Carolyn Holliday never intended to own her own business. For more than 20 years, the Baltimore County native worked in marketing and e-commerce for large companies, but when a particularly bad boss seemed to hinder her contributions to the company at every turn, she knew it was time for a radical change.
“It was a bad experience, but it highlighted a need that I knew had to be addressed,” Holliday said. “The whole time I was wondering, ‘How do I let someone know that this person is hurting the entire company without hurting myself?’”
The answer, Holliday concluded as she consequently handed in her resignation notice last year, was Warble. Named after a term that Holliday defines as a “ground-swelling of noise,” Warble is a new website to anonymously report a coworker who is exhibiting toxic or problematic behavior in the workplace.
Holliday said that reporting every small fault can make whoever brings the issue to light seem overly emotional or nitpicky, but the small faults add up. Once enough employees report the same person, Warble notifies the offender’s boss. This design protects against personal grievances becoming professional demerits, provides an avenue for collective action, and allows anonymity to act as a safety net.
Anyone with a valid company email in the United States can use Warble for free, but companies can also use Warble’s paid B-to-B product, which offers features customization of the “Warble threshold,” or how many employees need to submit a complaint before the company higher-ups are notified.
After more than 18 months of recruiting investors and web developers from across the country to help bring her idea to fruition, Holliday and her team launched in June 2018 from her home office in Sparks. Now the founder and CEO of her own startup, she said the response Warble has received reinforced her feeling that the potential dangers of reporting a superior often overpower the benefits.
“I have yet to tell someone about Warble and not have a response like, ‘Oh my gosh, I wish I’d had that before,’” Holliday said. “You need a pathway to identify that there is a problem before you can empower the people who can actually do something to solve it, but once you have that, the whole company benefits.”
Warble provides nine categories in which users can list a complaint: discrimination and targeting, poor management skills, bad attitude, fraud, violence, theft, unethical behavior, incompetence, and sexual harassment.
Although Holliday said that Warble was not inspired by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, she thinks this new era of accountability has left a space for Warble to address offenses that fall in the gray area between violent or criminal offenses and small annoyances.
“My story and my idea wasn’t born out of something so egregious,” Holliday said. “Our hope is that by offering a wide range of offenses to report, this also becomes a platform where there’s coaching opportunities for better behavior. Warble reports don’t necessarily equate a fireable offense.”
Warble relies on the expectation that the company higher-ups that Warble notifies of bad workplace behavior will take action to correct it. There is no guarantee that this will happen, but Holliday said that companies as a whole benefit when there is mutual respect among employees across all hierarchal rungs. As the adage goes, the first step to solving a problem is recognizing that there is one.
Of course, before employees can Warble (yes, it’s a clever verb, too, thanks to Holliday’s marketing background) about a harmful boss or colleague, they need to know that the platform exists. Warble is still in its earliest stages of public availability, but Holliday and her staff plan to use social media and partnerships with other local businesses to help its mission gain momentum. They are currently formulating a list of local companies, who they feel will be interested in using the platform.
“I’m proud that we have this community where I’ve had so much support,” Holliday said. “We should be judging and rewarding people based on their contributions, not any other factors, so let’s just cut out the nonsense and get to work.”