The HR Capitalist Playbook for Men Avoiding Workplace Harassment Claims...

Harassment claims have been in the news lately, and it's an interesting time for HR leaders.  Whether you're talking about the latest Harvey Weinstein reports or all the crazy stuff that went down at Uber, you've probably never had everyone's attention on the male side of the house like you do today.

What do you do with that attention? Well, it's probably not enough just to email Harvey Weinstein and Uber rundowns to your management team.  While that seems reasonable, a new Cavemanreport from The New York Times shows that all the well-intentioned promises may have resulted in some serious unintended consequences:

"A big chill came across Silicon Valley in the wake of all these stories, and people are hyper-aware and scared of behaving wrongly, so I think they’re drawing all kinds of parameters," an anonymous venture capitalist told the Times.

The anonymous VC told the Times that he's actually cancelled one-on-one meetings with female engineers and potential recruits to protect himself from any "reputational risk."

YEP - THESE ARE ARE MALE MANAGERS.  SIMPLE FOLK.  CAVEMEN.  "SOMEBODY GOT A HARASSMENT CLAIM, SO I'M NOT MEETING ALONE WITH LADIES".

WTF...

As much as I'd like to think this attitude doesn't touch companies like yours and mine, it does.  It's the "let's take our ball and go home" mentality.  Crazy but true.

Lucky for you, I'm here as a guy HR leader to give you my straight up Playbook for Men Avoiding Workplace Harassment Claims.  Here we go:

1--Don't have designs on sleeping with someone at work.  Whether you're single or married, don't do it.  I'm not the morality police, but if you target someone for romance at work, you get what you get.  It's just problematic.  Don't do it.  And for the ladies in my family life who read my blog, I should mention this (morality alert!), if you're a guy who's married, don't be a sleaze.  Honor the commitment.  But if you're incapable of that, stay out of the workplace, Jack.

2--When on the road, don't do stupid stuff.  I'm on the road a lot, and things like having a lady hold your bag in her room is just problematic.  Check your bag and handle small stuff on the road without treating a female co-worker like your wife/girlfriend.

3--Be personable in conversation without probing.  Look, it's OK to make small talk about life with your female co-workers, and every once in awhile, it goes to a place of personal information.  It's not uncommon for that to happen, what matters is what happens next.  Don't probe for more, get out and take the conversation back to something rivaling a mundane USA Today article.

4--Hold your one-on-one meetings with females in public or somewhat public places.  The more private the room is, the more you really don't need to be there.  If you meet on the road in a hotel room with a female, you're a moron.

BONUS - and I call this the Harvey Weinstein rule - don't answer the door on the road in a robe.  Who the #### uses a robe in hotel room?

That's what I got.  What do you have to add?


Nick Saban Is a Steve Jobs-Type Control Freak: Exhibit 63

The sports world follows the business world in a lot of ways.  There's talent considerations, managing performance and more.

Oh yeah - the best leaders in sports, just like in business, are a little bit crazy.  They are crazy control freaks with a detailed plan on how domination is going to be achieved.  Think Steve Jobs.  Think the Uber guy before he came crashing down.  

In sports, consider Alabama football coach Nick Saban. IMG_0202

For the uninitiated, Saban is the head football coach at the University of Alabama, who has built a dominating machine in college football. Click on the link to learn more if needed/interested.  Today, I'm here give you one example from the book of Saban:

The last three games, I've noticed a trend.  Check out the picture to the right in this post (click through it you don't see the photo).  Saban has a guy who has the sole job to have a cup of water ready for him when he's thirsty/ready.  The guy is always positioned behind Saban in the manner pictured to the right.

I used to be around college athletics as a player and a coach.  When a guy like Saban dictates that level of control, there's no doubt in my mind that the following happened:

1.  Saban works hard and wants a drink every once in a awhile.  At some point in the past, he got tired of finding said drink and instructed his operations team to have someone around with water for him.  He delegated that and allowed his staff to figure it out.

2.  It went OK for awhile, then one time Saban wanted a drink - in practice or in a game - and the solution that got put in place failed.  The person responsible for being in the general area got called away or lost attention to the task at hand, which was hydrating Saban.

3.  Saban went absolutely ####ing bananas.  To the point where he couldn't be reasoned with.  

4.  Being the control freak many great leaders are, he came up with his own solution.  From the that point forward, an entire FTE of the athletic department will have one job - to be behind Saban with an available cup of water at all times.  I don't know how long this has has been going on, but it's been there for the last 3 games.

TRANSLATION: Somebody f***ed this up, and Nick Saban f***ing fixed it.  Note that this only works if you're a leader who gets unbelievable results.  If you get average results as a leader and try and flex this level of control, you'll be on the way out, because the people you lead will revolt.  If you're Steve Jobs or Nick Saban, it's accepted because you're the best in the world at what you do.  And psycho-level control is a big part of how you built the machine.

