Ask The HR Capitalist: I Work at Tesla, and I'm Tired of the S**t...

From the mailbag:
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KD -

I first ran into the HR Capitalist based on you writing on Tesla and our founder Elon Musk.  I work in The_doctor_is_in a professional grade position managing people in our Fremont location. I've been at Tesla for a little under 8 months, and I'm exhausted. While I expected the pace to be fast, the blurred line between work and life is tough for even me - a long time believer that people who work hard get the most done and deserve the rewards.  While I love the Tesla mission and product, the grind is too much.  Based on what I've described about myself, what advice can you give me for the best way to leave?  I almost quit before the holidays, because the end of year at Tesla is a big bag of coal for most employees.  I've never been at a job less than 3 years, but there's no way in hell I can make it that long here.

--Name Withheld by KD

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Hey My Friend- 

It's a tough spot for sure, but I've got a couple of things for you to consider:

--Don't quit before you have another job. It's always easier to get a job when you already have a job, and if you quit, there's always people who will hold it against you that you didn't stick it out.  

--Don't quit or take another job before you get to the 1-year mark in your current role at Tesla. Based on what I hear from people like you, 1 year at Tesla is like 7 years everywhere else.  If you can get to the 1-year mark and then accept another position at another company, it automatically crosses a threshold of acceptability in the marketplace, and you'll carry that premium for the rest of your career on your resume.

--Since you're a manager of people, don't forget others are facing the same struggle. The more you help them and listen, the more you'll be providing therapy for yourself as well.

In short, start your job search in earnest at 11 months and leave after you cross the one-year mark. It's cool that you did the Tesla thing, but if it's eating you up, find someone who values that experience (many will in the marketplace) and make your move. But you need to survive until you get to the year mark at Tesla.  #optics

--KD


Comparing Job Offers: Always Pick The Best Boss...

From our Kinetix Tips series (email subscribers click through for photo):

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 6.54.10 PM

Of course, I was operating with limited characters in that space, so one elaboration. A potential boss's comfort with that question really doesn't include him automatically saying "yes".  The comfortable potential boss reflects on that question and compares the good and bad he/she brings to the table.

A quick "yes" to the question, "are you a good/best boss?", probably means they're not great at managing talent. Because it's way too hard to be that cocky about being good.

 


AWAY BAGS: When Your Horrible People Practices Turbocharge Sales...

They say there's no such thing as bad publicity. That might be true.

For proof, look to Away Travel, which is the maker of the ultra-hip and ultra-cool Away Suitcase.  It's a Away trendy product, but one that I had an only passing awareness of.

Of course, that's before the shit hit the fan. My awareness is incredible now - more on that later.

Many of your are aware of a scathing article about Away that published on The Verge, detailing a bullying culture based on the communication tool of Slack. The gist is this - Away promoted radical transparency and attempted to force all communication on the public tool that is Slack, and as a result, there was little to no privacy in communications. When a diverse set of employees tried to set up their own private Slack channel, a high ranking exec popped in to monitor/participate in the group, even though she didn't fit the diversity the group was based on.

A few days later, members of the group started being fired. The Verge article hit, and it was an internet sensation for a couple of days. If you want more detail about what's being called a toxic culture at Away, go read the Verge article now.

But I'm here to talk about what happened AFTER that article hit.  Here's the chain of events that I saw:

1.  Within days, CEO Steph Korey stepped down amid criticism of the ruthless internal culture at the luggage startup she co-founded.

2.  Away named a new CEO.

3.  I listen to a pretty ruthless podcast called Pivot with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway. They had Away on their list of things to talk about during the week it all broke. That wasn't going to go well for Away, because these two are ruthless with bad stuff at companies.

4.  Away didn't run. Instead, they leaned in and sponsored the podcast. I've never heard Away as a sponsor of this podcast, so I'm assuming they bought the ad rights to the episode that aired with their news.

5. Scott Galloway, one of the hosts, did a live read as a result - in his usual personality, having fun with it.  They had already made the call with the CEO, so the talk was more about the action the company took rather than the bad cultural stuff.

The lesson here? If you act quick enough (fire the people in question) and lean in to the coverage, you can actually create buzz around a product and turn the negative talk into a business opportunity.

Here's what I did after hearing the podcast - 

  1. I went and checked out the product.
  2. I'm at least 50/50 to buy an Away bag as a result.
  3. I never would have gotten that close to purchase without the hard lead in on the podcast and controversy by Away.

