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August 2017

VIDEO: Happy Birthday to My Partner at Kinetix, Shannon Russo...

Thursday was Shannon Russo's Birthday!  Shannon's my partner at Kinetix, a driven leader who created a female-owned business in America in 2004.  I was fortunate to invest in 2010 and she's been a great friend every since.

The thing about driven leaders is that people can either love them or... They don't love them so much.  Shannon's respected and loved by her people, so much so they aren't afraid to provide a roast of sorts by giving their best impersonations of Shannon on video!

See the video below for the Shannon Russo impersonations from a few of her team members at Kinetix!

(email subscribers may have to click through for video) 


Can The Fired Google Engineer Show Us The Political Affiliations of Tech Companies?

By now, you've likely heard about the Google engineer who got fired for writing a diversity manifesto.  If not, here's what happened:

"Google employees are up in arms after a senior engineer at the company penned an anti-diversity manifesto that has spread through the Google-row-diversity-1company like wildfire. 

The manifesto criticizes company initiatives aimed at increasing gender and racial diversity and argues that Google should instead focus on "ideological diversity," according to a report by Vice's Motherboard, which first reported the news late on Friday. The 10-page treatise also claims that biological difference between men and women are responsible for the underrepresentation of women in the tech industry.

"We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism," reads the document, a copy of which was obtained by Gizmodo."

As you might expect, that type of manifesto was greeted with much criticism.  So much so, it created the following events this week:

  1. Google fired the engineer.
  2. There was a backlash related to the decision to fire the engineer.
  3. The Google CEO sent an email telling everyone it was all going to be OK.
  4. The email didn't tamper down the storm.
  5. Google's CEO understood the storm was so bad inside his company that he came back from a vacation in Africa with his family to be present for an all-hands meeting.

As I've said before in this space, freedom of speech is alive and well in the American workplace.  The problem is that employees believe that freedom of speech means they can't be fired.  As Google demonstrated in firing the engineer, a company's code of conduct and professional conduct policies generally give them the right to move people out if they are communicating ideas that aren't embraced by the majority of the company.

And there, my friends, is the rub.

Google fired the engineer because they thought the employee base dramatically would support that move.  As it turns out, a lot of people at Google thought his macro point was right - female engineers are hard to find because there's some genetic wiring in females that make careers in engineering less attractive to them.

So the sh*t show builds after the firing, and the CEO is coming back from halfway across the globe - because he knows he's ultimately responsible for calming this thing down.  

There's some macro points in the manifesto that many of you, if not most, would agree with.

But the guy is an engineer.  Of course, he takes it way too far.  That's what engineers who know no shades of gray do.

The most interesting thing I've seen about this case is polling on whether the engineer should have been fired across the major tech companies in America. Blind, an anonymous corporate chat app,  asked its users if they thought Google should have fired Damore, over 4,000 from different companies weighed in.

Perhaps most pertinently, 441 Google employees responded. Of them, more than half  – 56% to be precise– said they didn't think it was right for the company to fire Damore.

Here's how the poll worked out across the major tech companies - enable images or click through if you don't see the chart below.

Blind

Notable is that at Uber, 64% of employees who participated in the survey thought Google shouldn't have fired Damore. Employees at Apple and LinkedIn were nearly evenly split in the poll but leaned slightly toward approving Google's decision. Meanwhile, 65% of respondents from Lyft were good with the way it went down.  That kind of follows what we know at Uber and Lyft related to how they view the world.

The chart feels like most presidential elections, and tells you that even in the tech bubble, what seems obvious is not obvious.

Which is why the CEO of Google had to cut his vacation short to come back and try and hose down the situation.

Good times - and a reminder that employee sentiment isn't always (hell, ever) as simple as we think it is.

 


UW Study On $15 Minimum Wage Bad News For Liberals...

Minimum wage

If there's anything that will get a healthy dinner conversation going (or get people fighting), it's the idea of the $15 minimum wage.  A better wage for core entry-level workers is hard to argue against as a reasonable person.  I want it to be true as a moderate, but my business focus always makes me wonder - is it actually a good idea?

This is the problem being a moderate.  I'll get 5-7 emails from each side on this post just crushing me for even daring to be in the middle.  Only the polar extremes get the oxygen and attention these days.

Fortunately, there's some research pouring in on the minimum wage that seems to be based on reality, not theory.  

More from the Washington Post

There’s bad news from Seattle for advocates of a $15-an-hour minimum wage law. Turns out the measure’s costs to the city’s low-wage workers have outweighed benefits by 3 to 1, according to a new city-commissioned study by University of Washington researchers. The average low-wage worker has lost $125 a month because of the higher-wage decree, the study found — even before it is fully phased in.

David Autor, a leading labor economist at MIT, told The Post the study seemed “very credible” and suggested that it might have enough “statistical power” to “change minds” in the perennial argument over the minimum wage.

Autor was wrong — not about the study’s credibility, but about its potential for moving people off their “priors.” The Seattle study met a furious counterattack from proponents of a $15 minimum. Defenders of the law came armed with a much rosier assessment of its impact by economists at a pro-labor University of California at Berkeley think tank, produced a few days before the more skeptical one came out.

