The Consultant's Desk

The Consultant's Desk
Poring over the details on your behalf

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

EEOC News - Work-Life Issues; Minimum Wage

A couple of hours ago, the folks at Starbucks wondered why I stood on top of a table and cheered. (Well, I wasn't quite that demonstrative!) Yes, I had my very own personal celebration. It's because I've been a feminist since the 1960s. I've been an affirmative activist since the '60s. And I'm on record as being in favor of an increase in the minimum wage so that it returns to being a livable wage.

And a few hours ago I read the news from today's Employer Advisor E-Alert. That service announced that EEOC has made a ruling in regard to discrimination that touches on work/life balance when it comes to FMLA, caregiving responsibilities on either side of the age gap, acknowledgement (I said acknowledgement) of the fact that women are indeed discriminated against when it comes to caregiving responsibilities and career advancement opportunities, protection of women from being passed over for wage increases and promotion, recognition of discriminatory issues related to men and women of color.

And (oh yes) the Federal minimum wage will increase to $7.25 over the next 26 months. Yes, that is definitely a long time and the cost of living will have skyrocketed again so that the net increase will be a decrease. But at least there is some type of increase instead of stagnation.

That's a mouthful! That's a whale of a lot of progress. That's so much that I won't even attempt to summarize the news. I'll simply allow the news blurb to speak for itself: Workplace Bias: EEOC Spotlights Work/Family Balance in New Guidance.

Employer Advisor will have a full report on these matters in an upcoming issue of the California Employer Advisor. I'll be more than glad to keep you apprised. I might even dance on top of the tables at Starbucks next time!

EDITOR'S NOTE, August 3, 2007:
The Managing Editor at ERI contacted me today to advise that the treatment of the news blurb was use of copyrighted material. Today's edit will allow you to read the article via the link to the public content on ERI's website.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Enforcement of Employment Standards

One of the considerations in Organizational Development is examining employee behavior as it could and does affect corporate image. Many elements are part of the company brand. I've spoken of and identified several of them several times in the past. There's attire, speech, socialization skills, emotional maturity, creativity, problem solving, and leadership, to name a few. And while it's important to allow willing workers to earn a living through gainful employment, whether they have an impairment or not, there is a time to draw the line.

The courts have drawn that line in recent months in regard to business employees. As yet, they are silent with regard to treatment of personnel in an industry that is self governed and where the individuals are self employed.

There have been several rulings on ADA mental illness cases where the plaintiffs said they should have been given more leeway than others because of the unique health condition from which they suffer -- paranoid schizophrenia in one case and bi-polar disorder in another. The plaintiffs argued that they should be protected from punishment because they suffer from a disease just as an alcoholic or drug user suffers from a disease.

In the cases of Sista v. CDC IXIS, So. District of NY. No. 02-Civ. 3740 (2/15/05) and Mammone v. Harvard College, Mass. Supreme Judicial Court, 446 Mass. 657 (5/12/06), the courts were consistent in their rulings. Egregious misconduct is no excuse under any circumstances and the person should be terminated. A recent criminal case, People v. Reynolds considered the death penalty as punishment for the defendant where the situation was very similar. In Reynolds, the defendant also suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and admitted that he knew he had done horrid wrongs for which he deserved punishment. The judge agreed and sentenced him to death because Reynolds was very congizant of the gravity and reality of his acts.

Employment Industry Code of Ethics

This is leading us to look at the codes of ethics that are promulgated by our various employment industry organizations. There are words that talk about how the member will adhere to the rules. However, in none of the codes that I have reviewed do I see any language about what should be done if the rules are violated. So it appears there are no consequences except loss of membership, which is not really a grave loss if you play out the thought process a bit. Membership can be volulntarily discontinued by a member at any time and for any reason. And if the person is not already a member of the organization (or any of the several in the industry), then the attitude will be a very flippant "So what?"

Additionally, there does not seem to be anything that talks about what to do when a non-member performs an act that is unethical and/or harms some member of the unsuspecting consuming public, be it a candidate or a business of any size. What should be done in a situation like this goes unanswered. Who holds this representative of the employment industry accountable for their malfeasance is a matter that goes silently into the dark of night.

