Amazon Flexes Muscles, Eliminates Occupational Tax in Seattle in One Month....

Here's what power looks like in an employer, my friends...

Less than a month after unanimously passing a contentious tax on big business, Seattle’s city council has voted to repeal the so-called “head tax.” Against the fervent protestations of residents and local coalitions—which were extended to a full hour of testimony—council members voted 7-2 to pulled the plug on what would have been a vital source of support for city’s growing homeless population. 

Let me break that down for you: The city council unanimously passed the tax, then one month later repealed it.  What happened?  The city's biggest employer, Amazon, said "what up", flexed it's muscles and reversed the whole thing in a month. Drevil

Before breaking down what Amazon did and being awestruck by the raw power, let's learn more about the "head tax" that was proposed from Gizmodo:

In the form it was passed last month, the “head tax” would shave off $275 per full-time employee at companies generating over $20 million in revenue, totaling an estimated $47 million per year for five years. Those funds would then be earmarked for homeless services and affordable housing. Seattle declared its homelessness a state of emergency in 2015, with soaring costs of living and congestion of public services considered the foremost catalysts for the rising homeless rate.

The repeal comes a day after the No Tax on Jobs campaign—a coalition which large businesses which would be affected by the “head tax,” like Amazon and Starbucks, pledged significant financial support to—announced it had gotten over 45,000 signatures, more than enough to generate a referendum to overturn the tax in November. Speakers on behalf of No Tax on Jobs at the City Council chambers repeatedly described the coalition as “grassroots,” however the Public Disclosure Commission of Washington reveals it gave over $246,000 to a firm called Morning in America for “signature gathering and verification” and an additional $20,000 to Cre8tive Empowerment for “campaign/volunteer/social media management.”

Mayor Jenny Durkan described the quick legislative retreat as a means to avoid “a prolonged, expensive political fight over the next five months that will do nothing to tackle our urgent housing and homelessness crisis.” Critics saw the repeal as a backroom deal to appease Amazon.
 
Put another way, the city council of Seattle forgot who is really in charge in Seattle.  Cliff notes - it's Amazon!

Among other things, Amazon reacted to the head tax by halting construction of office towers in downtown Seattle (click link to read more), which caused some freak outs about Amazon potentially leaving Seattle, a prospect that is surely strengthened by the fact that the giant online retailer has 20 cities on a list of finalists for a second headquarters.

"Hell, we'll just pick two places instead of one" is the clear message.

My city, the ATL, is in the running for the second HQ, and the Seattle head tax teaches us one thing pretty clearly - Be careful what you ask for when Amazon comes to town.


The New Blackberry Is Out - Here's What It Tells Us About Change...

Hey Gen Z!

You love your smart phones. Did you realize the boomers and a good part of your Gen X brethren grew up in corporate America with a device called the "Blackberry?"  It had an actual physical keyboard on it that the old people swore by, and at one time in corporate America, IT departments refused to deploy iPhones and Androids to their workforces, citing reasons like, "not designed for business" and "not secure".

Here's the market share this relic used to have:  (See graph below, click through if you don't see)

Chartoftheday_8180_blackberry_s_smartphone_market_share_n

I shit kid you not. BlackBerry got swallowed up by the iPhone and Android.  Guess when the first iPhone was announced?

2007.  Market share was in the high 40's and had already dropped to the low 20's by the time the chart above picks up the action.

I'm compelled to share this story, kids, because BlackBerry used to rule.  Ask your parents who used to ride or die in corporate America.  I'm also sharing it because Blackberry reacted to the iPhone/Android/touchscreen/smartphone threat poorly.  That's obvious, right?

But Blackberry just announced a new phone, and they're dancing with the girl (actually probably a guy) that brought them to the dance.  The double pleats crowd that appreciates a QWERTY keyboard.  More from TechRadar:

BlackBerry’s new BlackBerry Key2 is the successor to last year’s KeyOne. Yes, BlackBerry is still making phones, but these days they’re running on Android and pulling in a handful of BlackBerry’s security features.

