ESPN Prez Wades Into Employee Political Identities with Jemele Hill Memo...

If you follow the media game (and in today's political environment where every outlet has a slant, it's hard not to), you might have seen that ESPN's Jemele Hill was out on her personal Twitter account calling the current POTUS a "white supremacist".

Here's the tweet (click through it you don't see it below, email subscribers):

Jemel

Of course, that led to a bunch of posturing, including conservatives wondering why someone like Linda Cohn (another ESPN anchor) was sent home/suspended for merely stating she thought the media outlet should be less focused on politics, while the Hill tweets were largely unaddressed by ESPN.  

From an HR perspective, I'm most interested in the intersection of someone's professional life and personal views, and how an organization navigates that.  Could Jemele Hill have been suspended or even fired?  Sure - but good luck with that with Trump as the target of her controversial comments. 

So ESPN is in a rough spot - highly visible employee makes comments sure to frustrate some of the base, but what can they do?  Well, ESPN did their best to continue to try and get in front of it with an internal memo.  More from the NY Post:

"ESPN president John Skipper sent a memo to all of the company’s employees late Friday afternoon (9/15/17), outlining his wish that ESPN remain an apolitical organization, regardless of outside perception.

“I want to remind everyone about fundamental principles at ESPN. ESPN is about sports. … We show highlights and report scores and tell stories and break down plays.”

“In light of recent events, we need to remind ourselves that we are a journalistic organization and that we should not do anything that undermines that position,” Skipper wrote in a memo obtained by Sports Illustrated. “We also know that ESPN is a special place and that our success is based on you and your colleagues’ work. Let’s not let the public narrative re-write who we are or what we stand for. Let’s not be divided in that pursuit. I will need your support if we are to succeed.”

Translation - your public views, even as a private citizen, can impact our success as a business.  And hey, I'm asking now - maybe next time I don't ask.  #stopplease

It's a well known fact of life that freedom of speech is alive and well - but just because that right is protected constitutionally doesn't mean your employer can't fire you if your stated views cause them problems with their client/customer base.

But as this column from former ESPN columnist Bill Simmons notes (once suspended himself for comments made publicly), the crazier the political environment gets, the harder it is to suspend/fire individuals for comments that might harm the business.

Interesting times.  Hit me in the comments with any craziness from employees you're seeing related to what I'll kindly call "this Trump thing"....


Not Blowing Sh*t Up At Work is Hard...

"You think this is hard?  This isn't hard.  You know what's hard?  Riding a bike on a freeway, now that's hard."

--Willard Sims, Head Basketball Coach, Truman State

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

Yep - Willard Sims was my college basketball coach at NE Missouri (later renamed Truman State, because, you know, we can't let people think our mission is to simply serve the region we Gunnyreside in - the horrors!), and he had a way with a quote.

He also sounded like Clint Eastwood playing Gunny Highway in Heartbreak Ridge.  Great guy, Willard Sims.

Every time I think about what's hard in life, I think about Willard and that quote.

You know what else is hard?  Not blowing shit up at work.  Because the easiest path to address something is just to blow some shit up.  Observe:

1--I'm on a plane this week.  One of my talented direct reports responds to an email.

2--I get the email on a plane.  I type up a fact-filled observation about said team member's response.  Turns out, feedback is required and there's a bit of tunnel vision.  I'm on the road, so an email back from a plane somewhere on the way to Boston is how it's going to go down.

3--I get distracted by a huuuuuuuuuge basket of snacks.  You're not handing them to me, so I take what I want?  Multiple items?  I take enough to prepare for the next tropical event that impacts the SE United States.  

4--I'm back.  Where was I?  Oh yeah, direct feedback.  Let's do this.  I have a some observations you might be interested in.

5--F***.  GoGoInFlight my ###.  It's down again.  No immediate feedback for you.

6--I read the email after waking up the next day from the hotel.  Might have made someone feel bad if I sent that.  Context is hard via email.