The lesson?  Act fast when bad stuff happens and don't hide.

If you run the right type of business, you might just end up with a boost to your business. While that's not a recommendation to bully people on Slack, it's a case study on how to react when bad stuff happens.

BONUS READING: A Guide to Away Bag Knockoffs on Amazon


BREAKING: Big Data Is Going to Tell Us Our Workforce is Hopelessly Flawed...

If you're a leader, you probably understand that the workplace is flawed. Whether you believe it is merely flawed or hopelessly flawed probably depends on your natural outlook and disposition.

Glass half-full? You know the workplace is flawed but you're confident we can make it better. Glass half-empty? You're jaded and shaking your head at what Skynetgifyou see.

But there is one emerging trend that's going to make even the most optimistic, Ned-Flanders types incredibly jaded.

Big Data.

If you mine the data from the systems you have access to, you're going to see a lot of ugly humanity. The smarter we get about ways to mine data and automate observations/trends, the more access we're going to have to the underbelly of human nature at work. Once these systems advance to a certain level, the only thing saving us from becoming incredibly jaded is....a Concern for privacy.

Case in point - a company named Synergy Sky, which has the following mission:

Synergy SKY that can leverage data from sensors, behaviour and your calendar to make all meetings more efficient.

We make use of the smart sensors in Cisco Room Series and third-party sensors for all other meeting rooms to achieve smarter utilization of meeting resources, through features such as no-show detection and booking vs actual usage reports.

Daaaaaaamn. Here's a recent press release on a product from Synergy Sky called Synergy of Things. Enjoy the total commitment to full control and the need for perfect efficiency:

New data from meetings technology providers Synergy SKY reveals 10% of workers are regularly booking fake meetings into their diary to keep colleagues thinking they are busier than they really are. 

The study conducted by Synergy SKY, who's meeting technology Synergy of Things tracks almost every possible conference call metric including “no-show detection” allowing managers to see stats on meeting attendance, reveals the average UK worker that books fake meetings is clocking up some 3 hours a week or over 150 hours a year in "fake meeting time". That works out at just over a whole month of deliberately wasted meeting-resources & time per year!

The study which analysed over 2500 meetings conducted via its software in 2019 was able to identify clusters of repeat meeting behaviour and it was on this basis Synergy SKY decided to conduct this study and uncover the truth.

Synergy SKY’s products Synergy Analyze and Synergy of Things were able to analyse over 2500 meetings and look at how many meetings were being booked but nobody was attending as the software tracks physical attendance through motion detection in meeting conference rooms and seamlessly synchronises with users personal calendars therefore allowing more insight into meeting events and workers schedules. 

It's coming for all of us. There's going to be as much data as we want, and we're going to have to make decisions on what data matters and what doesn't. If you believe that fake meetings are a problem, you'll want this type of solution. Of course, what you do with that information and how you engage your organization with this access to data depends a lot on your values as a company or leader.

You know the values I'm talking about...Trust, Respect for Privacy, Autonomy...LOL.

Put on your helmet folks, the privacy issues you've been exposed to are only the tip of the iceberg.


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.


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.


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 Tyranny of Accent Walls In Corporate America...

True story for a Monday morning.

My wife said the following over the weekend:

"I'm painting an accent wall in the bedroom." Accent wall

My response:

"Are you ###ing kidding me?"

She was kind of taken aback by the velocity of my response.

Now, for the record, my wife has much better taste of all things design than I do. She has not, however, been slung around by corporate America to the same extent as I have.

It's not that accent walls are wrong. If that's the new trend in home design, so be it. But if you've spent the amount of time I have in office parks and mid-tier hotels across America as I have, you understand the following truth:

Accent walls in corporate America are the opiate of the masses. A design element to trick you into thinking the vibe in a company is upbeat, the sky is the limit and the culture is engaging.

It's not that the presence of an accent wall means those things aren't true - we have some at Kinetix. It's just that the correlation of those positive cultural items and an accent wall is "zero", which is to say there's no relationship at all.

The dirty little secret is that your culture comes down to the quality of your managers of people, and the platform you give them to understand your expectations about how they deal and talk with their employees. I did a whole training series on that being the reality of your culture.

Need some other things that are as cool as your accent wall, but have a zero correlation to great culture? I thought you'd never ask. Here you go:

1--Cool furniture not related to the actual workspace people work at.  Love this one - there's nothing easier to dress up an office than slinging some furniture in corners while Tammy still has gum stuck under her cube desk that's 7 years old.