Using Mammone as a Barometer

With many interruptions, I've been reading the Mammone case where the court performs its analysis by discussing one case on which plaintiff heavily relied in arguing that he should not have been fired, Garrity. The court says of Garrity, ". . . we conclude that Garrity applies to all employment discrimination cases brought . . ., regardless of the type of handicap underlying the workplace misconduct . . ."

The court looked very carefully at Garrity and discussed the circumstances that brought that case under judicial review. It seems Mammone should not have chosen Garrity as his key argument. Although the reading of the above cite seems to support the argument that a person with a handicap is protected, it reasoned in just the opposite manner. The description was:

Garrity suffered from alcoholism. As part of her employment, she was asked to distribute "chits" to passengers, which could be exchanged for free drinks during flight. When some passengers declined the chits, Garrity, irresistibly compelled by her disease, kept them for herself. After her shift, she boarded a United Airlines flight, paying a significantly reduced employee fare. On the flight, Garrity exchanged the chits for free drinks, "became intoxicated and began drawing attention to herself and to the fact that she was a United Airlines employee." . . . Garrity "demanded excessive service and attention" and complained to and in front of passengers "about how United 'screws us.'" . . . United Airlines terminated Garrity for "violating company policies by accepting 'drink chits' from customers, using those chits while flying on a United pass . . . and for becoming intoxicated" while on the flight.

The court spoke of right to terminate in a situation where there is workplace misconduct (emphasis supplied) and said in one of its citations,

("'[A]n employer . . . must be permitted to terminate its employee on account of egregious misconduct, irrespective of whether the employee is handicapped.' . . . [A] handicapped employee who engages in conduct significantly inimical to the interests of his employer and in violation of the employer's rules . . . is not a 'qualified handicapped person' within the meaning of G. L. c. 151B").

What Manner of Enforcement Where There Is No Employer

In the Garrity case, as with Mammone and Sista, there was an employer, a business, that had in place a code of conduct and could enforce the letter of the employee handbook by terminating the employee for going against the rules. However, a solo practitioner has no such rule book. And if they are not a member of any of the various employment industry associations, they have nothing except their conscience to hold them to any standard of good conduct. In a situation where there is misconduct -- of any type -- who should enforce the rules of conduct?

A Possible Model

The Direct Selling Association has a Code of Ethics that is quite comprehensive. It includes a definition of how to file a complaint for misconduct and the procedure to be used in that instance. If there are any other Codes that have similar provisions, I'd like to know of them. But that's the Direct Selling Association and not any of the employment (or recruiting and staffing) organizations. Still, sales has such a common denominator in regard to recruiting, it makes one wonder why the DSA's code was not used as a model by any of SHRM, NAPS, CPS, or ASA.

Online Conduct and Representation of Industry

Additionally, there is online life. The sole practitioner has a unique space in the employment industry. They are a representative of their own self. Simultaneously, they are a representative of the industry. Although there are times when it seems as though we are simply a lone individual sitting quietly with our thoughts, of one sort or another, in front of a computer, that is not really the case. It may seem we can say and do whatever we want. It is very easy to forget that although we keyboard our words in the solitude of our home office at our computer, the words are going out to the Web where however we conduct ourselves is a matter of public knowledge and scrutiny. We are our own representative, creating our own brand and reputation. And where that repesentation is harmful to the standards of the industry, who steps in and enforces its rules?

But that question presumes that there is an industry standard, a norm, a bar that is held at a certain elevation and everyone in the industry is aware of it, is trained about it, is held to that standard in their doing all manner of business, and completely understand that standard and course of doing business.

Perhaps we should just avert our eyes when one in the employment industry deviates from what is our personal standard of conduct. Unfortunately, that act is a form of tacit confirmation of behavior. It's feeding and rewarding misconduct. But then, if we reward and commend egregious behavior, are we then changing the standards by which industry "professionals" should be held? After all, leading by example is a very real management concept that is used in all forms of life.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

When the Teens Grow Up

I just found a link to a site called Delete Cyberbullying. It's related to McGruff, the take a bite out of crime dog. The discussion relates to cyberbullying as a teen phenomenon. Okay. I'll allow that cyberbullying has a higher incidence among the teen population by virtue that they are online more than adults and are in chat rooms and using IM far more frequently than adults.

