You Probably Need This In Your D&I Stack: Microaggression Awareness...

Saw a social post last week from a friend in the HR Business that said a manager was providing performance feedback to an employee, and the employee told them they had used a microaggression. The manager didn't know what that was and had to look it up.

But that's why you have me. You know what a microaggression is even if you don't know it by name.  Here's the definition from Wikipedia: Micro

Microaggression is a term used for brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioural, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative prejudicial slights and insults toward any group, particularly culturally marginalized groups.[1] The term was coined by psychiatrist and Harvard University professor Chester M. Pierce in 1970 to describe insults and dismissals which he regularly witnessed non-black Americans inflicting on African Americans. By the early 21st century, use of the term was applied to the casual degradation of any socially marginalized group, including LGBT, people living in poverty, and people that are disabled.  Psychologist Derald Wing Sue defines microaggressions as "brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership". The persons making the comments may be otherwise well-intentioned and unaware of the potential impact of their words.

A number of scholars and social commentators have critiqued the microaggression concept for its lack of scientific basis, over-reliance on subjective evidence, and promotion of psychological fragility. Critics argue that avoiding behaviours that one interprets as microaggressions restricts one's own freedom and causes emotional self-harm, and that employing authority figures to address microaggressions can lead to an atrophy of those skills needed to mediate one's own disputes.  Some argue that, because the term "microaggression" uses language connoting violence to describe verbal conduct, it can be (and is) abused to exaggerate harm, resulting in retribution and the elevation of victimhood.

You know - saying stupid ***t.  Need examples of Microaggressions?  I thought you'd never ask, click here for some doozies of the racial category.

When I think about microaggressions, I also think about some related factors - what is the intent and what's the relationship between the people involved?  As you look at the link above, there are some microaggressions listed that are never OK. But as you get away from that page and get into the gray area, it becomes murky.

Case in point, I'm attempting to limit my greeting of groups of people by saying, "Guys". I didn't try and limit this based on feedback, but on reading that some females were bothered by it. My struggle to improve in this area is real, and it's not helped by all the women in my life who walk into a room and say, "what's up, guys?"

My struggle. Not yours. But a good example of how seemingly accepted language can seep into the microaggression category.

At the end of the day, microaggression belongs somewhere in your D&I training stack.  I'd simply introduce the concept (I guarantee you that 80% of your people, maybe more, don't know what it is) and then list 20 potential questions, phrases, etc and have the team say yes/no - is this phrase or question a microaggression?

Some will be over the top, but a lot will be in the gray area and drive disagreement. But it's the dialog that others have from a training perspective that matters.

As soon as your folks discuss, awareness goes up.  And microaggressions automatically go down.

I worry that we've become too political correct, but microaggression awareness is worthy of attention inside your organization.


How To Not Get Killed In A "What's Wrong" Focus Group At Your Company...

Simple post today.  From time to time, HR pros have to do focus groups to determine the climate of the employee relations environment at their company.  Ideally, this is done before there's smoke in the air.  But at times, especially in a multi-location environment, that's impossible.

So how do you approach a group of 10-12 employees (focus group) to get them to talk about the challenges, but not get beheaded in the process?  You're going to have to ask open-ended Valley
questions to get employees to give you details about what's messed up, so the best approach I've found is this:

--Ask each employee to give you TWO THINGS THAT ARE WORKING WELL FOR THEM AT YOUR COMPANY and TWO THINGS THAT NEED FAST IMPROVEMENT

It sounds simple, right?  I think we'd be surprised how many HR pros who walk into hostile environments don't force the attendees of focus groups to give them some positives.

The positives are there to balance the feedback loop.  It forces people to articulate the positives in their environment, which is important for fellow employees to hear.  

Of course, the negatives/opportunities for improvement are going to be there. You'll get those.  But if you know you're walking into a tough session and fail to be brave enough to ask for the positives, you run a higher probability of losing control of the group.

Some responses you'll hear when you ask for the positives:

"The people I work with"

"The people I work with"

"The people I work with"

"The people I work with"

Not a typo.  Expect that if you're walking into a tough environment, the answers will focus on fellow employees enduring the struggle, not anything that gives credit to the company.  That's OK - you're just looking to balance the feedback loop.  You can accept this answer from as many people as want to give it.