The path of least resistance (for me!) is immediate feedback.  But immediate feedback with face-to-face communication is hard.  Misunderstandings ensue.

I never sent the email.  I put it in the journal and hope to give the feedback 1-1.  Hard to do when remote so much of the time.

Not blowing #### up as a road warrior employee/manager isn't easy.  But if you're not telling someone that they did something right before you give them the notes for improvement, you're probably asking for trouble.

The snacks?  They were excellent.  GoGo still sucks.


GLASSDOOR GOLD: "I'm Not Getting Into This With You"...

You hate Glassdoor.  But amidst all the negativity - and the fact your worst employees are at least 5 times more likely to leave a review than your best employees - are nuggets of truth.  Can we agree on that?

I was looking up a company over the weekend and found this gem.  Please click through or enable pictures if you're an email subscriber for the clip below.

Glassdoor

 

 

 

Manager - "We've got to let you go. You're not a good fit."

Employee - "Why am I not a good fit?"

Manager  - "Um, Look, I'm not getting into that now."

Don't ask me who the company is.  I'll never tell, because this could happen anywhere.

#gold


The Tyranny of Single Stall, Gender-Neutral Bathrooms in the Workplace...

Notes to follow from life on the road...

Topic: Transgender individual's rights to use either bathroom (men's or women's) they desire.

Buckle up, people. But it's probably not going to be what you think. TG

I spend a lot of time on the road, and I spend that time in a lot of different parts of the country.  One thing that's happening in retail (shops, restaurants, etc) points to a trend I hope doesn't come to office parks.

Here's the trend... Businesses - faced with legal pressure or simply wanting to accommodate Transgender individuals - are increasing changing single stall bathrooms (one for men, one for women) to gender neutral status.  That "reclassification" means that either men or women can use either bathroom that is available.  That solves the transgender issue without the economic burden of retrofitting a third bathroom to exist alongside men's and women's facilities.

I understand that I'm probably going to get emails from what I've wrote already, because I'm not an expert in Transgender issues.  Send your emails, however, because I do want to learn more and understand to a greater degree.

But I am an expert in some things.  Allow me to school you on why reclassifying a men's and women's bathroom to gender neutral-status doesn't work:

Men are pigs.  Females deserve better.  

If 10 dudes use a bathroom during the day, odds are it is not going to be suitable for a woman, or anyone who wants to sit down.  This just in - Men often go to the bathroom standing up.  Hit this link if you want to see the legal world in action on this issue.  

When businesses make existing single-stall bathrooms gender neutral, females (anyone identifying as female) lose.  And this trend is alive and well in some areas of the country.  It's a natural, completely understandable reaction to the capital cost of building new facilities.  

I can only hope this trend can be avoided as transgender issues become more accepted and we work through the same challenges in the workplace.

Rights for everyone - Ok and check.  Let's evolve together.

Rights for dudes to use bathrooms on a frequent basis that females will have to use afterwords - we're better than that America.  

No.  Just no.

 


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.

 


White People and College Admissions - It's Complicated...

Of course, I kid with that title - you know that, right?

But I have to tell you, there's stuff going on with white people and college admissions that, given the fact I have a rising junior who I expect will go to college, I should be interested in. Lottery_1

It all revolves around who gets the offer - which seems talent-related (as is education as a whole) so I'm covering it here.

There's two flavors going on with white people and college admissions.  Allow me to break down what I see:

1--The first flavor is white people without stellar GPAs, test scores, etc. not being able to get into universities that were once thought to be a given.  In Georgia, the state used lottery money to guarantee a form of college scholarship for the masses (read more on the Hope Scholarship by clicking on the link).  One result of more people having the means to attend college was that some affluent families no longer had the ability to get a middling-performing son or daughter into the University of Georgia, because now everyone could afford it.  Interesting, right?  

2--The second - and more problematic - flavor of white people and college admissions is that many families have kids with great GPAs and test scores, but a) due to universities seeking to become more diverse, some high achieving white kids can't get in, and b) if they do, there's no financial aid available on merit (Georgia notwithstanding) due to what the family earns.  

