The Cancel Culture Movement Will Destroy the Workplace (…unless we stop it now!)

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Dave Chappelle is one of the last few great comedians in my opinion because he is anti-PC and willing to offend everyone in order to spark conversation on meaningful topics. At least, some of the time. Case in point, here is a quote from his Netflix special – “Sticks and Stones.” (NSFW) I have censored some of the language, but I think you still get the gist of what he’s saying.

Chappelle: Tonight I’m going to try some impressions out. (crowd cheers) …I want to see if you can guess who it is I’m doing an impression of. All right? Let me get into character. You gotta guess who it is though. (crowd chuckles) Okay, here it goes.

Chappelle: Uh, duh. Hey, durr! If you do anything wrong in your life, duh, and I find out about it, I’m gonna try to take everything away from you and I don’t care when I find out. Could be today, tomorrow, 15, 20 years from now. If I find out, you’re {expletive} —duh-finished.

Chappelle: Who… Who’s that?

Crowd: (yells out) Trump!

Chappelle: That’s you! (crowd laughs) That’s what the audience sounds like to me. (more laughter) That’s why I don’t come out doing comedy all the time ‘cause y’all {expletive} is the worst {expletive} I’ve ever tried to entertain in my {expletive} life!

Chappelle was deftly calling out the cancel culture and how it seeks to erase people from the public square when certain views are expressed. Some see cancel culture as a mob mentality whereas others see it as a long overdue way of speaking truth to power. Politically speaking, both conservatives and liberals have complained that cancel culture has gone too far. And yet, it persists. I am going to explain why I think that is.

Dictionary.com defines cancel culture as the “popular practice of withdrawing support for public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.”

In other words, someone says or does something that is offensive to someone and this turns into a widespread boycott of that person’s work. Here are 2 recent examples…

Robert Unanue, the CEO of Goya Foods, announced a massive donation of their products to food banks across the country, he also praised President Trump. During his remarks, he noted that “Trump was ‘a builder,’ like his own illustrious grandfather, and called for Americans to pray for their president.” This triggered a boycott initiative by some in the Hispanic community. To quote CNN

In an interview with Fox News Friday, Unanue said he was “not apologizing,” and called the boycott movement “suppression of speech.”

Unanue claimed a double standard in the reaction to his laudatory remarks about Trump, noting he accepted an invitation from Michelle Obama in 2012 to an event in Tampa, Florida, to promote the former first lady’s healthy-eating initiative.

“You’re allowed to talk good or talk praise to one president but you’re not — when I was called to be part of this commission to aid in economic and educational prosperity and you make a positive comment, all the sudden that’s not acceptable,” Unanue told Fox News. “If you’re called by the president of the United States, you’re going to say, ‘No I’m sorry, I’m busy, no thank you?’ I didn’t say that to the Obamas and I didn’t say that to President Trump.”

Saying something offensive to someone can get you canceled just as not saying something can get you canceled. It is the imagined slights that are the most insidious. Consider the controversy over the Young Adult book – “Blood Heir” that attracted a lot of drama because the fantasy novel did not include any racism in it. The website – Reason discussed the issue

Amélie Wen Zhao, a woman of Chinese descent who was born in Paris and raised in Beijing, had won herself an enviable three-book deal for an Anastasia-tinged adventure: “In the Cyrilian Empire,” went the publication materials, “Affinites are reviled and enslaved. Their varied abilities to control the world around them are unnatural—dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, might be the most monstrous of them all. Her deadly Affinity to blood is her curse and the reason she has lived her life hidden behind palace walls.” The adventure kicks off when Ana’s father is murdered and she is framed, forcing her to flee. The first book was due out in June.

At some point in January, though, there emerged a vague Twitter-centered whisper campaign against Zhao….

It was open season from there: People picked over the limited information about the book to find something, anything, to justify being angry. L.L. McKinney, a Y.A. author who recently published her own debut novel and who tends to be an active participant in these pile-ons, noted that some of the publicity material described Blood Heir’s world as one in which “oppression is blind to skin color.” “….someone explain this to me. EXPLAIN IT RIGHT THE FUQ NOW,” she tweeted, accusing the author of “internalized racism and anti-blackness.” (The logic appears to be that because our world has racism, it’s unacceptable to imagine a world that does not.)

Zhao decided not to publish Blood Heir, then announced it would be published after all—pending a thorough review by sensitivity readers.

In true Carson King/Aaron Calvin style, one of Zhao’s main critics, a writer named Kosoko Jackson, himself became a target of the cancelers after his novel foolishly included a Muslim villain. How dare he.

The same cancel culture spirit is also in the workplace. The first time I witnessed it, I was not aware of what I was seeing or if I remembered the incident correctly. Golden Girl Finance helped my memory.

In 2012, Adam Mark Smith, CFO of a medical device manufacturer in Arizona, was fired after this video of him haranguing with a drive thru worker at fast food chain Chick Fil A about the company’s anti-gay bias, went viral. By the following day, his company had received hundreds of messages, including bomb and death threats, from the public demanding his termination. Smith was fired and spent the following two years struggling to find work and living on food stamps and eventually leaving the industry.

Since then, there have been several examples of people losing employment because certain people did not agree with their viewpoints. The website Reason reported on how a museum curator was force to resign over racist remarks that were arguably, nothing of the kind.