You also might here some smart### responses like:

"I haven't lost any fingers yet"

My advice?  Accept the "people I work with" response from all and if you get a wisecracker, laugh with everyone else and then follow up and ask for a serious one.  Accept "The people I work with" from all and ask for at least one other positive that someone hasn't given the group yet.

Good luck with your paratrooper-like focus group sessions.  Don't be afraid to ask for the positives - it will make your session much more productive.


Sheryl Sandberg and the Balancing Act of Personal Mission vs Company Mission...

Personal values in the business world are tricky. While we all have the code we live by, we also have to go out and make a living for ourselves and are families.

Generally speaking, the average professional doesn't have huge conflicts between their Gallowaypersonal code of ethics and who they work for. Of course, from time to time their might be a meaningful "situation" that causes us to take a personal inventory of what's most important, but for the most part the biggest struggle we have is having to eat large amounts of **** to stay employed, because that's just the way world is.

Work is hard. Business is harder. Put on a helmet.

BUT - the most lofty among us have choices. I'm talking about people who have truly made it, creating wealth throughout their careers that helps them arrive at the point where they no longer have to eat large amounts of ****.  People who have arrived have choices - but do they have an obligation to make things better for the rest of us or take a stand against disconnects between their code and the company they work for?

This is on my mind as I read, The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google by Scott Galloway. In the book, Galloway fires off this gem regarding Sheryl Sandberg:

“Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg told women to “lean in” because she meant it, but she also had to register the irony of her message of female empowerment set against a company that emerged from a site originally designed to rank the attractiveness of Harvard undergraduates, much less a firm destroying tens of thousands of jobs in an industry that hires a relatively high number of female employees: media and communications.”

---"The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google by Scott Galloway

Shots. Fired.

I don't believe that Sandberg has any requirement to leave Facebook due to the origin/mission disconnect referenced between Facebook and someone who would author a powerful book like Lean In. I could easily make the argument that Sandberg can do more good for women at Facebook than she can anywhere else in the world.

But the stronger your push related to mission, the more disconnects matter. Especially when you have acquired the means, which automatically reminds me of this Ferris quote.

Is Sandberg a hypocrite as Galloway seems to be alluding to? I say no. But it's an interesting case study related to this reality - the more you go on record and define your professional brand by mission, the more people will identify the inconsistencies and attempt to hold you accountable.


Use This Quote When Convincing Someone to Decline An Offer From a Big Company...

"It's better to be a pirate than join the Navy."

-Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was brutal in many ways, but with his brutality came moments of pure clarity.  This quote is one of those moments. Johnny-depp

The stale way to make the same point is obvious - "Why do you want to go work for that big company?  They're going to bury your talent. You know all those ideas you have?  You won't get to chase any of them at IBM.  They'll just pod you up in the matrix and suck your energy over the next decade, leaving you a husked-out former version of yourself."

Wait - that's actual pretty good.  A more standard version is "You're going to there and be bored immediately."

Still, I like the clarity of the Jobs quote.  If you're working for a smaller firm, you need every competitive advantage you can get as you fight for the hires you need.  This quote, while not perfect, is a good tool to have.

It just so happens that the only people that it works on are the people who are actually inclined to believe that they're more than cogs in the corporate wheel.  Use this quote on a person who's happy being a cog, and they might dance with you a bit - but ultimately they're going to grab for the security that only thousands (often tens of thousands) of employees can provide.  Doesn't make them bad people or not talented - it's a preference for security and risk management.

But they're looking to enlist with a big entity like the Navy - not roam the seven seas on that cool, but rickety boat you call a company and wonder if you'll be around in a year.

If you're at a smaller firm, the best hires you will make are the people that don't look like pirates - but have it buried in their DNA.  If you think you have one of those people, I'd talk in broad terms about the pirate-like things you're going to do at your company.

Pirates like Johnny Depp, BTW - not Somali pirates.

Go buy some eye patches for your next round of interviews. Dare a candidate to ask you why you're wearing one.


Trigger Warnings on Disney+...Could They Work for Managers?

