

Prior to Founding Fuel, Ramnath was with Forbes India and Economic Times as a business journalist. He has also written for The Hindu, Quartz and Scroll. He has degrees in economics and financial management from Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning.

He tweets at @rmnth and spends his spare time reading on philosophy.

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