Until last week, Gary Garrels was senior curator of painting and sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). He resigned his position after museum employees circulated a petition that accused him of racism and demanded his immediate ouster.

“Gary’s removal from SFMOMA is non-negotiable,” read the petition. “Considering his lengthy tenure at this institution, we ask just how long have his toxic white supremacist beliefs regarding race and equity directed his position curating the content of the museum?”

This accusation—that Garrels’ choices as an art curator are guided by white supremacist beliefs—is a very serious one. Unsurprisingly, it does not stand up to even minimal scrutiny.

The petitioners cite few examples of anything even approaching bad behavior from Garrels. Their sole complaint is that he allegedly concluded a presentation on how to diversify the museum’s holdings by saying, “don’t worry, we will definitely still continue to collect white artists.”

Garrels has apparently articulated this sentiment on more than one occasion. According to artnet.com, he said that it would be impossible to completely shun white artists, because this would constitute “reverse discrimination.” That’s the sum total of his alleged crimes. He made a perfectly benign, wholly inoffensive, obviously true statement that at least some of the museum’s featured artists would continue to be white. The petition lists no other specific grievances.

Sometimes, it is not what you say that offends the cancel culture movement but how you say it; even if you are in agreement with them. Case in point, Reason also reported on the fate of David Shor.

A week ago, as protests over the unjust police killing of George Floyd took place in major cities across the country, Shor—a 28-year-old political scientist at the Democratic consulting firm Civic Analytics—tweeted some observations about the successes and failures of various movements. He shared research by Princeton University’s Omar Wasow, who has found that violent protests often backfire whereas nonviolent protests are far more likely to succeed. The impulse behind Shor’s tweet was a perfectly liberal one: He feels progressive reforms are more palatable to the public when protesters eschew violence.

But many progressive activists on social media didn’t care whether the impulse was liberal, or even whether it reflected reality. They denounced Shor as a racist for daring to scrutinize the protesters, even if his aim was to make them more effective. One activist accused Shor of using his “anxiety and ‘intellect’ as a vehicle for anti-blackness.” Then she tagged Civis Analytics, and invited the company to “come get your boy.”

Get him, they did. Civis Analytics promptly fired Shor.

And one more example, everything old is new again when it comes to being offended. Take for example Niel Golightly he lost his job over sentiments he expressed over 3 decades ago.

Boeing Co’s (BA.N) communications chief Niel Golightly abruptly resigned on Thursday, following an employee’s complaint over an article the former U.S. military pilot wrote 33 years ago arguing women should not serve in combat.

According to an excerpt on the U.S. Naval Institute website, the December 1987 article titled “No Right to Fight” said: “At issue is not whether women can fire M-60s, dogfight MiGs, or drive tanks. Introducing women into combat would destroy the exclusively male intangibles of war fighting and the feminine images of what men fight for – peace, home, family.”

Golightly told staff in an email seen by Reuters on Thursday that the exclusion of women at the time was “government policy and broadly supported in society. It was also wrong.”

To some, these actions are borderline insane in a country where free speech is sacred. I think there are various reasons why this phenomenon is happening and that they can all be boiled down to political and psychological advantages. From a political standpoint, the partisans of cancel culture are using the threat of job loss and other sanctions to bully people into social and political conformity. Why? By blocking the free exchange of ideas, they are able to win ideological arguments by preventing them in the first place. Yet, I see this wave of thought policing as being even more insidious than that. It is also a means of self-gratification at the expense of others. Narcissism at its finest.

Rob Hendeson, a Ph.D student at the University of Cambridge, alludes to this in his Psychology Today article – “5 Reasons Why People Love Cancel Culture.” Here are a couple of points from his piece.

Cancel culture increases social status. The most powerful motive underpinning cancel culture is social status. Research reveals that sociometric status (respect and admiration from our peers) is more important to our sense of well-being than socioeconomic status. Furthermore, a recent study found that a high social class predicts a greater desire for wealth and status than a low social class. Put differently, it is those who already have status and money who have a stronger craving for status and money relative to other people. For many affluent people, that drive is how they got to their lofty positions in the first place. Aggravating this drive is that they are typically surrounded by people just like them—their peers and competitors are also affluent status-maximizers. They are constantly seeking new ways to either move upward or avoid slipping downward. For social strivers, cancel culture has created new opportunities to move up by taking others down.

Cancel culture reduces the social status of enemies. Plainly, if there is an activity that will elevate the status of oneself or one’s group, people will do it. One approach to elevation is to do something good. But doing something good requires effort and the possibility of failure. Fortunately, another option exists: Broadcasting the bad behavior of others. This method works because social status is relative. One person losing social rank is the same as another gaining it. If you’re a 6 on the social-status ladder, working up to a 9 is hard. But scheming to bring a 9 down to a 3 is easier and more thrilling. It is much easier to unite people around bringing a 9 down to a 3 than to lift themselves up from a 6 to a 9. Additionally, people are slow to give moral praise for a good act and quick to assign moral blame for a bad one. The relative difficulty of doing something good and the prolonged waiting period to receive credit for it is why cancel culture has flourished. It offers quicker social rewards. Indeed, research shows that people engage in moral grandstanding to enhance their social rank.