But the age of majority throughout the United States is 18 years. In some states, it's lower. In many states, it should be much higher. Oh, I guess that relates to Emotional Intelligence, which is an entirely different subject and concept altogether. The point is, eventually those teens reach the age of majority and venture into the workforce. As time passes, somehow these former teen bullies manage to stumble and finesse their ways into management positions. However, their bullying habits have traveled with them and been visited on many along the path to today's point in time. Some are now discussion board bullies (whether they want to believe it or not) and some are abusive managers.

Too bad McGruff doesn't have any suggestions about what adults can do to control the destructive patterns of adult bullies. However, they do have a white paper that highlights findings of a Harris Poll study and is called Cyberbullying Executive Summary-2007. That's a good first step. And the full report (Teens and Cyberbullying) is something that will require extrapolation and analogy (of which all we adult professionals are capable) but is well defined and lends us additional explanation of what can be done about our bullies of whatever age.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Drawing on a Point

Earlier this month, I talked about the major resistance that the recruiting population expressed at seeing analogies in politics compared with corporate and recruiting matters. There was one small voice among the shouters, amid the threats and bullying, that acknowledged that politics do have an impact on the direction in which our economy is headed and their impact on job market numbers. One voice out of nearly 50 is such a pitiful showing. (I weary myself with those musings.)

There's an article on today's AOL that seems to drive home, in exquisite form, why the Bush press conference has so much significance in regard to jobs and employment, especially in relation to the direction in which the economy is headed.

American Optimism at New Low, Poll Finds talks about the matter that is affecting men and women, blacks (actually, minorities of all colors) and whites. The survey indicators continue to plummet. One of the reasons why is because people are seeing that their financial security, job opportunities, and other things related to offshore spending rather than reinvesting in America are shortchanging everyone's viability.

The other thing people are seeing is that too much time is being spent on a situation (Iraq) that is not a domestic issue. Still another and even more compelling fault cited is poor leadership.

The reason women and minorities express concern and disdain for current policies, according to the AP article, is "numbers for women and minorities result largely because both groups tend to be more Democratic, less supportive of the war and more vulnerable to economic downturns, analysts say."

The latter is the essential reason. The article does an excellent job of fair reporting by virtue of the fact that interviewees who were cited are from both major parties, one even noted as being a conservative Republican, but still expressing the same dissatisfaction.

Unfortunately, this month's survey was of a scant 1,000 respondents over a three-day period. While 300 people per day is a good number, it is difficult for 1,000 to be a truly accurate sampling of a few billion in national population. Still, this survey has been running since 2003. The statisticians are using a good margin for error number and the results are steady. The numbers compare and contrast to others used in similar surveys. Thus, I would say even though the sampling is small, it is reliable, realistic and deserves our attention to the issues called into question.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Bending the Rules

That Mullins case, where the fellow lost three jobs for essentially the same sins -- cheating on expense resports and forging chits in order to get reimbursed. It was found that he cost the state and taxpayers more than $6,000 in false expenses.

Now it could be argued that $6,000 is a paltry sum, especially when governments are spending millions and billions in dollars. Why would they bother with something as small as $6,000? Because it adds up, is one reason. Because this fellow was chronic at it is another reason. Because he admitted to having lost two previous jobs for the same types of acts. Because eventually the public absorbs these frauds in the form of higher prices of goods and services while wages stagnate.

Additionally, Mullins brings up so much in the area of ethical practices. It brings to mind several case studies that will be touched upon in this writing. Eventually, they'll be drawn out a bit more. But today I want to consider some of the tangents to Mullins and consider whether the rules should be bent in some situations. We need to think about whether rules are written in stone or whether their interpretation is governed by the extenuating circumstances.

Padding the Account

First, Mullins admitted to padding his expense account and cheating on expenses. He made long trips outside of his district that appeared to be not related to his work at all, yet he charged the mileage and associated costs to his expense account.