A quick look at both phones, and it’s clear they’re BlackBerry handsets. Full QWERTY keyboards leave little room for doubt. But, as BlackBerry aims to please faithful users who want a secure smartphone with a physical keyboard, its ability to compete with the likes of the Galaxy S9 or iPhone 8 is diminished. The result: the best phone to compare the new BlackBerry Key2 to is last year’s BlackBerry KeyOne.

Here's a pic of what the new Blackberry looks like:

Bb

Other than making fun of Blackberry users, I'm writing this to talk a bit about change:

1.  At one time, iPhone and Android users couldn't make it past the IT dudes approving devices for the network.

2. Back in the day, corporations really were ringing their hands about allowing access to email through someone's personal phone.

3.  Back in 2009, IT people thought they actually had control over networks.

Today, the following is true:

1.  IT and hardware management is not longer has the power they once did.

2.  We're amazed when companies don't allow access to email everywhere.

3.  If anyone really cared, the new Blackberry would have the same problems getting approved by IT that the iPhone did back in the day.  Fortunately, RIM (makers of Blackberry) gave up on their own platform and are running on Android.

The lesson? You think the world the way it is now is destined to continue forever.  It's not.  It's going to change. Disruption is the only certainty.  

Google will end up fading.  Apple will cease to be design and market share darling they are now.

I'd bet on voice to overtake it all as the next big shift.

Laugh at the dinosaurs and their Blackberries, Gen Z.  Soon, you're going to look up and have a mortgage, two kids and be living ITP (in ATL, that means outside the perimeter).

We'll be smiling from the nursing home.

 


Does Your Company Have an "Unconscious Bias" Problem?

Do you believe that "Unconscious Bias" exists?  Let's start with some definitions:

Psychologists tell us that our unconscious biases are simply our natural people preferences. Biologically we are hard-wired to prefer people who look like us, sound like us and share our interests. Social psychologists call this phenomenon "social categorization‟ whereby we routinely and rapidly sort people into groups. 

This preference bypasses our normal, rational and logical thinking. We use these processes very effectively (we call it intuition) but the categories we use to sort people are not logical, modern or perhaps even legal. Put simply, our neurology takes us to the very brink of bias and poor decision making.

Neuropsychologists tell us unconscious bias is built into the very structure of the brain's neurons. Our unconscious brain processes and sifts vast amounts of information looking for patterns (200,000 times more information than the conscious mind).  Bias

The problem with unconscious bias is it happens in the background.  You don't get to choose, it's part of who you are.

Most modern companies have done a decent job of talking about what's legal as well as "right" when it comes to bias vs all types of people.  The problem is that people can still have unconscious bias and make decisions without being aware.

That's why a company called TalVista is attempting to provide tools to help control the power of unconscious bias inside your company.  Here's more about the product that TalVista created when it comes to controlling for unconscious bias:

TalVista focuses on mitigating unconscious bias through the use of automated and sophisticated algorithms to ensure job descriptions are appealing to all candidates rather than having them self-select out of a less inviting job description. According to Scot Sessions, CEO, TalVista, the core of its offering is helping hiring managers stay focused on key job skills and core competencies needed to perform the job without regard for race, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation. “As humans we have inherent bias,” said Sessions. “While we can see bias in others, we have a difficult time seeing it in ourselves, which is known as ‘unconscious bias.’ With the right tools, recruiters and hiring managers will excel at their hiring duties while staying focused on the experience and traits each candidate may possess and is required to do the job.”

TalVista will continue to expand on the development of the platform, including enhancements to:
1- Job Description Analysis with further optimization
2 - Blind Resume Review with additional redactions
3 - Structured Interviews with interview scripts

I think most of us agree that unconscious bias is real.  When I look at the solution that TalVista has created, here's my reaction:

1- Job Description Analysis with further optimization - It's interesting to note that the team at TalVista fully believes (supported by research) that your job postings are full of things that turn diverse candidates away - they see your job description and even though they're a fit, they don't apply based on some discrete problems with the language and wording of the posting.  TalVista believes it can identify those problems and give you guidance on how to improve them.  I think this is very interesting.