Like so many others, I think the cancel culture movement has gone too far. I look forward to a day where civil debate, a free exchange of ideas and a collective acceptance of diverse thought is the norm. Alas, the cynical side of me agrees with the following quotes from the Daily Wire and Time, respectively.

“Sadly, it’s reasonable to assume that cancel culture and its wild arsenal of accusations of racism, sexism, and privilege will infest the average American workplace wholesale soon. Worse, the massive corporate virtue signaling amid the protests will only enable such accusations. As companies like Apple, Amazon, and Starbucks insist on pursuing their cynical brand of “woke capitalism,” views and opinions that exist outside the tidal progressive narrative will be summarily dismissed. Companies simply don’t want to risk their bottom line over bad PR.”

“In an age when companies have detailed information on customers’ ages, incomes and political persuasions, they’re calculating that these socially aware consumers are more lucrative than those who might be put off by social-justice campaigns.”

In other words, like so many ills of this world, it comes down to money. As soon as supporting Cancel Culture becomes too much of a financial liability to corporate giants then, change will come. Why does it take that to remove this scourge? What happened to principled beliefs? Hmm… I guess they were left at the bank. 

*This article was originally posted on the Proactive Talent blog.

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How Workplace Classism Is Damaging Your Employer Brand

The world is changing right before our very eyes. The Coronavirus Covid-19 Pandemic has wreaked havoc on our way of life and threatens our future in ways we can immediately recognize. The number of people unemployed, the list of businesses closing, and the overall uncertainty being just a few. However, said calamity, is exacting a higher toll on some, more than others. An existing class divide is becoming even more pronounced and the repercussions, of which will be felt in society in general, will make an indelible mark on the workplace. How? Well, I think we will see a rise in classism and that will mean that companies will have to be ever more vigilant in how they protect their employer brand.

CLASSISM ON THE UPSWING

If you think about it, the Coronavirus pandemic has rather quickly divided our world into two camps; those who can work remotely and those who cannot. If you are in the camp of people who can work from home then, you are dealing with delayed business plans, travel restrictions, isolation from extended family and friends and as such, your social distancing game is solid. You likely get paid time off and if your job is not endangered, self-isolation is (more or less) an economic luxury for you. Indeed, Gallup found that 71 percent of the people making more than $180K can work from home during the pandemic, compared with just 41 percent of those making $24K annually.  And of course, there is the added perk that you will likely not get sick.

But what about those in the essential workforce? Listen to these quotes from “The Atlantic” article – “How the Coronavirus Could Create a New Working Class.”

The past few weeks have exposed just how much a person’s risk of infection hinges on class. Though people of all incomes are at risk of being laid off, those who can work from home are at least less likely to get sick. The low-income workers who do still have jobs, meanwhile, are likely to be stuck in close quarters with other humans. For example, grocery-store clerks face some of the greatest exposure to the coronavirus, aside from health-care workers. “Essential” businesses—grocery stores, pharmacies—are about the only places Americans are still permitted to go, and their cashiers stand less than an arm’s length from hundreds of people a day.

At the same time, it isn’t as if grocery workers can simply stop coming to work. More self-checkouts could be used and more contact-free deliveries could be made, but someone has to get the Cheerios off the truck and onto the shelves. We are, through this virus, seeing who the truly “essential” workers are. It’s not the people who get paid to write tweets all day, but the people who keep the tweeters in chickpeas and Halo Top.

When I hear about the plight of essential workers, my heart always goes out to them because not only do they have to deal with health concerns for themselves but, they also worry about bringing home illnesses to their family. This is especially true with Nurses. But, you know what else I think about? I think about the negative effects the Coronavirus is having on those who are unemployed, of which there are, at this point – over 20 million. The stress from not knowing how you are going to pay your bills can be unreal and debilitating. Yet, there are other consequences to consider as well, such as drug and alcohol abuse. Check out the video below from CBS New York.

Another negative effect of the Coronavirus, increased suicide. MSNBC reports on the alarming trend.

And another mental health issue related to the Coronavirus pandemic, one I had not considered, was PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Check out this quote from the CNBC article, “Could you get PTSD from your pandemic experience? The long-term mental health effects of coronavirus

After the SARS outbreak in 2003, both healthcare workers and people who were self-quarantined exhibited symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The Covid-19 pandemic could have a similar effect, according to experts. Even if you aren’t clinically diagnosed with PTSD, you may have a strong emotional reaction to the trauma of Covid-19 that can last long after an incident.

“When we think about traumatic events, it’s not just what the event is, it’s really your interpretation and what the event causes for you,” Luana Marques, clinical psychologist and associate professor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and president of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, tells CNBC Make It.

For example, healthcare workers providing frontline services, as well as people who have lost loved ones or jobs due to the disease may be at greater risk for developing long-term difficulties. Those who struggle with other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, or who have a prior history of trauma, may be at increased risk of more ongoing distress.