Did you sign up for Disney+ over the last couple of weeks?  10 million other households did.

You didn't know you needed another streaming service, but Disney+ comes with some unique features, mainly that the entire catalog of Disney is available for streaming. That's a deep catalog.

Of course, even though the catalog is deep, there's some issues. Material sourced from the 1930's, 40's and 50's might have some theme that aren't Lady and tramp warninginline with today's world. For this reason, Disney has implemented a "trigger" warning of sorts on any material that might be challenging.  More from the Washington Times:

Disney’s new streaming service has added a trigger warning to certain classic movies like “The Jungle Book” and “Lady and the Tramp” to address possible “outdated cultural depictions” that could offend viewers.

Disney Plus, which launched Tuesday amid a host of technical issues, issued a disclaimer on some decades-old movies that reads, “This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”

The warning appears in the movie descriptions for “Dumbo,” “The Jungle Book” and “Lady and the Tramp,” among others that have faced criticism for depicting racial stereotypes.

My super-conservative friends view that as more political correctness. I view it as a masterful stroke by Disney. Let me share the warning/disclaimer again, by itself:

“This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”

That's solid communications work by Disney. It allows them to share the material and satisfy fans, but also warns that this stuff is from another day and time, even another world. It's even educational and can drive conversations in households with reasonable people who want that type of conversation. And of course, the warning allows you not to watch as well.

Of course, I'm a HR/recruiting/talent nerd. The first thing I thought of was this:

Could we use the same type of trigger warning for good people in your organization who are insensitive to the needs of others and seem to run afoul of public opinion at least once a quarter?

I'm not talking about people who are blatantly racist, etc. I'm talking about the people who are likable but grew up different from you and me and haven't made the complete turn to the 2020. They mean well. But they can't get out of their own way.  We don't want to give up on them.

Let's say you've got an incoming email from this person. There could be a pop-up that could say the following before you read the email:

"This individual is presented as a work in progress. He/she may contain outdated cultural norms, beliefs or depictions. We believe they're evolving, but it's a work in progress."

That's truthful for a lot of people in the average organization. It feels right.

Of course, some of you would snap the warning or share it in your IG story and ruin the feature.

This is why we can't have nice things. Continue about your day without organizational warnings that could make our work life better. LOL.


Life Is Better When You Hire People With A Great Sense of Humor...

As an owner of a recruiting company, it's fun to be able to contribute to building a team.

What do we need at Kinetix? The same types of things you do - knowledge, skill and ability, as well as cultural fit. We've addressed trying to hire for cultural fit with something we call the Kinetix Code, which are potential factors designed to ID what's common across all of our best performers.

But there's one thing we probably don't work to ID in the interview process, but I love it when it's there.

A sense of humor and a general spirit of not taking one's self to seriously.

Case in point - I've got a Kinetix guy working on a website for me that includes a splash page for my book. As you might expect, we're showing the book, and giving some quotes about what people think about the book (shameless plug note - you can buy The 9 Faces of HR here!), etc.

My guy at Kinetix could have pulled a quote from my book page at Amazon. But that didn't feel like the best use of the opportunity, so he instead structured a placeholder for the quote window with the image you see below and wrote his own mock quote (email subscribers, click through if you don't see the image below):

Ben

Ah... Opportunistic humor. Rather than use a real quote, he simply made one up on the fly. Ben Martinez is what we call a "friend of the program" at Kinetix, a former HR leader now running his own consulting business. We've helped him, he's helped us, etc. The art was available, and away my developer at Kinetix went. In case you haven't figured it out - this is not a real quote. But it's a fun one!

We have a lot of people at Kinetix who have a great sense of humor and don't take themselves too seriously. 

How do you measure that in an interview process? That's hard to say, I think the best way is probably to listen closely and see what your candidates give you related to what I'll call the "and one." You've asked a serious question, the candidate gives you a serious answer and...they give you the extra comment that gives you context on how they view the world. If it makes you smile, there's a chance that candidate in front of you might have a decent sense of humor AND - good judgment about when to use it.

The "and one" comments from candidates during interviews are not without risk. Consider the following:

1--Go too far with the extra comments in an effort to build rapport with the interviewer, and the strategy falls flat.