I don't understand all the issues yet, but a year or so ago I read a great post by my friend Tim Sackett who went on a parent rant and penned a gem of a post.  Here's taste, you should go read it all:

"My middle son is about to make his college choice. He’s got some great schools that have accepted him. He has some great ones that did not. His dream school was Duke. He also really liked Northwestern, Dartmouth, and UCLA. He has a 4.05 GPA on a 4.0 scale (honors classes give you additional GPA) and a 31 on his ACT (97th percentile of all kids taking this test).  He had the grades and test scores to get into all of those schools.

What he didn’t have was something else.

What is the something else?

He didn’t come for a poor family. He didn’t come from a rich family. He wasn’t a minority. He doesn’t have some supernatural skill, like shooting a basketball. He isn’t in a wheelchair. He isn’t from another country.

He’s just this normal Midwestern kid from a middle-class family who is a super involved student-athlete, student government officer, award-winning chamber choir member, teaches swimming lessons to children, etc., etc., etc.

What is the other something else, from a financial perspective?

He got into Boston College, another dream school for him, and one that wanted him to come and continue his swim career at the Division 1 level. BC also costs $68,000 per year.

Colleges and U.S. Federal Government hate kids who come from families that do the right thing.  What’s the “right thing”?  He comes from a family that pays their mortgage, saved some money for his tuition and put money away for retirement.

Because he comes from a family that made good decisions, Boston College, and the Federal Government thought it was a good idea for him to pay $68,000 per year to attend their fine university."

I liked the initial comments coming from both sides in reaction to Tim's post that I subscribed to the comments.  Every week, like clockwork, I get a gift - someone else has posted a comment with a hot take on the situation Tim identified.

With a rising junior starting to look at colleges, I just became interested in this talent issue.  I'm sure I'll be back to write about what I see.  Buckle up - I'll be back next spring with a hot take of my own.


Unlimited PTO - More For the Employer or the Employee?

Check out a recent post I did at my other site - Fistful of Talent - on the optics of unlimited PTO - what it means for companies over employees and more.  Here's a taste:

In my darkest moments, I’m a bit of a skeptic.  And I think unlimited PTO might just be a scam to not pay out accrued vacation and sick time.

With me?  Against me?  As with most things, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.  Here’s 5 things I know about vacation/sick time and the connection to the concept of unlimited PTO:

Unlimited PTO is limitless in its attraction as a component to “Best Place To Work”.  It’s hard to hear the concept exists at a company and not view said company in the top quartile of places to work.  Whatever the reality is, WHO CARES PEOPLE – THEY HAVE UNLIMITED PTO.  That’s how it comes across – in all caps, being shouted from the mountaintop.

I’ve worked for incredible CFOs in my career, and they all would evaluate Unlimited PTO with a form of glee reserved for Mr. Burns from The Simpsons.  The exchange is simple – you tell them you want to do unlimited PTO, and after they blast the dead weight in the company they think is going to abuse it, they get that thoughtful look in their eyes as they say, “wait, that means we’ll never pay out banked time again, right?  Hmmm…”

Get the whole post by clicking here.  Regardless of your opinion on unlimited PTO, let's just agree there's at least mutual benefit, OK?


Sometimes Great Teammates Decide To Let Co-Workers Live With the Consequences of Stupid Decisions...

Sometime after your first year with your company, you start to settle in.  All the onboarding is complete, the honeymoon is over and you've accurately assessed your job as a mix of positives and negatives.  If you're still there and not on the market after a year, that generally means you're content.  Hopefully you're learning and things are starting to click related to your role and how you can have success.

Another thing happens after the one year mark - you've settled into a clear understanding of who your teammates are, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and if applicable, the circumstances/topics/conditions that will make them absolutely self-destruct.

You're a good teammate - so you've likely tried to make the self-imploding teammate aware of his self-destructive, hot button issues. 