When the pandemic resides and the world returns to work, employees will bring with them unresolved mental health issues, potential substance abuse and the attitudes of some people, that they have been inconvenienced for long enough. You put all that together and you have a much different office than before. To put it simply, there will be people who just cannot deal with the changing realities and mentally bail out at work. Some of these people will be easy to identify but, a great many of them will not be. They will suffer in silence, a sort of, quiet rage, I think. How your company identifies, assists and includes them in your overall culture is what will be trumpeted to the masses. 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN CLASSISM HITS YOUR WORKPLACE? (OH WAIT, IT’S ALREADY THERE.)

Dictionary.com defines classism this way, “a biased or discriminatory attitude based on distinctions made between social or economic classes.” I agree with that definition and can attest to the impact of classism on society in general as well as the individual. The company – Executive Diversity Services discussed “Why Class is so important” on their website. I quote from it now.

Sometimes described as a “hidden” element that needs to be “uncovered” or made “visible”, a person’s experience of class can impact his or her behavior, value systems, and perceptions of self and others. Here are some ways class can have an impact:

      Affecting one’s relationships and communication with others, i.e. how we treat those around us

      Determining one’s own self-concept, confidence, and perception of ability to take on certain responsibilities, roles, or career goals

      Creating a sense of belonging or exclusion, due to one’s comfort with others or familiarity with professional or social environments

      Creating a sense of exclusion from one’s family or class of origin if one has changed social class through education, employment or life partnerships

      Influencing one’s perception of money, power, status, organizational structure and policies, and management hierarchy.

These impacts can be directly seen in a situation or can indirectly contribute to conflicts or misunderstandings and decreased performance, if not identified, understood, and consciously dealt with.

After reading that, I went down this rabbit hole of research on classism in the workplace and found a few interesting resources that were written years ago but somehow felt timely, as we gradually return to normal. I’ll explain what I mean, after I share three more quotes. This one from the aforementioned company – Executive Diversity Services.

Classism issues can be found not only within academic institutions, but also in corporate settings, in any workplace – and can often go unacknowledged. Patreese D. Ingram, a scholar from Penn State, explains that within almost every organization there exists a hierarchy amongst employees that can create a class system in itself. This hierarchy can be based on a person’s title, role, position, or function, and can cause “ some employees to feel like ‘somebodies’ and others to feel like ‘nobodies’”.

Ingram rationalizes that although rank is necessary within organizations, “rank-based mistreatment can result in lower levels of job satisfaction and performance” and can also lead to “lower levels of loyalty and commitment to the organization.”

The Business Times discussed “Class” in their piece – “Hidden rules of class affect workplace” and therein they said this…

Managers and supervisors must be aware of the hidden rules of their employees and be willing to teach them rules that bolster their success within the organization. For example, do your employees understand the organization’s unspoken rules about money? Those from poverty grew up with the notion that money was to be used, spentMiddle class norms suggest that money is to be budgeted and managed closelyWealth suggests that one should conserve and invest money. What’s right? Each is a viable use for money, but do your employees understand the views of your organization?

The same can be asked of the view of higher education. Middle class norms suggest that education is critical to success and making money. But to those from povertyeducation is more abstract, not a viable reality. For those from wealth, education is a necessary tradition for making and maintaining social connections.

And one more quote, this one from USAonRace.

The motto “rank has its privileges” finds its roots in classism. Your level or rank in an organization can mean that you are subject to different rules, or are offered different perks, and advantages, than those who are over you or under you on the organizational chart.

On its face, levelism does not sound like a bad thing. You earn your way to the top of the organization and each level you attain bears even greater rewards. Unfortunately, if you are thought to be unworthy of promotion due to your appearance, use of language, your sensibilities, or your approach to work, you will never be eligible for the perks given to those at the top. Furthermore, if you find yourself stuck at the bottom of the organization because you don’t have the budget for an impressive wardrobe or nice car, the perks you are offered often do not fit with your needs.

Those quotes really resonated with me because I can easily imagine those same issues being intensified in the post-Coronavirus era. For example, prior to the pandemic, many Americans lived paycheck to paycheck. No doubt, many of those returning to the workforce would have endured financial hardships that will impact their overall career. A few more thoughts…

  •       Returning workers may be disregarded for promotion (or recruitment) because they do not look the part; due to not having an impressive wardrobe or car. Items they may have lost in the carnage caused by the Coronavirus.
  •       Returning Executives might now have a survivalist mentality where their notion is to survive and save for another day rather than take a risk on a new idea. Without an occasional gamble, there are no rewards of upward mobility. So, their career and the company they manage, becomes stagnant.
  •       Labor and management might both have difficulty psychologically adjusting back to normal office operations whereas those who were already accustomed to working from home don’t miss a beat, get noticed and promoted. And the fate of those who have trouble adjusting back begin feeling like nobodies and become less invested in the success of the company, doing just enough to stay employed but no more.

Let’s add more to the story; this time from the quiet worker still recovering from economic hardship.  When it comes to job expenses, they are expected to pay up front and get reimbursed later. All of a sudden, working at that company is something they can’t afford yet at the same timethey cannot afford to quit.

What if there is a formal company gathering to celebrate Coronavirus survival and people are expected to dress up? Evening gowns and tuxedos are expensive, even if you rent them. So, some workers don’t attend which hurts their networking efforts inside the company and their careers are impacted.