2--Fail to give any "and one" comments and you'll likely see another candidate pass you up in the interview process - as they nailed the "and one" and built comfort and connection.

The "and one" strategy is probably what naturally funny people do in interviews.

But don't forgot, candidates mirror you as an interviewer. If you're too serious and don't invest in making candidates comfortable, you'll probably never know who has "it" in the area of humor - with good judgement.

Our workplaces need more people with humor - and great judgment about when to use it.


Google Ends Weekly "All-Hands" Meetings: Here's Why...

In case you missed it, Google has decided to stop holding a weekly "all-hands" meeting they call TGIF in response to leaks and the meetings being dominated by issues considered non-core to the business (my words, not theirs).  I grabbed the email announcing the change from Sundar Pichai, the Google CEO, but before I show you that email, I rewrote it for clarity and impact. Here's my version of his email to announce the weekly "all hands" meetings are gone. Enjoy:

We wanted to talk about strategy. You wanted to talk about politics. TGIF

That was OK, because we wanted to talk about what you wanted to talk about.

Then you started leaking everything we said that didn't live up to your political standards.

Then we realized that the people who only wanted to talk about politics where actually the ones doing the leaking.

Then we realized that the people who wanted to talk about politics and leaked info don't reflect the views of the majority of our employees, which was reflected in the reality that only 25% of our employees now attend the all-hands, an all-time low.

So we said, "Screw this" and decided to shut down the TGIF weekly town halls.

Along the way and before this, we realized that our infamous "20% time" that allowed you to work on your own projects wasn't actually contributing to business results. We also had to restrict political conversations on Google message boards because some of you weren't respecting other people.

In summary: You hijacked this whole thing, and we're shutting it down and finding another path.

This is why we can't have nice things.

That was mine. Here's Google CEO Sundar Pichai's email announcing the same change, let me know which version you like better.

More from The Verge:

From: Sundar

Subject: TGIF and internal forums

[TL;DR - We’re going to make changes to TGIF and offer a new mix of internal forums in 2020. We’ll solicit your feedback along the way.]

Hi Googlers,

The last month has made me proud to be a Googler in so many ways: we’ve substantially improved our core Search product thanks to our advances in ML. And we’ve made an incredible breakthrough in quantum computing that will give us an entirely new way of solving computational problems in the years ahead. Both of these milestones show how our scale allows us to invest in long-term technology problems to drive significant improvements.

But in other places -- like TGIF -- our scale is challenging us to evolve. TGIF has traditionally provided a place to come together, share progress, and ask questions, but it’s not working in its current form. Here are some of the biggest challenges:

First, people come to TGIF with different expectations. Some people come to hear more about Google’s product launches and business strategies, others come to hear answers on other topics. By splitting the difference every week, we’re not serving either purpose very well.

Second, we’re unfortunately seeing a coordinated effort to share our conversations outside of the company after every TGIF. I know this is new information to many of you, and it has affected our ability to use TGIF as a forum for candid conversations on important topics.

Third, as the company has scaled up and spread out geographically, the audience has steadily declined. Only about 25% of us watch TGIF any given week, compared to 80% a decade ago. In contrast, Googlers are more engaged in local and PA all-hands.

This engagement in product and functional area meetings is a natural and positive evolution for us. When we know the people in a discussion and understand their context, we can have more substantive and richer conversations focused around the work we do for our users. We’re going to keep investing in our PA and functional all-hands and make sure that Google leaders (including me) make more regular appearances there. Of course, we still need some company-wide moments to share product and business strategy, celebrate great work, learn from our failures, and ask tough questions. So we’re going to try something different for 2020:

TGIF will become a monthly meeting focused on product and business strategy, with Q&A on the topics being discussed.

We’ll keep holding regular Social TGIFs in offices around the world (this is really important, and is how the original concept of TGIF began).

We’ll continue to hold town halls on important workplace issues.

And, we’ll keep exploring new ways to communicate at scale to a global company of 100,000+ people across multiple timezones. One specific thing we’d like to do is share more videos (like this one on quantum computing) to give insight into the work our teams are doing.