2 - Blind Resume Review with additional redactions - This is what you would expect.  TalVista can connect with your ATS and redact parts of resumes that cause unconscious bias to activate, leading to more qualified, diverse candidates to make it deeper in the recruiting funnel process.  If you're going to attack unconscious bias at your company, this is a tool that is a must.

3 - Structured Interviews with interview scripts - TalVista can provide interview guides for managers designed to mute unconscious bias from the interview experience.

TalVista describes itself as hosted in the Cloud as a SaaS offering with an unlimited annual subscription best suited for Fortune 1000 companies.

My take on this product is pretty simple - reasonable people agree that unconscious bias is a real thing, so if your company is looking to address it as part of your talent plan, Talvista is a great place to start.

I expected the resume review redaction with integration to your ATS, and was pleasantly surprised by the job posting analysis and improvement tool.  The interview guides are a nice touch, but let's be honest - adoption to get your managers to use those is more difficult that getting the full impact of the first two features.

I suspect we will hear more and more about unconscious bias in the future.  Take a look at a post I did awhile back related to bias in AI and machine learning by clicking here.

 


My Starbucks and Homeless People...

By now, you know the Starbucks story, right?  

In April, a video showing two black men being arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks, when they had done nothing but sit inside one of the coffee shops without buying anything, triggered outrage and boycotts across the country. The company, known for espousing progressive, inclusive principles, reacted swiftly, announcing plans to close its US shops for an afternoon and supply all of its US employees with racial-bias training.

That training happened earlier this week.  By all accounts, it was well received - but the company is smart in pointing out that the training is only a small step in a longer journey.

The four-hour sessions, involving 175,000 workers at 8,000 locations, had employees and managers reportedly working in small groups to discuss their experience of race, and studying issues like implicit bias.  One training item used was this video by Stanley Nelson (email subscribers, click through to see the video): 

The seven-minute video features moving monologues from black Americans who describe the emotional toll of having to live their lives aware that others see them as a threat, and the effort it takes to put store managers or security guards at ease, whether through nonverbal signals or their physical appearance.

If you're in retail and that video doesn't make you more aware of you reactions to your changing environment, I'm not sure what will.  It's well worth the time to watch - make sure you do.

But embedded somewhere in the training had to be a policy change to make the stores more stupid - and yes, racist - proof.   It's a strong show to close stores for a half day and do training - think about that revenue hit - but you still have hundreds of thousands of employees, and when it comes to the risk to the business about more of these events happening, autonomy and increased awareness probably doesn't cut it.

Did Starbucks change the rules of engagement on who has the right to throw someone out of the stores or call the cops?  I hope so.

My Starbucks in Atlanta is an interesting ecosystem.  Rather than throwing people out, they're actually allowing people to stay that make patrons initially uncomfortable based on a segmentation that transcends race - homelessness.  They let homeless people come inside the store (and have way before the Philly incident) - sometimes they buy things, sometimes they don't.  I've never seen the homeless folks ask other patrons for anything - including handouts.

The first time I experienced that, it kind of shocked me.  Then I realized it as the new normal.  Now I don't think about it.

My point is that the autonomy that goes along with empowering employees to eject people for a store is a danger point for every retailer.  I'm sure that Starbucks changed the rules of engagement for that behind the scenes.  Stupid people do stupid things.

And what's the best way to stop stupid people from doing stupid things that can erase a billion dollars off your market cap?

You make them ask a wiser person who's judgment is trusted for approval - before they do the stupid thing.

Does this mean your Starbucks will soon feature homeless people of every Title 7 protected class?

No - but it should mean that the stupid people don't have the autonomy to make the decision.

 


GUY TO GUY HUGS AT WORK: Let's Agree To Get Our #### Together...

My best friend Tim Sackett is an expert on workplace hugging. 

Tim even incorporates hugging into his speaking appearances.  When you go to watch him speak, get ready for what I like to call the “Tim Sackett package”.  He starts by announcing himself as the world’s leading authority on workplace hugging, shows a picture of him and his dog Scout (with Scout licking his face), then invites an audience member up to show what a warm workplace hug looks like with with a willing partner (which is usually a woman, because guys don't want to hug).