How many have used the trip to the conference as an excuse to have a family visit and charged all of the costs back to the company, without making an effort to parse out which was actually business and which was social? I remember having a very long conversation with a friend some 25 years ago who bundled all of the costs and thought nothing of charging the company for the entire package. Her thinking was it would be dumb not to do so. Why should she incur the cost when she was already there and probably would not have gone except for the company business. So she just stayed a little longer and had the company pay for the extra time.

But this also brings up a comment in an article I read recently. It encouraged managers to go out of their way to increase morale by buying some special treat for the entire department and then charging the cost to miscellaneous expenses or the stationery budget. Pizza for the department isn't two packages of paper. Dinner at the Thai restaurant isn't toner for the copier. Maybe there should be an office morale or a discretionary spending allowance.

In thinking about that advice, I remembered the Executive Manager of a nonprofit who started off very well. But as time passed, the monthly financials received by the Board started showing strange charges to expenses that were out of proportion. Unfortunately, the Board ratified (not unanimously) having one of the Directors also serve as the Treasurer as well as the organization's accountant. He, for some reason, did not see the strange charges. As it turned out, the EM was pulling money from the organization. After a huge scandal and a very long and thorough investigation by the City Council, the EM was asked to resign.

But the Treasurer and the other Directors should have seen those monthly expenses and asked more questions. And after the second month of questionable expenses, it seems the Treasurer/Accountant/Director should have resigned from two positions.

Hotel Stays

Mullins stayed overnight in cities and forged hotel receipts but he actually slept in his car and incurred no hotel expenses whatsoever.

Would this still be considered unethical if instead of Mullins it was a friend of his who had lost his apartment and needed a place to stay for a short time until he could get his bearings? Would Mullins have needed to get authorization to help out his friend? It was a benevolence. Should we leave a friend to the wolves because we can't fudge on the expense account?

Another Example

There was a case of a woman who was suffering domestic abuse. She siphoned funds out of the company expense account in order to help herself manage. When she was discovered, the matter was shushed up. She was hired as a manager at another high profile company but not put in charge of finances. When there's domestic abuse or some extraordinary circumstance, should an exception be made?

About the Rules

Rules and standards are made for a reason. Should they be bent under certain circumstances? How compelling should the situation be if the answer is "Yes" or is the answer always a resolute "No?"

Business Background Checks

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Evaluating the Evaluator

There are times when we need to either evaluate a candidate before extending an offer or do a reference check on them in order to learn what others who have experience in working or interacting with them have determined about the person's character and personality. These are people whose observations have validity. Were this not the case, they would not hold the positions that they do or they would not have been offered as a reference. Some positions are so sensitive, have so much public interaction and focus that a psychological evaluation may even be appropriate. So we send the candidate to take a psychological assessment and rely on the clinical results.

Sometimes we get feedback from these experts that is unexpected. We're startled when we learn from a previous manager that the candidate seemed lazy and unreliable, had a propensity to speak in unbridled terms. Or an associate tells of incidents wherein the candidate seems to have an over-inflated sense of self. And the psychologist reports that the candidate has strange, repressed ideations.

Given the events of Virginia Tech, it's wise to take these evaluations seriously. But it is also wise to take the words with a grain of salt and question assessments that are 180 degrees in opposition to what was observed during the several in-person interview sessions. It is entirely possible that the evaluator is the one who is flawed, not the candidate.

In providing this counsel, it is given with quite a number of experiences and reliable references. But let us do this examination in a disciplined manner. Dr. Sam Vaknin is an expert on narcissism and in psychology. He discusses the lack of reliability of mental health evaluations that are offered by those who are essentially not qualified to dispense them but nevertheless do so. Says, Dr. Sam, "Mental health professionals are human. Many of them suffer from mental disorders. Many of them chose their profession simply in order to to be able to cope with their own deficiencies and problems."

Dr. Splash

Indeed, there was one psychiatrist (who we will call "Dr. Splash") suffered from various deficiencies and regularly inflicted them on patients, staff, and contractors. In order to live up to Doctor's expectations and gain his approval, the staff would adopt his flair for saying work was done in slipshod fashion and he should not be required to pay full price. Or that the work was not delivered on time, therefore, he should not be required to pay expedited processing fees.