We’re hoping this mix of forums will provide a better experience for Googlers. We know you have only so much time to attend meetings and we want to spend it well. We also have to account for how we spend our time as a company. In fact, we owe it to our users to be relentlessly focused on our mission and our goal to build a more helpful Google for everyone.

Since we’re trying something new, we’ll get your feedback as we roll these forums out. The TGIF team will set up some small group discussions to hear from Googlers across the company. If you want to share input, visit go/internal-forums.

We have become the company we are today by creatively tackling important problems head on -- it’s how we evolve. We now have the opportunity to shape the kind of company we want to be in the future by investing in better ways to communicate at scale. Look forward to working with you all to do this.

--Sundar

So much fun doing "what he said" vs "what he wanted to say."  I'm glad Google is making a change for things that no longer work. Evolve or die.


The Removal of McDonald's CHRO Underscores Increased Expectations of HR...

In case you missed it, I shared some thoughts on company romance for managers of people yesterday, with the firing of the CEO of McDonald's as the backdrop.

On a related note, it was reported on Monday that the company's CHRO - David Fairhurst - had opted Wiredinto leave the company. Here's a quick rundown from the Wall Street Journal, then let's discuss:

"McDonald's said its top human-resources executive has left the company, days after the burger giant fired its chief executive, Steve Easterbrook, because of his relationship with an employee.

McDonald’s said Chief People Officer David Fairhurst left the company on Monday, without providing any details of the reasoning behind his departure. A McDonald’s representative said Mr. Fairhurst’s exit wasn’t related to the firing of Mr. Easterbrook.

New CEO Chris Kempczinski said in an email to employees Monday that Mr. Fairhurst was moving on from McDonald’s after 15 years of service, and had helped enhance the company’s brand. Mason Smoot, a McDonald’s senior vice president and company employee since 1994, was elevated to Mr. Fairhurst’s role on an interim basis, Mr. Kempczinski said.

Mr. Fairhurst didn’t respond to requests for comment. He had worked with Mr. Easterbrook for McDonald’s in the U.K. and was promoted to the top human-resources job soon after Mr. Easterbrook became CEO in 2015."

Did Fairhurst leave for reasons unrelated to the firing of the CEO for an inappropriate relationship? While that's possible, it's also unlikely.

Here's the top possible reasons for the departure of Fairhurst:

  1. He knew about the relationship and didn't escalate it appropriately.
  2. He didn't know about the relationship, but should have based on the circumstances.
  3. The board didn't evaluate whether he knew or not, they just decided he couldn't stay based on his long-term relationship with the CEO and the sensitivity of the issue related to the responsibility of the HR Function.

Regardless of the reason, the separation of McDonald's CHRO Fairhurst is a visible reminder of a shifting landscape for HR leaders. When it comes to issues of professional conduct in the C-Suite, we're increasingly being held accountable for the actions of the leaders we support. If we know of an issue, it's our responsibility to bring it up.  But more importantly, it's our job to be wired in to what's going on. At the end of the day, if we're not connected enough to have the information we need, we're going to be held accountable when bad stuff happens.

Fair? Maybe, maybe not. But it's the reality in the new world, and the removal of the McDonald's CHRO underscores the need to be wired in and take action swiftly.


9 Faces of HR Book Update: Is Salesforce Making Progress on Diversity Since Hiring a Chief Equality Officer?

One of the cool things about writing a book that does at least reasonably well is you start to get questions flowing in about the content you included. When I wrote The 9 Faces of HR, I alternated for a good bit of the book between serious chapter and a more pithy, fun "bonus chapter" (but let's face it, I had a lot of fun and took plenty of liberties in the "serious" chapters as well).

I'm going to start sharing my responses to some of the questions I get in my inbox and on LinkedIn. Here's one about my references to Salesforce in one of the bonus chapters of The 9 Faces of HR.

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

Hi Kris -

I just finished reading your book and I do believe it will help me raise my awareness of my own profile and my peers. Since 2016, are you aware if Salesforce actually improved in terms of diversity in the aftermaths of naming a "Chief Equality Officer"?