2--Foosball. Seems cool. Feels cool. I'm undefeated. Zero correlation with culture.

3--Open floor plans that ditched the cubes (even low lying ones) and forced you to work at tables. Man, if you work like that, I'm sorry. Hit me on Slack and tell me about it. I blame farm to table.

4--A proclamation that you are reducing email and putting quick hitting updates and comms on Slack or another similar tool. See what I did there? I presumed if you were working at tables with your brethren that you also work on Slack. So predictable. Sorry homeslice - just because you do less email than your competitors doesn't make you better culturally. Trendy? Yes. More productive? Show me the data.

The quality of your culture really all comes down to the quality of the conversations your managers have with their people. Are they two-way conversations? Does the employee get to come of with some of the ideas?  I could go on, but you get the drift.

As for that accent wall, I'll probably leave it up to Mrs. Capitalist. But if she starts naming the rooms in the house like we do conference rooms, that's where I'm drawing the line. And no, I don't need your recommendations for what a bedroom would be named. That's why the comments are "off" on this post.

KD out.


The 4 Rules of Office/Company Romance If You're a Manager of People (McDonalds CEO Version)...

Quick story from the Capitalist.

It's early in my career, and there I am one night - trying to outwork what I don't know as a young professional. I'm in the office about 930pm (no one else there, humblebrag), doing work for a VP level partner who had taken me under his wing. I'm heading back from the restroom, where I have to go the edge of the elevator corridor to hit the main doors of our office and there it was.

The president of our division (mid 50's) getting into the elevator with a mid-20's administrative assistant from a department managed by one of his Romance direct reports. Meh. Like a pro, I kept moving and acted like I saw nothing. It never came up. 

Of course, it doesn't mean they were heading to a Holiday Inn Express or had just treated his office as the same. But c'mon, he was kind of a sleeze towards women and they didn't really have any reason to be connected for work.

In case you missed it, McDonald's has fired CEO Steve Easterbrook over his relationship with another employee, according to a press release from the company over the weekend. McDonald’s shares sank 2.3% in premarket at 10 a.m. in London, or 5 a.m. ET, which could wipe about $3.4 billion off the company’s value.

McDonald's had been in a period of success under the leadership of Easterbrook.  Now, it's thrown into a period of turmoil and 3.4B is gone.  Crazy.

Seems like a good time to set up some rules for office romance. Note that these rules don't apply to everyone - if you're a rank and file employee, you do you.  No, these rules of office romance are for managers of people only - let's face it - you're different, the stakes are higher and there are special rules for you.

Here's your 4 Rules of Office/Company Romance If You're a Manager of People:

1--Never date someone who reports to you. This seems obvious, and they'll be some who email stories of lifelong romances that started this way. I hear you. I'm glad you found love in all the wrong places. For everyone else, especially in the time of #metoo, it's a bet - your job/career vs your rationalization that your "in-team" romance is going to lead to Mr./Mrs. Right.

2--Don't date someone in the company (on someone's else's team) if you're a manager of people inside a company with less than 250 employees.  That number is a bit random, but it feels right. The standard line will be don't have a relationship with someone on your team, but people on other teams might be OK.  Key word is "might".  The bigger the company, the more conflicts with people on other teams won't be a problem.  Get below 250 people in your company (and certainly in companies with 100 or less employees), and you might as well be dating someone on your team.

3--The bigger your job, the less latitude you have to date people in your company. It's called leadership, and your decision to reach down 2-3 levels in your division to find love and companionship looks weak and sleazy. We thought you were the one to lead this (business unit, division, location, company), now we've got people talking about how much time Jan is speaking time in your office. Unfair? Maybe. That's burden is what the money is for.

4--Report any relationship to HR and consider getting acknowledgements and waivers signed. So here we are - you're in a relationship in the company, and you've had the wisdom to drop by HR and let them know. Without knowing what policies you have on this, I can tell you you've done the right thing.  As a manager of people, you need to transfer the ticking time bomb of office romance to the HR team. What will they do?  Probably nothing - but disclosing the relationship means you were above-board and sought counsel on the right way to proceed. 

5--(Bonus) - Don't be sleazy or give people the creepers as you consider office romances.  Or just don't even consider it as a leader/manager of people, maybe?

Welcome to the show, kid. You're a manager of people, and when it comes to office romance, managers of people get treated differently. You have more power than you think you do, and with that in mind, there are rules.

It's not show friends, it's show business.