As an expert in workplace hugging, Tim's next chapter should be to save the world from bad guy-to-guy hugs.  If he agreed to do this, he would be the hero we need in a broken world.

When you greet a guy professionally - as a guy - you've got two choices:

--Standard handshake.  Hard to go wrong there.

--Man to Man business hug.  Hold up.  This ###* is broken in today's workplace.  How many disjointed attempts at this have you seen in the workplace?  I've seen a lot.  The worst usually involves white guys.  But regardless of the Title 7 combos you throw into a man-to-man hug, the most important thing is that both parties know how it's going to go down.

If both parties don't know the rules of a man-to-man hug, one of the those parties is going to get awkward - like they're trying to get down to the latest Migos (shoutout to the ATL) cut at CPA convention.  Which begs the question about how Migos ever ended up on a playlist involving CPAs.  But I digress.

THERE ARE RULES TO PARTICIPATING AND EXECUTING A MAN-HUG IN A PROFESSIONAL SETTING. 

It's OK.  Here we go:

1--Start with a Soul Shake.

2--Move Soul Shake in and up to your front right shoulder.  (Note - your right shoulder should be across from your target's right shoulder and now almost touching your partners shoulder, but your soul shake is in the way)

3--Now that you're in side hugging position, give a light back slap with free left hand.

4--Release within 1-2 seconds.

5--Proceed with meeting on the Berkowitz Project.

It's in the manual people.  Let's get our #### together on this and stop looking uncomfortable.

UPDATE - My Twitter friend Vadim Liberman reminds me to expect different hugs from gay men.  Good point, see his advice here and here.  My experience tells me a hug between and gay and straight man goes better than most between two straight guys, if only because one party is at ease and knows how he wants to hug.


"I Am Not Uncertain" - Why Some Hidden Phrases Illustrate Your Culture To Perfection...

“I am not uncertain.”

The phrase is a workplace culture feature from the Showtime series Billions.

"I am not uncertain" is what employees of the hedge fund Axe Capital featured in Billions say to their boss, Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis), when they’ve got potentially incriminating inside information they are about to trade on and Axelrod asks them if they are sure: the goods on a scandal about to topple a car company, or a tip that the Nigerian currency is weak.

Framing this assertion in the negative insulates whoever’s saying it from liability from prosecution, which seems unimaginable, from a legal point of view. But that’s the point that Billions has hammered from day one: The rules that govern the world of big money are strange and easily sidestepped, provided you know the script. Billions

Does your company have catchphrases that allow your employees to communicate directly, yet sidestep accountability from forces inside and/or outside your company?

Of course it does.

In the South, there's a cultural catchphrase inside companies and outside in the general community:

"Bless his heart", defined as the following by Urban Dictionary:  "This is a term used by the people of the southern United States particularly near the Gulf of Mexico to express to someone that they are an idiot without saying such harsh words."

When used in the workplace, "bless his heart" isn't generally spoken directly to the subject.  It's used when people are discussing the ramifications to the subject related to a certain course of action:

"What about Tom?" (asked because a budget request your team is making for the next year is going to be in direct competition for resources with Tom's department)

"Tom's still holding onto the opinion that he'll get funding for his department." (Both parties know what Tom doesn't - everyone feels that Tom's initiative is dead on arrival at this point)

"Bless his heart. Move forward and put our budget proposal in." (Code for this - The boss who speaks this doesn't even think she has to talk to Tom about it because he is so out of touch.  Speaking the words "bless his heart" gives permission to the direct report to move forward, to not worry about Tom and also sends the subtle message that the boss thinks Tom is out of touch at best, an idiot at worst.)

Phrases that are seemingly small mean big things in your company.

Discussing probability?  "I am not uncertain" means a lot while saying little - it might also protect you from overcommitting.   Discussing someone you consider a poor sap in the New South?  "Bless his heart" gives you permission to be brutal while saying a little prayer for the target of your action.

Words matter.  What's the catchphrase that means the most while saying the least at your company?