As time passed, the truth of the matter became clear. Doctor sent out work done in a sloppy manner that required three to four times as much effort as usual. Doctor's evaluations were questionable but his position caused staff to second guess theirselves and fall back on bad decisions that resulted in costly mistakes, delays, or needless duplication of effort. Doctor would intentionally phrase things in such a fashion that would cast a negative pall on the person being evaluated.

The question of patient impropriety arose. Doctor's association with the truth began to be questioned. Professional colleagues would affirm that they knew him but would thereafter become silent.

Of this sort of mental health professional, Dr. Sam says, "Unfortunately, some of them are not sufficiently conscientious. They engage in the delicate art of therapy long before they overcome their own problems.

"They bring their problematic, even sick, selves into the therapeutic setting and, in doing so, they aggravate the patient's issues."

In fact in the example of Dr. Splash, exacerbating his own problems as well as those of his patients was routine. Since he operated his own practice, there was no one to actually supervise his work. His habits created profound insecurities in nearly everyone associated with him. Although I am unaware of the end of Dr. Splash's story, it seems his practices became so widespread that he eventually drove himself out of business. His record became very obvious and people learned to hold him to firm quality standards that had no room for equivocation.

Again, let me refer this examination to the explanations of Dr. Sam wherein he says, "Analysts are supposed to work to solve their own problems prior to practicing. Therapists are supposed to work under supervision and to refer and defer to these supervisors. An outside perspective is often very helpful to them. But not all therapists and psychiatrists adopt these professional standards and work methods." In the case of Dr. Splash, he had the professional backup of those associated with Medi-Cal and Medi-Care as well as other industry and professional associations. It was the state and federal agencies that began to see the flaws in his practice.

Dr. Splish

Dr. Splish is also a noted psychologist. His specialty is in personality assessments and he has published some very interesting pronouncements. It was interesting to review some of the tests and assessments he has prepared. A casual reading revealed nothing outrageous. In fact, everything seemed to fall into a very reasonable sequence. But that was the problem. Without doing any critical reading of the assessments, the fact that the questions were skewed and structured in such a way that they actually exhibited bias in many instances that tended to disqualify candidates of color.

The other interesting thing about Dr. Splish is his propensity to perform unsolicited psychological and psychiatric evaluations of people over the phone. It has been indicated that he shares these evaluations with others who have relied on the information to make business decisions about associations with the individuals who were unsuspectingly evaluated.

As with Dr. Splash, Dr. Splish suffers from a number of unresolved insecurities. They are revealed in small snippets of rueful statements splattered here and there during conversation. It sometimes seems as though he uses his negative evaluations as a tool to lash out at those who he perceives to be outdistancing him and thereby compensate for what Dr. Sam has called "insecurities." With this revelation, you have to wonder whether it is actually safe to come in contact with Dr. Splish at all, much less rely on his evaluations. It is safe, but only in small doses and for a limited amount of time. The heart of dealing with him effectively is to draw a standard that must be met and not equivocate on the bar. Remind him that there is a standard. Acknowledge expertise and valid insight when appropriate and thank him.

How to Handle the Evaluation

What we should learn from the examples of Dr. Splash and Dr. Splish is that not all psychologists or psychiatrists, even those with long lists of letters and professional associations after (or associated with) their names should be looked to as ones who dispense gospel. There is one example of a sound psychological / psychiatric professional I have found. Noted for his work as the foresic psychiatrist in the "Son of Sam" case, Dr. Jay Ziskin's words stand the test of critical evaluation. He is incisive and has no axe to grind. He deals with the facts and disciplined principles and uses them to provide an accurate assessment.

What this means for us as we look to mental health experts for information relating to hiring decisions is we need to listen carefully to what is being said. We need to ask questions when the evaluation does not match what we have already seen. We should not be enamored with the person's credentials. Rather we should also be evaluating the one who is speaking in order to determine whether they have some type of bias, whether they are capable of making an impartial determination based on proven standards. We should make an attempt to ascertain whether the person who has performed the evaluation had authorization to do so. Finally, it is very important that we determine whether the evaluator comes to us with a solid foundation and has used reliable industry resources to validate their work. We should not be afraid to seek a second opinion.