And when it comes to recruiting, to quote Executive Diversity Services again, “…do [your] recruitment strategies only focus on Ivy League or private educational institutions? Are graduates from particular universities preferred over those who attend community colleges? Are those who take part in certain extra-curricular activities (i.e. philanthropic organizations) favored over those who had part-time jobs during school?)” I’ll add to those questions, are you ignoring people whose principal experience comes from gig work (like Uber or Instacart?).

It may be weird to ask that recruiting question now, when just a few months ago it was a candidate’s market. Now that the pendulum has swung back to the employer, there is a danger of old classist hiring practices to return as well.  Chief among them, devaluing the expertise of someone who was laid off in favor of someone who was not.  

And regarding that, I would caution companies to retain the practices pioneered and adopted when the unemployment rate was at a historic low. Back then, and it was only a few months ago, great emphasis was placed on the employee experience and how attractive your employer brand was. If you abandon that focus and return to the practice of taking jobseekers for granted then, you will wound your employer brand and make it even more difficult to recruit the best talent. 

All that to say, there are a lot of people hurting for work that can benefit your company; people who might not be able to present themselves as well as they could have pre-Corona. Be careful not to treat them as being in a lower class than you. Of course, you might not think that you do that.  Speaking of which…

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

JUST HOW CLASSIST ARE YOU?   

Okay, I’m going to just ask a few questions and make a few comments. You can answer or not, either way, I won’t know your answers unless you reach out to me. So, here we go. Just answer, yes or no, and see if you manage to surprise yourself.

  •  Do you know the names of people who “serve” you in your organization? (e.g., the janitor, the security guard, the receptionist?) If you don’t know the names of people who serve you EVERY WORKING DAY, then you might be classist.  If you greet them regularly and have had some conversations with them to the point that you know their children’s namesyou might not be.
  •       Do you speak to people who are higher than you in the organizational structure? (Senior managers, CEO, et cetera) If not, why not? They are people, just like you. If you somehow think that you are not good enough to talk to them, you might be classist. See, it works both ways. And even those who have status and advantages can feel isolated if people treat them like they are “untouchable.”
  •       Do you think that someone who doesn’t eat organically or in a ‘Healthy’ way means they’re lazy or don’t care about their health? If so, you might be classist because all the organic food I’ve seen is expensive compared to other items loaded with preservatives. That’s just how it is. Next time you’re in the grocery store, compare the prices for yourself.
  •       One last question. Do you think all homeless people are that way because they are lazy and/or substance abusers? If you said yes, then you might be classist because sometimes, just sometimes things happen through no fault of our own. Coronavirus for example. If the circumstances of this pandemic were to continue, that could become you or I.

If you had not considered before how Classism could be consciously or unconsciously affecting your employer brand, let’s have a conversation about it. (And by “us,” I mean my employer.) As we return to normal or rather, the new normal, your employer brand is more important than ever and you will need every advantage.

This article was originally posted on the Proactive Talent blog.

Do we need a law to mandate work-life balance?

Do we need a law to mandate work-life balance? In this episode, I discuss the “Right to Disconnect” bill being debated in New York City. Essentially, it says workers should not be required to answer emails or respond to work-related texts after official business hours. I also share insights from similar laws and business processes from around the world. Is this the future of work for the United States? If so, how will reducing work hours affect the bottom line? Tune in for a very interesting episode!

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Hi, I’m Jim Stroud and this is my podcast.

Finding a work-life balance, no pun intended, is a work in progress. And in a world where your work can follow you anywhere, finding this balance is becoming increasingly more difficult. Compared to the 38 countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the US comes in at number 30 for work-life balance. A couple of the reasons it is so low is because 11.4 percent of Americans work 50 or more hours per week, while they spend 11.4 hours for leisure and personal care daily. That’s a quote from Small Business Trends which coincides with some data from RescueTime, which is a software solution that helps you find work life balance by blocking distracting sites and giving you in-depth reports on exactly how you spend your time on digital devices. Here are a few of their statistics:

  • 28% of workers start their day before 8:30 AM (and 5% start before 7 AM)
  • 40% of people use their computers after 10 PM
  • 26% of work is done outside of normal working hours
  • 1% of our day is spent multitasking with communication tools

A lot of companies talk about work-life balance but based on the statistics I cited, maybe there should be a law mandating work-life balance. Actually, there is a bill being proposed in congress right now that may do that very thing. If it becomes law, how will that affect the future of work? I debate it after this special message.

According to Wikipedia, “The right to disconnect is a proposed human right regarding the ability of people to disconnect from work and primarily not to engage in work-related electronic communications such as e-mails or messages during non-work hours.” In March 2018, a “right to disconnect bill” was introduced before the New York City Council and is still under consideration at this point. If it were to pass, it would be “the first workers’ rights law of its kind in the United States — and would force many New York City employers to reevaluate their policies and culture.” Here’s a news clip talking about it. {Play the first 45 seconds}

I link to the bill in the show notes, available on JimStroud.com. But here are some interesting details within the fine print.

