Turning the tides on child drowning
Rebecca Wear Robinson
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Should you fire people for being happy?

by Rebecca Wear Robinson on September 12, 2012

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A group of lifeguards was fired for creating a video on YouTube.  This link has over 1,000,000 hits so far. Yes, that is 1 million people who now know what a lifeguard uniform looks like. It’s 1 million people that associate going to the pool with having fun, and thanks to the rather heavy-handed response of their employers in firing them, the videos are going viral. Good – the viral, not the firing. A great lesson to us all, especially those of us old gits who don’t ‘get’ the importance of social media, who think that the internet, web-sites, and social media are just a waste of time, something that minimizes the ‘serious’ and ‘important’ messages that we are communicating from our ivory towers.

I’ve done some very non-scientific research on YouTube with my in-house experts and I admit that when I look at the time they spend, and what goes viral with their age group, I think ‘you have got to be kidding me’. But then I’m an old git, I listen to ‘classic rock’. We have a choice. We can fight the tidal wave, or we can surf it. Where is the video of the famed Hawaii Watermen? How about the lifeguards who surf behind the oil tankers? How about swim instructors showing their teaching moves? How about putting some of the events in the lifeguarding competition into a music video so people have a better understanding of the training and physical fitness required to be a lifeguard?

They sure weren’t the first group who decided to do a video at work, wearing their uniforms, here’s a couple of great videos. Capitola Jr. Lifeguards.  North Carolina.  Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers.  The dedicated nurses at Seattle Children’s Hospital.  And, a moment of national pride for me, the 2012 USA Olympic Swim Team.  With 8.4 million views.

And the winner for best original song AND promoting what a great lifeguard can do, from Raging Waters: Lifeguard.  Listen to the words – someone needs to hire these guys or make this video go viral.

Wouldn’t it be nice if they were going viral with our messaging?

Note to the city managers who fired those lifeguards: that video showed what all these other videos show – joyful and dedicated young adults who are proud enough of their profession that they highlighted it on YouTube. It may not be the advertising strategy you would have chosen, but don’t mistake this generation’s fascination with YouTube for not taking their work seriously. Each one of those lifeguards is well-trained to save lives. Fire them if they lack dedication or training, but not for being joyful and far more cool than we old gits. They accomplished more in a few minutes than all of your well-meaning signs and warnings have in years. Personally I’d be using the Capitola Jr. Lifeguard video as a recruitment tool.

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