 


Professional White Guys and Stretch Goals for Business Casual: Ricky Rubio Edition...

It's Friday, and whether you work in a software company or a bank, you had a decision on what to wear to work.

No one is more confused than the professional class white guy.  I'm on record about having opinions on this through the following tutorials:

BEST PRACTICES IN BLUE BLAZERS FOR THE CONTEMPORARY WHITE PROFESSIONAL CLASS MALE

BEYOND BLUE BLAZERS - THE PANTS CHOICES OF PROFESSIONAL WHITE MEN IN AMERICA

If you're not a white guy, feel free to partake in these tutorials as you see fit and use at your discretion - there are lessons for all in these, but as a white guy, I'm an expert in the behaviors of the caucasian male. Rubio2

But back to today's post.  Let's say you've devoured the contents of my tutorials and have your game together.  You pants game is tight and you've updated the blue blazer you wear.  You're content, but now you want more.

Where do you go?

Well, I don't want to freak you out or cause your spouse to say, "what the hell happened to my 'Dockers-sensible' husband", but I've got the next step for you.

Two words: Ricky Rubio. (email subscribers click the title of the post in the email to go to the site if you don't see the pictures)

--Ricky Rubio is a professional basketball player for the Utah Jazz.

--Ricky Rubio is from Spain.  I think many females would say he's not hard on the eyes.

--Ricky Rubio kind of looks like Jesus these days, which is good for appearing relatable.

--Ricky Rubio is hurt and was on the bench for game one of the Jazz series vs the Houston Rockets.

--Ricky Rubio showed you the path for what's next if you've complied with my first two tutorials on dress for professional (white) guys.

Ricky Rubio rocked a gray hoodie underneath a smart, stylish blue blazer. (email subscribers click the title of the post in the email to go to the site if you don't see the pictures) Can you pull this off, professional white guy?  You say no, I say MAYBE.  It all comes down to will.  Once you walk through the office one time, the shock has been delivered.  Then you're on to your day and everyone around adjusts to the new normal, but you have to keep the blazer on.  Let's say your name is Pete.  The process of the office coping with you breaking some type of professional dress barrier goes something like this: Rubio1

--Did you see what Pete was wearing?

--Pete may have lost his mind.

--You know, that actually doesn't look bad.

--Pete dresses better than anyone around here.  I wish these other slobs were more like Pete.

--Pete is a cool #*#*##.

Or maybe it goes to hell for you.  You won't know until you try, right?

Click here for all the twitter buzz on the Rubio style and enjoy.  


"PRETEND WE'RE HAVING AN ARGUMENT": The Glass Office Everybody Watches You Go Into (From "Billions")....

Workplace Artifacts - objects or situations made by human beings, with specific cultural interest or meaning in the workplace.

-----------

You know it's official when I make up my own definition, right?  OFFICIAL...

I'm fascinated by the cultural and performance impact by a lot of the things we do in the workplace.  Sometimes we're aware of what we are doing, sometimes we aren't.  In both circumstances, the impact can be either positive of negative.

Take an executive calling someone into his or her office.  I'm not talking about setting up a meeting, I'm talking about asking someone in the cube farm to come to their office - in a public way.

Take a look at the clip below from the Showtime Series "Billions", where Bobby Axelrod asks an employee (in this case, "Dollar" Bill Stern) to come to his office and proceeds to fake a verbal fight in a soundproof office.  The clip is gold, so watch it and we'll talk after the jump (email subscribers click through to see clip below, be aware lots of language so earbuds required):

The messaging is obvious - every time you publicly ask an employee to come to your office (think, "John, can you come to my office" as you're walking by), you'll signaling multiple things:

1--You tone says it all.  If you're mad or even neutral, people think something is wrong and the person in question is about to get lit up.

2--Who you ask to visit speaks volumes.  Are you asking someone you would normally ask to come to your office or someone that doesn't usually have that access?  The less often a person is in your office, the more it means when you DO ask them to come.