  • Employers can’t require employees to “access work-related electronic communications” outside of normal work hours; so when it comes to emails, text messages, or Skype or any type of electronic communications, the boss can send what they want but again, the worker is not required to respond.
  • No retaliation: Employers can’t punish employees for exercising their right to disconnect.
  • Should an employer require an employee to answer an email after hours (or some other electronic communication) they would face a fine of $250.
  • If an employer disciplines an employee—but doesn’t fire the employee—for failing to access off-hours work-related emails or texts, the employee would receive any lost wages and benefits plus $500 and other “equitable relief as appropriate” (in the case of an unlawful termination, that penalty would rise to $2,500).
  • Employers would also be subject to civil penalties payable to the city of New York if they violate the right to disconnect — up to $500 for the first instance and, for subsequent violations that occur within two years of any previous violation, up to $750 for the second and up to $1000 for each additional violation.

I imagine most of the people listening would be in favor of this type of law whereas others, would be curious as to how this affects the bottom line. Well, if hours were reduced, work productivity would likely increase. Case in point, Microsoft Japan generated a lot of buzz recently with one of their experiments. Check out this quote from ThomasNet.

“Japan has long been renowned for its intense work culture that places punishingly high expectations on employees. Extreme levels of work-related stress and exhaustion, which in some cases resulted in suicides, strokes, and heart failure, became so widespread that in the late 1970s a new word, karōshi, was invented – literally translating to “death by overwork.”

This makes it especially interesting that Microsoft recently trialed a four-day workweek in Japan. The summer project, part of Microsoft’s Work-Life Choice Challenge, saw its Japanese offices closing each Friday in August, the implementation of a 30-minute meeting limit, and employees being encouraged to reduce time spent replying to emails.

The experiment aimed to improve work-life balance, boost workplace creativity, and encourage flexible working. Resulting in a 40% productivity boost compared with August 2018, it was considered a huge success; Microsoft has plans to repeat the project in Japan this winter.”

Other countries have been experimenting with “right to disconnect” bills, in one way or another; even making it a law in some instances. I’ll share some examples after this.

City Councilman Rafael Espinal (D), who introduced the “right to disconnect” bill, based it off a similar workers’ rights law in France, which applies to companies with more than 50 employees. To quote from their law, “…the employee is under no obligation either to accept working at home or to bring there his files and working tools”. In 2004 the Supreme Court affirmed this decision and ruled that “the fact that [the employee] was not reachable on his cell phone outside working hours cannot be considered as misconduct.” And FYI, France has had a 35-hour work week since 2000.

Here are a few more examples

In the Philippines, House Bill 4721 was introduced to the Seventeenth Congress of the House of Representatives of the Philippines in January 2017. The long title of the proposed Act is “An act granting employees the right to disconnect from work-related electronic communications after work hours.”

In Italy, Senate Act #2233-B has become law and inside of it is this quote, “The agreement also identifies the worker’s rest periods as well as the technical and organizational measures necessary to ensure that the worker is disconnected from the technological equipment.”

And while Germany does not have any laws related to right to disconnect, German companies have a have a history of implementing policies along these lines.

  • Volkswagen implemented a policy in 2011 stating that it would stop email servers from sending emails to the mobile phones of employees between 6pm and 7am.
  • In 2013 Germany’s employment ministry banned its managers from contacting staff after hours as part of a wider agreement on remote working. It was done in order to protect the mental health of workers.
  • In 2014, automobile company Daimler introduced a software called “Mail on Holiday” that its employees could use to automatically delete incoming emails while they were on vacation.

Okay, in consideration of this trend, I predict that the gig economy will continue to boom. Why not? If companies are going to reduce work hours as a cultural initiative or to be compliant to a law, productivity levels must be maintained. And although I believe productivity would increase as workers embrace more flex time, I must wonder if it will be enough to meet overall company demand. If not, gig workers will be more needed than ever to pick up the slack. Take recruiting for example, how many more HR freelance jobs would post the day after a “right to disconnect” bill becomes law? For that matter, are you familiar with HR Lancers? If not, check it out, as soon as working hours decrease, expect more websites like it.

 

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The Unspoken Concern of Automation in the Workplace

When the topic of automation is brought up in relation to the job market, the arguments tend to repeat themselves. One view is from the doomsayers who suggest robots are going to steal all the jobs away with the contrarian position being somewhere between a robotopia (where machines do all the work and humanity is sustained on a Universal Basic Income) and an Iron Man scenario where tech and humanity operate simpatico. I think to some extent all workers will become Tony Stark with our iPhone or variant wearable technology augmenting our intelligence. If that seems far-fetched, consider the last time you dialed a phone instead of commanding Siri or tapping the name of a desired party. (God help us all if we wander off lost on a roadtrip without the aid of GPS.) As the new status quo of office robots and automation encroaches, it strikes me as odd that no one seems to be voicing the next great worker concern. If automation can eliminate certain tasks for a certain worker by X percent then, should that worker have his compensation reduced accordingly?

I do not have a background in benefits and compensation analysis but, I think that such is an argument that will be made in the near future. Lately, I have been thinking about this from various angles. Pardon my ramblings as I share my thoughts.

IS IT FAIR?

From the employer’s perspective, I consider the amount of money spent on technology designed to make my workforce more efficient. If the tech does as intended and reduces the daily grind by so much, is a reduction in future salary fair? Conversely, if workers are doing less of one type of work, does that mean they will be doing more of another? If so, would it be unfair to reduce their salaries? How would one qualify a percentage of work in order to make a right assessment?

