Social Security Administration Withdraws Complaint Against Gassy Employee

If you want to get all technical on us, this is more of an HR story than a PR story, but it has certainly changed our perception of the Social Security Administration, so we’ll let it rip anyway.

The SSA recently earned a bit of unwanted publicity by formally reprimanding a federal employee for…excessive flatulence.

That’s right: this airy, fortunately anonymous man earned the ire of his colleagues thanks to his chronic inability to avoid being…gassy in the workplace (you can see why we struggled to find an appropriate stock photo). The language his superiors used to knock the wind out of his sails is worth reading, and senior officials’ quick attempts to quash the story make for an amusing case study in PR damage control.

A supervisor first approached the employee in May, noting that his “uncontrollable flatulence” and “bodily gas” were creating a “terrible smell” that impacted his co-workers’ ability to do their jobs. The employee hilariously responded by placing a fan near his desk, but that only “cause[d] the smell to spread and worsen the air quality in the module.”

Supervisors then took the time to note the various incidents of flatulence and create a formal list, which includes a reported “60 documented instances” over a twelve-week period.

Today brings news that senior managers at the SSA quickly quashed the complaint as soon as The Smoking Gun made them (and millions of others) aware of its existence. They rightly saw it for the potential PR disaster it was, because most Americans would like to think that the people responsible for maintaining our most important social safety net might have more important things to do.

We think there’s a lesson to be learned here…

If your agency has some issues occurring between conflicting personalities on your staff, you don’t turn it into a formal paper, do you? And you don’t, say, send anonymous tips to bloggers or reporters either. You resolve it internally so you can proceed with your business–and the public is no wiser.

We know the SSA is a government agency that runs by a different set of rules, but still…keep this kind of thing in house.