BONUS - I know the guy holding the cup of water is black.  I don't think it matters in this case, because my bet is that Nick picked the person who was going to hold the cup of water for him, and he picked the person he trusted the most.  While it's poor optics for the politically correct crowd, my gut tells me whoever got selected from the ops staff - white or black - to hold Saban's cup of water treats as a compliment they were selected.  Hell, this might even be an associate/assistant AD at Alabama, because that's how much power Nick Saban has.

You're playing checkers. Nick Saban is playing chess. And on the Nick Saban chess board, there's no detail to small for control.  

Somebody f***ed this up, and Nick Saban f***ing fixed it.


BHAGs: You're Afraid. Elon Musk is Not...

BHAGs are visionary, strategy statements designed to focus a group of people around a common initiative. They differ from our other goal setting techniques because BHAGS are positioned toward by a large group (rather than individuals) and they typically span a large amount of time than any of our other goals. They’re huge.

BHAGs can come in several flavors. Most are focused on one of four broad categories: reaching a defined target or metric, competition, organizational change, or reputation. Here are a few examples from some companies Elon-musk-mars you’ve probably never heard of…

-Reaching a defined target

“Attain 1 billion customers worldwide” – Citicorp, 1990s

-Competition

“Crush Adidas” – Nike, 1960s

-Organizational Change

“Transform this company from a chemical manufacturer into one of preeminent drug-making companies in the world.” –Merck, 1930s

-Reputation

“Become the company most known for changing the worldwide poor-quality image of Japanese products” – Sony, 1950s

Wait - Nike wasn't always the leader? Japanese products were once considered low quality before Japan was kicking our ass in the 80's?

Well, before the world as we know it at Nike and Sony became the reality, leaders at those companies created a BHAG as a single unified vision for their people to rally around.

You know who else is good at BHAGs?  Elon Musk.  Musk basically BHAG'd his way into Tesla and Space X becoming great companies.  

Electric Car with quality and luxury?  BHAG.

Reusable rockets with segments that can land back on earth on pads?  B-freaking-HAG.

Well, here comes Musk again, probably the most adept user of BHAGs in the world.  The topic is Mars - more from The Guardian:

Elon Musk has unveiled plans for a new spacecraft that he says would allow his company SpaceX to colonise Mars, build a base on the moon, and allow commercial travel to anywhere on Earth in under an hour. The spacecraft is currently still codenamed the BFR (Big Fucking Rocket). Musk says the company hopes to have the first launch by 2022, and then have four flying to Mars by 2024.

Last year Musk proposed an earlier plan for the spacecraft, but at the time had not developed a way of funding the project. Speaking at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide Australia on Friday, Musk said the company had figured out a way to pay for the project.

The key, he said, was to “cannibalise” all of SpaceX’s other products. Instead of operating a number of smaller spacecrafts to deliver satellites into orbit and supply the International Space Station, Musk said the BFR would eventually be used to complete all of its missions. “If we can do that then all the resources that are used for Falcon9, Dragon and Heavy can by applied to this system,” he said.

BFR.  Musk isn't messing around.  The BHAG is set.

If history tells us nothing else, it tells us that Musk will probably make it happen.  Maybe not by 2024, but you can't have a BHAG without making it seem impossible.


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.

 


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.


You Think Your Work Enemy Has Declared War: She Just Thinks It's Thursday...

"Some men just want to watch the world burn."

-Michael Caine in "The Dark Knight"

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

Intent is a funny thing.  You're in the workplace, and the workplace has established norms: Some men

--We talk to each other before we make decisions or take meaningful action

--We give people a heads up before we announce something that won't feel good to them

--We try to play nice and if confronted, we try to make the person confronting us feel good about our intent.

Of course, those are norms - guidelines if you will, not hard rules.  Every once in a while, you run into someone that does not give two ****s about your norms.  They do what they want, when they want and generally don't give you heads up that it's coming or make you feel better if you ask them about it after the fact.

You know, ass####s.  But in the era of Donald Trump, we're pretty quick to assign full villain status to people who don't play by the rules.

What's interesting about the people like this you think are enemies in the workplace is the following:

You think they're out to get you based on chaos they cause.  They probably think it's Thursday.

They aren't even thinking about you.  Tearing shit up is just what they do.  In the age of Trump, we're likely to cast them as villains and think they're out to get us.  That might be true, but in my experience, people who cause chaos can be factored into 3 categories when it impacts you:

1--They're out to get you.  It's what you thought.  They hate your guts, you're in the way and it's takedown time. 10% of the time, this is the reality.