Thanks, Jenny

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

(Note - if you don't have my book, there's a bonus chapter on Salesforce naming a "Chief Equality Officer" as a strategy to take credit for what they do well, in an effort to take the focus off of broad diversity reporting in Silicon Valley that always looks horrid).

Hi Jenny -

Thanks for dropping the note and reading my book. The year by year numbers are hard to find - but you can find the Salesforce and Google diversity numbers in the links below for the last reporting period.  See the links below (email subscribers click through for charts/images if you don't see them below) and go about halfway down ("see where we are today" for SF, "workforce representation" for Google) to compare.  Salesforce remains whiter and heavier in male representation than Google, with the increased diversity at Google being all from the Asian/Indian category.  Shows how hard it is to make progress in the talent pools in tech and in the bay area, I think.  Links and graphics below:

For Salesforce:

https://www.salesforce.com/company/equality/#eq-sf-data

SF


Leadership Signals Week: Steph Curry Says "Bye" to an Unlikable Peer...

Capitalist Note: It's "Leadership Signals Week" here at the HR Capitalist, where I talk about things I've seen leaders communicate over the last couple of weeks that speak volumes about what they want their followers to think.

Communication matters if you're a leader. It's the most visible sign of what you believe, and it drives the intensity and beliefs of those that choose to follow you. Don't be fooled into thinking all communication is part of a formal plan. Some leadership signals are purposeful, others just happen organically.

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

Next up on Leadership Signals Week - Pro Basketball (NBA) star Steph Curry (Golden State Warriors).

This isn't a sports post. It's a post about the signals that leaders send when important team members Curry (unpopular to some or all in your company) decide to leave the company.

The history of the Golden State Warriors has a dramatic arc over the last 5 years. Led by the always likable and role-model worthy Curry, the Warriors won the 2015 NBA Championship, then reached the finals in 2016 - but lost to the Lebron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers. Along the way, Steph Curry was the NBA season MVP in 2015 and 2016.

Great success to be sure. But after the 2016 Finals loss, Golden State did the unthinkable, picking up another top five player in free agency - Kevin Durant. The roster addition of Durant resulted in two more titles in 2017 and 2018, before injuries resulted in a loss in the finals last summer (2019).

But along the way there was drama. Durant was known to be moody, petulant and hard to please. While the addition of top talent in Durant made the healthy version of the Warriors all but unbeatable, the work product wasn't the same as in 2015 and 2016.  Less sharing, less collaboration and less fun.  The business version? We're stronger than we've ever been as a company, but man, the old days were the glory days - and that executive sure is grumpy as hell.

Flash forward to late last summer, and Durant chose to leave the Warriors in free agency. This combined with other injuries and competitive pressures means the Warriors aren't the team they used to be.

But leadership signals are still important - so in the Warriors first preseason game (and first game without the moody Durant) in a new arena, Steph Curry sent the following message (email subscribers click through if you don't see the video below or click this link to get the video on Twitter):

The message? "The person that brought everyone down isn't here anymore. I'm in charge and work is about to become a lot more fun for you."

Curry's quote after the game: “That was choreographed since, like, yesterday. I was just going to shoot it. Christen Chase Center the right way. Obviously it went airball, but obviously I thought it was fitting to take a wild shot like that and get everybody excited.”

What Curry doesn't say is that there's zero chance he takes that shot if Durant is still a part of the team. Curry had a long history of trying to keep Durant engaged by deferring to him and making sure he felt like a leader the team needed. It wasn't enough - Durant was moody and difficult as a teammate.

Things that could happen in your company when a leader with low approval levels decides (or is asked) to leave:

--The old leader didn't like any music at any company function. First all-hands meeting, the leaders that take over blast Van Halen from the speakers.

--The old leader had a parking spot upfront. The leaders that take over turn that into an "employee of the week" parking spot.

--The old leader didn't like to participate in recognition activities. The leaders that take over do a recognition event within the first week. With music.

You get the vibe. When grumpy, unlikable leaders leave, a celebration of sorts might be in order.  

Steph Curry sent a leadership signal with his first shot that win or lose, this season was going to be fun. Buckle up! Ding-Dong, the grumpy witch is dead took another job on the East Coast!