It seems that Seattle’s mayor, a big advocate of the $15 minimum, had gotten a heads-up on the impending negative study and asked the Berkeley group to weigh in. Seattle Weekly called it “an object lesson in how quickly data can get weaponized in political debates like Seattle’s minimum wage fight.”

Woof.  Go dig in if you dare, but the UW study found that businesses react to the $15 wage by contracting total work hours, which results in low-wage workers in the area losing $125 per month due to the law.  That's interesting.  But if you go look at the Berkley study, you'll see the opposite.

If you really want to geek out, see this article at 538.  It talks about limitations of both studies.

My gut tells me this.  Businesses probably will restrict total hours to low-wage workers when minimum wage hikes hit because the margins for success are so thin.  The left and anyone else can shake their fist and wax poetic about evil owners trying to stay cost-neutral on labor expense.

But the critics don't risk their capital or their livelihood.  Add more labor costs to any business with limited margins and one of two things is going to happen - prices are getting raised or labor cost is getting scrutiny.  Prices are hard to raise from a competitive perspective.

I believe the UW study.  Sucks to be an owner when laws get passed by people who don't have to live with the consequences.  


How To Be A Complete D**k During a Deposition (Google-Style)...

Who here has every been the subject of a deposition?  Who here has ever acted like jerk during a deposition towards an arrogant attorney from the other side?  

Great!  It's not just me.  Just one more thing we have in common... Page

A young HR capitalist was once the subject of a deposition featuring an arrogant, condescending attorney on the other side.  The young HR capitalist reacted in such a negative way that the attorney on his side had to call for a break and counsel the young HRC to stop being a d##k to the other side - even though they had it coming.

Favorite plays from the deposition playbook of mine the young HRC included -

--only answering questions in yes/no format when the question clearly called for more...

--answering questions framed in a negative tense (so you don't believe that manager...) "yes".  Because in my mind I'm saying yes to your statement, not going with the informal flow.  This is a formal event, right?

--not giving enough details on process because I can't clearly define it as it works a variety of ways - although there is a certain way it's supposed to work, but you didn't ask me that, did you?

No wonder that attorney called for a break during the young capitalist's deposition.

That's why the notes below from a deposition of Google co-founder Larry Page are so fun.  Page was recently deposed by attorneys representing Uber in a lawsuit filed by Google related to the allegation of stolen IP from self-driving car company Waymo.  Take a look at the notes below from the deposition Business Insider and see my notes in brackets and all caps:

----------------------------------------

 

The transcript is full of examples of Page responding tersely to questioning, such as this exchange:

Uber: Google invested in Uber, correct?

Page: Yes.

Uber: Do you recall when?

Page: My answer is yes. (PRO MOVE - JUST ANSWERING THE QUESTION YES/NO.  DID THEY WANT MORE? SURE, BUT YOU ANSWERED THE QUESTION.  SUCKS TO BE THEM)

Page said he wasn't familiar with how Google stores source code:

Uber: Do you know the way that Google typically retains things, like source-code materials and design specifications, and things like that?

Page: Yeah, I'm not that familiar with how we do that.

Uber: Is there an online repository, or do — do you even know that?

Page: I mean, there's some code-based repository thingy.  (THE SENIOR LEVEL "THINGY" OR "DOHICKIE" REFERENCE.  WELL PLAYED)

And this feisty exchange:

Uber: You're not familiar with the details of the trade secrets that are at issue here?

Page: Yes. (ANSWERING A QUESTION CALLING FOR A SIMPLE NO WITH A YES. IT'S NOT LARRY'S PROBLEMS THAT THEY PHRASED IT IN A WAY THAT HE COULD HAVE FUN WITH. "THAT'S CORRECT" IS BORING.  "YES" IS MUCH MORE FUN)

Uber: You don't know, for example, what the trade secrets are that Uber allegedly misappropriated?

Page: No, I do not.

Uber: Whenever it was that you learned — let me make sure I'm clear on this. You don't remember, sitting here today, when you learned or how you learned that Uber may have misappropriated Google or Waymo trade secrets. Is that right?

Page: That's correct.  (MISSED OPPORTUNITY - HE COULD HAVE SAID YES)

Uber: And you don't remember how you learned?

Page: I mean, that's correct, yes.

Uber: Did you authorize the filing of the lawsuit against Uber?

Page: I mean, I'm certainly aware of it, yeah, and then allowed it to proceed, I suppose. I'm not sure I authorized it. I'm not sure that's the right word.

Uber: Well, could a lawsuit of this magnitude be filed without your consent and approval?

Page: I mean, I guess I'm not — I'm the CEO of the company — parent company of Waymo, and Waymo operates more or less as an independent company.

Uber: Is Waymo authorized to file a lawsuit like this on its own without even consulting you?