DOES IT AFFECT THE VALUE OF THE EMPLOYEE?

If there are tasks that can be safely delegated to robots then, it stands to reason that the work automation cannot conquer is of higher value. Does that higher value offset the percentage of work done by robots? I wish I knew. What I do speculate though is that the more work is automated, the value of the worker decreases if they do not acquire new skills. This is why I think the most competitive companies are those with the most robust training organizations. In addition to improving your existing labor force, it also improves retention. A quick aside…

According to a recent survey by the career platform The Muse, 58% of its largely millennial user base said they plan to change jobs this year. What they are searching for is learning and growth opportunities, as well as work-life balance, according to Muse co-founder and CEO Kathryn Minshew.

IF AUTOMATION REDUCES SALARIES, WHAT THEN?

I think if automation reduces salaries across the board, there will be an even more significant upswing in gig workers. Said gig workers will become a key option to companies who do not have a robust training program and cannot remain competitive waiting for the upskilling of their workforce. As an example, consider India which is predicted to have a highly significant non-employee workforce for its companies over the next few years. In fact, to quote The Economic Times

The use of non-employee talent, or employees not on the rolls of organisations, is expected to grow dramatically in India over the next three years, according to the findings of a survey by global advisory firm Willis Towers Watson.

At the same time, full-time employees’ share of the total workforce is expected to drop 3.3 percentage points in India and 4.1 percentage points globally over the next three years, stated ‘The 2019 Pathways to Digital Enablement Survey’.

“There are two things increasingly happening in work. First is work is increasingly being pulled out of the organisation and being done elsewhere and then being brought in. The second is the growing plurality of means of getting work done,” Willis Towers Watson managing director Ravin Jesuthasan said. “Today, business leaders have a lot of choices on how they get work done. Automation is just one of the different options for them. The various other options could include sending work to talent marketplace, tapping gig workers, using volunteers, etc.,” he added.

The non-employee workforce in India that is seen growing in the next three years includes free agent workers (15%), parttime reduced hour (32%), worker on loan from other organisation (3%) and free agents on talent platforms (230%), the survey said.

I think that HUGE percentage of free agents being utilized by talent platforms is in response to the demands of worker flexibility and the booming gig economy. As such, I would not be surprised if more talent platforms debuted around HR freelance jobs or some other niche.

Another possibility resulting from automation reducing salaries, is the likely trend of companies tying year-end bonuses and worker performance evaluations to future potential. Traditional models postulate that if you did a good job last year then you will do a good job next year so a raise will reward you and give incentive to remain. But if automation is reducing the need for certain skills and reducing compensation to boot then, wouldn’t it make more sense to rate performance based on future potential? IBM thinks so. Using artificial intelligence (AI), Watson Analytics looks at an employee’s experiences and projects to infer the potential skills and qualities each person might have to serve IBM in the future. Watson also scours IBM’s internal training system to see if an employee has gained new skills. Managers then take Watson’s assessment rating into account as they make bonus, pay and promotion decisions. One more quote from the Economic times…

“Traditional models said if you were a strong performer in your current job that was the singular way that you got a promotion,” said Nickle LaMoreaux, vice president for compensation and benefits at IBM. “Well, we certainly still care about performance,” she said. But that now includes hypothetical future performance, too. IBM claims Watson has a 96 percent accuracy rate, as compared to IBM’s internal analysis with HR experts. The company spot-checks employee performance against its predictions.

Historically, employers used past accomplishments as the sole metric for compensation decisions, premised on the idea that the past is prologue. The method worked when job tasks stayed relatively static over time, but “the half-life of skills is getting shorter and shorter,” said LaMoreaux. What employees could do yesterday matters less than what they can potentially do tomorrow

Okay, just in case I lost you in my verbosity, let me sum things up like this…

  • If automation does X percent of the work, should workers be paid X percent less? I don’t know. I predict it will be a hot debate topic in the near future and within companies worldwide.
  • Workers who do not learn new skills will be less valuable in the workplace. As a result, job-hopping will continue and gig working will increase because people want to retain and/or increase their value.
  • The most competitive companies have robust training programs and will leverage them to retain their staff.
  • Companies will increase their reliance on gig workers in response to demands for worker flexibility and to remain competitive.
  • Worker raises will be tied to the future potential inherent in new skills learned. Welcome to the new normal!

Of course, I could be way off base. What do you think? Leave a comment below.

The #1 Job Seeker Complaint is this…

As some of you may or may not know, I am open to new opportunities. I do not think I will be on the market long (knock on wood) but, any day without a steady check makes for a nervous household. To date, I have been networking with multiple connections, taken several interviews and am carefully considering my options. Being on the jobseeker side of the equation is a fresh reminder to me of things I will not bring to my next role in Talent Attraction (or as a Brand Ambassador).

I have applied to several roles recently where I thought I would make a compelling candidate. Unfortunately, others were more qualified, and I did not get the job. In some cases, I know this because I received a generic email informing me of such. Whereas in other circumstances, I surmised it when the job was no longer being advertised, and a LinkedIn search revealed whom was hired. (I’m happy for that person, really, I am. #sarcasm)

As the search continues, so too are my list of complaints about the application process; of which there are several. However, there is one that towers over the rest – no communication. I suppose “ghosting” is the more appropriate word, especially with Halloween approaching. This has to be the #1 job seeker complaint.