3--Body language - Once someone is into your office, what does your posture say?  Two people standing is urgent in nature, which could be positive or negative.  Both sitting in a relaxed position is usually good.  The guest standing while the exec sits and looks angry is 100% bad.

4--What happens after the meeting is key.  Dollar Bill tells Bobby to go F himself, and that message is clear.  For most of the other meetings we have when employees are directed to visit your office, it's more subtle. Employee goes back to the desk and exec stays in office is neutral.  Exec inviting someone else in right after a short meeting with that employee - especially that employee's manager - is crushingly bad.  Exec doing MBWA (management by walking around) and being light hearted means it was all good.

Public requests for a visit to the office are (or should be) strategic in nature. Use them in negative ways as a manager on a regular basis, and you'll hurt your culture.  But if you need to send a clear message that someone f'd up, it's a tool whose power should not be underestimated.

Want to know what professional level, Jedi Mind Trick "come to my office" looks like?  When you use it to either deflate or create perceptions that you have favorites (deflate means you ask someone who is not perceived to be your favorite and break bread, and if you keep asking them, they become the new perceived favorite).

What's your favorite moment from the Billions clip?  Mine is the "I'm going to poke you.  Poke me back".  

Gold.


Merging In Heavy Traffic On Your Commute: A Guide

Rant time people - This topic will be emotional for many of you - Merging on your way to work.

There are rules. You're antisocial and a bit of a moron if you don't follow the rules. Merge

Let's do this:

  1. If traffic is moving, you don't necessary owe anyone the ability to merge if they're at a standstill.  If you're moving at anything above 10mph, you're doing a disservice to anyone behind you by stopping and letting someone merge that was completely stopped.  That's their problem and the problem of the traffic planners.
  2. That being said, if you're moving at 10 mph or below, the right merge activity is to allow one car in front of you before you proceed.  If everyone allows one car in, we'll get this thing done and everyone will be fine.
  3. If you're behind the person I let in, DO NOT THINK THAT I'M PREPARED TO LET YOU IN TOO. I'm not.  Don't be that guy.
  4. IF you're approaching the people trying to merge, a light flash is the right way to tell them you're a human being and you're going to let them in.  They've got two seconds to get going, or you should move.  They've gotta be alert.
  5. If someone allows you to merge from a standstill, THE CLUTCH MOVE IS TO ALWAYS GIVE THEM A WAVE WHERE THEY CAN SEE IT.  You know they didn't have to do it. They did.  Much respect as indicated by the wave.  PRO TIP:  Don't put a single finger up - it can be misunderstood.

Are we good? Can everyone chill the #### out and follow the rules?  

Cool.  I'll be attacking other important work-related guides in the future. Be sure to see this one on the rules for holding the elevator for others approaching.


Gary V. on Negative Glassdoor Reviews at VaynerMedia...

"Jonestown on Vitamin Water"

-anonymous Glassdoor reviewer on life at Vaynermedia...

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

Admit it.  You read that quote from a reviewer on Glassdoor and thought, "yep, that could be one of our disgruntled ex-employees on Glassdoor, but they aren't that witty."  

Glassdoor is an interesting beast.  It used to be that it was all disgruntled people you fired reviewing you on Glassdoor, but that's no longer the case.  The review economy via Trip Advisor, Yelp and 1,000 other review sites has normalized who reviews you and other industries in the smartphone era.

I found the video below from VaynerMedia CEO Gary V - a noted thought leader in the digital and entrepreneurial space - which finds him digging deep on his company's Glassdoor reviews.  His company is a hard charging company and he's a hard charging leader.

Find the VaynerMedia home page on Glassdoor by clicking here - overall rating of 3.0 and 46% of reviewers approve of CEO.  That means Gary V is polarizing (duh if you know him) and the culture he's built is polarizing as well.

Video below, email subscribers click through if you can't see the player.  Worth your time as you'll find a 5-minute video talking about the mindset of the Glassdoor reviewer, his refusal to ask existing employees for positive reviews and his hope that those who left scathing reviews got the poison out of their system and are ready to move forward.

Gold - take a look, you won't regret.

 

 

  VaynerMediaGlassdoor