Page: I mean, I don't know all the details of that.  (I'M FLYING AT 100,000 FEET PEOPLE.  YOU REALIZE I COULD BUY YOUR FIRM TODAY, RIGHT?  I'M NOT TALKING ABOUT GOOGLE BUYING IT, I MEAN ME PERSONALLY)

---------------------------------

Pros moves all the way around.  Holla if you've ever been a barrier to a successful deposition - as the actual subject of that deposition.


Mansplaining Gender-Related Harassment...

I'm up today over at my other site - Fistful of Talent - with a post called, "A Man’s DIY Guide to Rid Your Company of Gender-Related Harassment".  Here's a taste:

"Ready for some mansplaining?  Good, because I’m a guy, and damn, it seems like companies are having a hard time avoiding gender-related harassment.  So I’m here to help.

I’m referring to s*x**l harassment, but I have to call it gender-related harassment because a lot of you have email filters at the corporate level that won’t allow content in with the word s*x**l.  You know, because you can’t be trusted.  As a result, you end up missing good stuff like this and Marvin Gaye videos your friends might send you.  Sucks to be you.  But I digress."

Go get the full post over at Fistful of Talent by clicking here.

 

A Man’s DIY Guide to Rid Your Company of Gender-Related Harassment


ASSESSMENTS (With Video): Your Best Feature Is Also Your Worst Feature...

Short post today with a "coaching others" slant.  Let's say you've just taken a behavioral assessment.  Which one?  Doesn't matter, because as the video below alludes to, almost all of them are based on the same science.

Anyway, you took the assessment.  On some of the dimensions you're a part of the crowd, lumped somewhere in the middle of humanity.

But wait - there's a couple of things where you really stand out!  Examples:

--You're high assertiveness...(you deal with things that need to be dealt with)

--You're high people....(you engage with others easy and are seen as approachable)

--You're low sensitivity...(you take feedback easily - and make quick adjustments based on the feedback with little emotion)

See what I did there?  The brackets tell you why your outlier score in the areas mentioned can be considered a super-strength.  

But for every interpretation of an outlier assessment score as a positive, there's also a negative.

Turns out, when it comes to assessments, your best feature is also your worst feature.

High assertiveness can bite you in the a$$ when you don't understand a situation where it will be perceived as highly negative. High people individuals tend to talk more than the listen, which often limits their effectiveness/results.  Low sensitivity people are often low empathy and don't automatically understand how others feel.

So celebrate your outlier scores, or those of your direct reports.  Then coach on a daily basis on where that super-strength is best deployed, and what situations the super-strength needs to be muted for best results at work.

Your best feature is your worst feature.  Video below of me talking assessments at Disrupt HR (email subscribers click through if you can't see the video)...

Lies, Damn Lies, and Using Assessments | Kris Dunn | DisruptHR Talks from DisruptHR on Vimeo.


UBER's New Leadership Exec Pledges to Wear Uber T-Shirt Every Day, Until...

Company logo gear is a tricky thing.  There's a lifespan of when and where employees are willing to wear your logo shirts in public.  The cadence goes something like this:

--Startup Mode - your employees are willing to wear your logo gear anywhere and everywhere, especially if you've done a nice job related to your colors and the logo itself. Frana To the extent you have a good/great culture, the willingness to wear your logo shirts in this stage gets magnified.

--Growing Pains Mode - with size comes complexity, and things aren't as rosy any more.  Your employees gladly wear your logo shirt on an assigned day, but you see less and less of the gear on a daily basis as employees become more neutral in their pride to work at your company.  Most companies never progress to a more negative state than this related to how their employees treat logo wear.

--Cable Company Mode - I used to be a leader at a Cable company, and this mode is the most negative spot in the employee/logo wear continuum. Your employees will change their shirt in the car - from your logo to no logo - to avoid customer confrontations and negative feedback.  Who likes the cable company?  No one, so it stands to reason your employees just want blend in with the crowd when grabbing a gallon of milk.

You know who's recently moved into the Cable Company Mode when it comes to logo gear?  Uber, at least for the time being.  The wave of news related to driver relations and harassment claims from employees has moved them straight for "logo wear pride/startup mode" to "Cable Company Mode", albeit with a certain tech swag that could retain some pride.

That's why a recent interview with Frances Frei , Uber’s new vice president of leadership and strategy was so interesting.  Appearing on stage with Recode’s Kara Swisher at a live onstage taping of the Recode/Decode Podcast, Frei wore and Uber t-shirt and told the audience and listeners that she's taking the following approach (which I'm paraphrasing)"

--"I'm wearing a Uber t-shirt every day, until it becomes acceptable to do it again."

Think about that for a second.  There's drama at Uber, and employee pride is likely at an all time low.  The struggles have been public and no one wants to be seen in the Bay area wearing an Uber t-shirt.

But a new leader makes the pledge to wear that t-shirt daily.  To engage in all the conversations that it will encourage - both good and bad.

--Wearing the company t-shirt - leadership-light.

--Wearing the company t-shirt knowing it will cause 5-10 conversations a day you could have avoided - hmmm.

The second one feels like a stab at true leadership, and a small path to recovery for whatever the culture becomes at Uber.

Well played, Frances.