But.They.Just.Won't.Listen.

So you do what a reasonable human would do after getting nowhere.  They next time the mushroom cloud is getting ready to go up, you grab some popcorn, a Fresca and get ready to watch the show.

That's what happened to Buster Posey (catcher of professional baseball's San Francisco Giants) last week.  A hothead teammate picked a fight with an opponent, and Buster decided to take this scrum off.  If you don't see the picture below, enable pictures or click through to the site to see the setup.  Buster's the one that's standing behind home plate while the #### is getting ready to go down:

Posey

Pretty good analysis from the Mercury News in the Bay area:

Oh, crap. Why do I have to deal with this knucklehead? Whatever.

Buster Posey can say whatever he wishes with his own words about what happened Monday afternoon. He can speak out loud and put his own spin on the way Giants’ reliever Hunter Strickland’s purpose-pitch hit Washington Nationals’ star Bryce Harper in the butt and sparked a bench-clearing meltdown. But anyone who watched Posey’s body language during the play could read and see exactly what was happening inside his brain.

Really, dude? And you expect me to defend you after . . . that?

The unwritten rules of Major League Baseball decree that when an angry batter leaves the box and charges at the pitcher, the catcher is supposed to sprint out and make an effort to hold back the batter before he reaches the mound.

Posey did just the opposite when Strickland plunked Harper, who reacted with a stare and then a sprint toward the pitching rubber. Watch the video. Watch Posey. As Harper storms toward Strickland, the Giants’ catcher actually takes a half step backward, not forward. Then he watches.

You’re on your own, pal. I can’t believe this. But you deserve whatever happens next. 

As everyone knows, Posey is the center of gravity inside the Giants’ room. He has been almost since 2010 when he joined the team full time. He calls the pitches on the field. He calls out teammates when needed. He has a dry and wicked sense of humor but is a very serious man. We don’t see everything that happens when the locker room door shuts. But you get the impression that before any other Giants’ player speaks up, he at least glances over to Posey to see how he’s reacting.

Odds are you've got a couple of people like that pitcher in your organization.  They've got talent.  But they've got a hot button that limits them career-wise.  You've probably already gotten splatter on you from the fallout when you tried to help them.  Either they lashed out at you or someone else in the organization accused you of being in their camp.

At some point, you have to back away, let them implode and let nature take its course.  It's Darwinian in nature.  They've got a flaw and try as you might, you can't help - and you certainly can't fix it.  They couldn't adapt.

You're a vet now.  Sometimes you have to do what Posey did.  Just let it happen and stay above the fray.

The honeymoon is over, right?  


The Trap of Non-Specific Feedback As a Replacement For Coaching...

If you look around long enough in your life - especially if you have kids - you'll see a pattern emerge.

People are trying to coach others as much as they can, but they default to non-specific feedback that is unhelpful at best and counter-productive at worst.

Want some examples?  Sweet!  Here you go:

"Try Harder"

"You Just Need To Work More"

"Focus"

"Be Patient"

"Give Them What They Want"

Read that list.  Odds are that you've used most, if not all, of these in the course of your day to day life coaching someone - a friend, a kid, a parent, a team member at work, and yes - someone you manage.

Those non-specific words feel like coaching, but they're not. They're proxies for you actually taking the time to figure out why someone is failing (big and small), as well as analyzing how they could help themselves.

Most coaching tools engage the person who needs coaching to ask them what they can do differently.  That's a start for getting to specifics that might make a difference.

But in the corporate world as well as non-work life, it's easy to be prescriptive and tell the person what to do in order to get better results.

That's failure #1 if you're responsible for coaching someone.  You didn't engage them, you told them what to do based on what you see.

Failure #2? Using any of the phrases above or anything similar.

You gotta really try harder.  Focus on it.  Be the ball, Danny.

Non-descriptive feedback sucks.  Stop telling people to focus and try hard. 

Lead them in a conversation about what they can do (specifics!) to get better results in any circumstance/scenario you're coaching them in.