Human Resource Library: Administration & Policies

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Undoing the Talent Crisis

Who said this is the last year that Ms. Foundation will produce Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day? The radio news reader must have made a mistake. There are arguments for not allowing our 9- to 15-year-old youth to go to a real, live, working office for one day each year. And the arguments run the gamut from mere excuse for missing school, not sufficiently structured to give a real slice of business life, too many risks and corporate liabilities, to attendees are too young to grasp what’s happening.

There’s this buzz in the recruiting community that a talent crisis is imminent. By 2010 (or is it 2017?) we will no longer have a college (or even high school) graduating class that’s capable of critical thinking, able to process information and come up with accurate assessment of it, theorize and draw analogies. There’s shrieking in the industry that the employable numbers are shrinking and completely insufficient to replace the retiring Baby Boomers.

What I say is these are merely shrieks of lazy recruiting Chicken Littles. Actually, several years ago I studied the numbers of our high school graduates and population growth. Both are holding quite strong and steady. There is no decline. What is in decline, however, is the number who are capable of doing good training and who are disciplined enough to explain various nuances in order to develop the skills and talents that are needed for the future jobs.

In Keeping with the History

The history of TOD/SWD is long and admirable. Originating in opening the options for young girls and allowing them the freedom to aspire to leadership in a corporation, the day (due to social pressures) opened itself to being inclusive of boys. Both genders need to be able to evaluate what their future work options are. By exploring these options together, they also level the playing field and open the table to dialogue about the similar challenges and how they can be managed. It is also a time when both genders can see things not as a “him against her” battle. Instead, it is a time when both can consider how to develop the communication and relationship skills so desperately needed for a fully diverse and functional organization.

Early Adopters

University of Pennsylvania grabbed onto the idea of activities for the day and stepped it up a notch or so. It’s a day when business can take advantage of doing something about the emergency shriek of Talent Crisis advent in 2010. Not many businesses have internship programs for youth of these ages. Child labor laws prevent most of those in the 9 to 15 years age brackets from working. But here is the opportunity to make this fourth Thursday of April a time when mentors can develop their initial relationships. Managers can allow job shadowing. And youth can get a feel for what the real workplace is about.

The perpetual objection to Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day (TOD/SWD) is the youth will see this as a day to skip school. From some of the plans laid out by a few businesses, the youth may as well do so rather than collate and staple sheaves of paper. Yet, in addition to University of Pennsylvania, University of Illinois at Chicago (in 2000) had some compelling content to offer its participating adults and youth. Stanford’s WorkLife Office also had the right idea in 1998. Maybe your office has some great tweaks on all of this. But here are some suggestions for the day.

Learning Modules

This is a day when a manager and their job shadowing youth can actually get involved in the grist of what it takes to run that part of the business. A situation arises, the two discuss the details of it. In Socratic mode, the pair work through the various alternatives in dealing with it: why one method will be successful, why another will not, and why yet another may be the optimal or a second choice. Then, together, they can determine which step to take. If there is time (that is, by the end of the day), the youth can see the result of their decision making and implementation.

The youth can be involved in telephone conversations and conferences so that they may get the sense of how many are part of the routine day and what is involved in these types of conversations. Before some are started, it would be a good idea to outline how a good conversation should be structured, what is included, the style of language, what’s complete taboo. Likewise with telephone conferences. Here, there is a definite outline and youth should be apprised of this so that they do not have the impression that these are off the cuff telephone calls with a little more splash.

Critical Thinking Challenges

Cheating would be where there is an emergency and the adult assumes complete control of the situation to the exclusion of the youth. Emergencies are the training fodder. Keep the youth involved, talk through the steps. Ask what they believe should be done next and why they have reasoned in that manner. Develop critical thinking skills. Verify, explain what the typical outcome will be and why it is good or not. The adult just may learn from the youth’s feedback. Explain which choice will be implemented. Watch for the results.