2--They have a plan and a place they want to be unrelated to you.  They have a POA (plan of action) that's bigger than their relationship with you. You're taking it personally, but the "tearing shit up" and chaos impacts multiple people, not just you.  They're not even thinking about you, Skippy. 70% of the time, this is the reality.

3--They don't have a plan but love to keep everyone off balance as part of their managerial DNA.  Again, it's not about you.  Their business is chaos and by the way, the more positional power they have, the better that business is. 20% of the time, this is the reality.

Unless you're experiencing flavor #1 above, your best strategy is to keep an eye on it but ignore it.  Go about your business.  You do you, let them do them and save your emotional reaction and gun powder for when it really matters.  

If you're high sensitivity, this is going to be hard.  They're going to wear you out.  You think it's the workplace version of Normandy.

It's actually Thursday.  What's for lunch?


PURE GOLD: On the Topic of Age Bias and Startup Culture...

Old people are..just so..so..so...old!

Coming off a two-day blitz to finish some interviewing training, and what interviewing training would be complete without a section on non-Title VII bias that impacts us all?  Turns out, science shows we all like a certain type of person no matter their qualifications.  Among the things we're suckers for:

--attractive people...

--smooth communicators...

--people who are alums from the school we went to...

--candidates who tell us we are both attractive and smooth as part of the interview...

Kidding about the last one.  You know what's not listed above as something we are subconsciously attracted to?  People who are older than us (related to attractiveness for sure).  That's why this farce blog post from a fictional startup was so accurate - it basically just says it all.  Check out these excerpts from the post at McSweeneys and then go read the whole thing:

"Hello, and welcome to our startup. We hope you’re enjoying your complimentary snifter of vaporized coconut water. Once you’re done, please place the glass into one of the blue receptacles around the office, which will send the glass to be washed and dried. Do not place it into one of the red receptacles. The red receptacles take whatever you put inside of them and launch it into space.

As you can probably tell by looking around, every employee at our startup is 23 years old. On the morning of your 24th birthday, the barcode on your employee ID stops working and you can no longer enter our building. We do this to ensure our company has a ceaseless, youthful energy. We believe old people are displeasing to look at and also, bad at ideas.

Care for a nap? Well, you are more than welcome to take a quick, refreshing nap in one of our many nap pods. You will be lulled to sleep by the soothing sound of our 23-year-old founder softly whispering startupy things such as, “Disruption,” and “Like Uber, but for horses.”

Go read it all.  It's all truer than we'd like to admit at all companies who chase culture as part of a strategic plan.


Steve Kerr's CEO Approval Rating on Glassdoor Would be 100% (#NBAfinals)

Part of engagement and building the modern organization is ensuring that the rank and file in your company approve of your leadership.  This is why Glassdoor has the CEO approval rating, etc.

Leadership approval ratings are driven by a host of things.  I'm here today to add one small thing to that body of knowledge:

Sometimes the rank and file at your company is going to insist on doing juvenile, immature things for fun that don't hurt anyone.  They're going to suggest you be involved, and when they do you have two choices - retreat to your executive offices and decline, or let yourself be part of the circus and let them celebrate you as one of them.

Examples from your life - dunking stations, pie in the face contests, baby pictures from your mom, etc.

Examples from an NBA coach's life - allowing yourself to be part of pre-game high five rituals that go on for waaaaay too long.

You win when you make sure that no one in your organization considers you too lofty to have fun, or at least to be involved in their fun.

Case in point - the NBA finals, where Steve Kerr has accepted that he'll be a part of circus and carries himself accordingly.  If you don't see the Instagram post below, enable images or click through to go to the site - then read the caption from my post on Friday and play the video.

You won't be sorry.

Be part of the circus - even when you're under pressure.

 


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?  


FAKE IT: Acting Interested in Corporate America Is a Succession Factor

Who's to know if your soul will fade at all
The one you sold to fool the world
You lost your self-esteem along the way
Yeah

--"Fake it" by Seether

One of the biggest things that separates contenders from pretenders in Corporate America - across all functional areas - is the ability to fake interest and attention.

You're in a 7-hour training class.  Next week you're in a 3 hour ops review.  Boredom happens.

 If Darwin were a noted OD thought leader in business, he would write that an adaptation that allows some to survive and thrive is the ability to fake interest and attention with body language, eye contact and just enough participation to make it seem like they're engaged.

Does it matter?  Competition is fierce. Only if you want to get further than you are now.  The real players in corporate America look engaged - at all times - even when they aren't.  

Look around at your next meeting.  You'll know what I'm talking about.  Some people have this type of opposable thumb, some don't.

Of course, faking it leads to learning because you're dialed in juuuuuust enough not to miss important shit. 

Seether video below, people.  Worth your time but a little NSFW. Happy Friday... (email subscribers click through for video)