Scan any Careers page for any company and you will see how you, as a potential candidate, are extremely significant. Each enterprise promises to want to connect with you in the hope of placing you somewhere inside its organization, all that’s needed is for you to apply. Of course, once you do, the hot and heavy romance that is purported vanishes and you are left wondering, “where did the love go?”

I am frustrated with my job search not only when I am rejected but, when I hear nothing at all from companies who say that I (as an applicant) am so important to them. Maybe it’s the angst of the situation but, its making me more cynical day by day, and I’m not the only one. Being a Sourcer at heart, I did a bit of research and I am reassured that my angst is justified. I researched job seeker complaints and one of the most common complaints is how companies ghost their candidates.

Here are just a few (very few) of the quotes I found:

Job Seekers’ Top 5 Complaints About Employers  [US News and World Report]

  1. Not responding to their applications, even after an interview. Most job seekers put significant time and effort into preparing for a job interview–reading up on the company and industry; practicing answers to interview questions; thinking about how they could best offer something of value. They may take a day off work and spend time and money traveling to the interview. But when the interview is over, they often never hear from the employer again.

Post-interview silence from employers is callous and dismissive and lacks any appreciation for the fact that the candidate is anxiously waiting for an answer, any answer, long after a decision has been made. It’s just not that hard to send a quick E-mail, even a form letter, letting candidates know they’re no longer under consideration. Employers owe interviewees a response, period.

11 Complaints From Frustrated And Angry Job Seekers About The Interview Process  [Forbes]

  1. Even after attending multiple interviews, job seekers are ghosted. They never hear back from the company. Email and phone calls go unanswered and the applicant is simply ignored and forgotten.

The real reason 60% of job seekers can’t stand the application process [Business Insider]

…The takeaway for employers is that it’s important to communicate with applicants, regardless of whether they got the job. Those candidates are three to five times more likely to reapply or apply for a different post when you do.

This is important for employers to remember because even though less than half of surveyed employers reengaged their declined candidates, 99% believed that reengaging these individuals would help expand their talent community.

Dan Schawbel, research director at Future Workplace and New York Times bestselling author of “Promote Yourself,” says it’s crucial that companies protect their employer brand during the candidate application process.

“Companies need to start humanizing their candidate experience because job seekers can easily share their negative experiences online and decide never to apply to that company again,” Schawbel said in a press release. “Treat your candidates like you would your employees or customers because they have the power to refer strong candidates even if they don’t get hired.

So lesson learned: Don’t ghost your candidates.

So, are companies listening to the complaint of ghosting candidates? Some are but, most do not.

Early in my career, I worked for Lanta Technology Group which staffed startup companies and helped them acquire capital.  When things were good, they were very good. However, when a recession hit, things got ugly. I found myself in the unenviable position of rejecting candidates at a pace that burdened my soul. I wanted to place everyone yet, what made that increasingly difficult was the trend of hiring freezes enacted by my clients. Ugh! Still, I knew the recession would not last forever. As such, I wanted to prepare for the economy’s return and help people at the same time. My solution? I began distributing an eBook I wrote called. “How Do I Find a Job When the Economy Sucks?”

When I completed my interviews and/or received inquiries about the few jobs I was actively hiring for, and I knew I would not hire them, I gave them a rejection letter and the eBook. In so many words, I communicated that I am sorry I could not help them. I also said that hopefully, these job search tips will help you find work somewhere. Perhaps in the future, we can reconnect about some other opportunity? Feel free to stay in touch with me. The End.

Surprisingly to me, that gesture of goodwill triggered an avalanche of referrals to me. Inside the eBook was my contact information at Lanta Technology Group. People who I had rejected had passed on my eBook to their networks and those people passed my eBook forward and so on and so on and so on. To this day, I still maintain a relationship with people who became aware of me because of that initiative. It is because of that experience I was so elated when I sat in on livestream by Chris Russell – “How To Turn Rejected Candidates Into Raging Fans.” One of the case studies he cited was how Virgin Atlantic used coupons to turn their candidates into customers. Genius! (Slides from that presentation are below.)

But what caught my eye the most was the demo he did on Rejobify; something I also thought was genius. Instead of sending a generic rejection email, why not send them job search tips as well? Rejobify does that; actually, it gives rejected candidates the option to sign up for a “Job Search Hacks: 7 Day Email Course.” I LOVE this idea because based on my past experience, I KNOW it will work.

In a nutshell, the benefits are these:

  • You leave a rejected candidate with a positive feeling about your company, which reflects better on your talent brand.
  • You increase candidate referrals as candidates share the job search material with others in their network. #sourcing #pipelining
  • The experience is automated! (Not a big wow these days, but it is a capability I wish I had back in the day).
  • You also get stats on how well your initiative is working. (Something else I wish I had, back in the day.)

When the livestream was over, I sent Chris a note and offered him kudos on his latest invention. I truly see it as a simple game changer that is ridiculously easy to implement. I also think its one of those things that will become an industry standard; especially with record low unemployment today and even moreso should a recession hit.

In case my rant about Rejobify has sparked your attention, click here to check them out yourself. You’re welcome.

Jim