Proof of the job shadowing and learning process is simple and can be a lesson for the entire class. Have the ones who did job shadowing write a report on what they did for the day. The report should have certain required content so that it is standard and not as prone to subjective grading.

That report can then turned into an oral presentation to the most relevant class. Youth will then field questions and provide answers about the business, what they saw, how things worked, whether they would work in that industry with their new knowledge of the actual workplace compared with stylized presentations from other places.

The Beginning of a Career

Ah, good old TOD/SWD! A time to ready our new workforce for the challenges and actually share with them the joy we derive from our livelihood challenges. A time to explain why we do what we do and why we opted for that. It’s a time to lead another into the fold.

This is the opportunity of a lifetime. If we plan for these annual events, we can develop the skills to prepare a meaningful intern program. Growing from that, a good training regimen can be developed. Managers can begin to discipline themselves to explain processes and build teams who collaborate in developing product for clients and consumers. We’ll watch ourselves growing the qualified talent from the cradle to the official first day. What an impact!

This couldn’t possibly be the last year Ms. Foundation is going to produce Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.

Special Free Week offer to either the Print or Online editions of The Wall Street Journal!!!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Analogies and Conversations with the CEO

It was on April 4, 2007 that President Bush held a press conference. He did many Bush-like things. But added to the mix at this press conference were some additional nuances that brought to mind holding this situation as analogous to instances when there are blatant signs that someone needs to take the CEO aside and have a very matter-of-fact conversation about succession planning. Immediate succession planning should be the subject of the conversation, or in the alternative, removal.

It was obvious that this is a sensitive conversation that should be broached by someone on a similar level. But when the situation is obvious to all who are part of the communication, who is the right person to start the ball rolling? Should the principal officer in HR seek out the most senior director or EVP? Should one of the recruiters broach the subject with one of these people? It’s a difficult situation and these are difficult questions to answer.

Perhaps that is why there was such balking on when the situation was posed to the minds there. Not only was there resistance to facing the situation, there was refusal to see the analogy. Even more ridiculous was the posting of comments that were completely off the topic and reported on the current price of gasoline in a particular location.

What also ensued from the community of employment workers were flaming statements, attacks, threats, insults, demeaning and defamatory comments and insinuations.

Indeed, there are some subjects that are very difficult to swallow. More recent analogies were not available this day. Patricia Dunn’s sins were more recent but not as similar to the matter being addressed. The only other examples that still come to mind are those of Enron, Tyco, Adelphia, Arthur Andersen, et al. These examples of CEOs gone very wrong hail back to 2002. And in this regard, the person who most notably went against the grain was Sherron Watkins.

The discussion post to ERE employment workers was a gesture to hear others’ thoughts about how to handle such a touchy situation. It began with fair and accurate reportage in order to set the stage. Then it proposed to look at the matter as one in a corporate scenario and asked how it should be handled and by whom. The brief discussion post is below.

Bush held a press conference yesterday and made some averments regarding our troops and his intentions if Congress doesn't do what he says he wants in regard to the troops deployed in the Iraq and Iran wars. In recent months, news analysts and commentators are finally admitting that Bush simply ignores facts and barrels ahead with what he wants to do irrespective of what is the best or better option, in spite of advice and counsel, in spite of public opinion both domestic and abroad. He feels he is exempt and above all the rules. He seems determined to bend the rules to his designs and satisfaction instead of seeing that the rules set some limits on even the President.

But during the press conference, Bush did something that was an undeniable verification that he is out of touch with at least a small amount of reality. One of the reporters asked him about gasoline prices. Bush began spouting some type of answer that was incongruous with reality. A member of the press corps asked him if he knew how much gasoline costs these days. "$2.50 a gallon," was his response. There was a hiccupped laugh throughout the room.

Fortunately, Bush realized immediately that his answer was very far out of line. He tap danced a cover. Gasoline prices are regional and taking the average of all prices across the nation, gas costs $2.50 a gallon. The reporters recognized the covered embarrassment, stopped laughing, and resumed taking notes and asking other questions.

Bush has no clue what the prevailing price of gasoline is. [He] is oblivious to the fact that it is approaching $4 per gallon.

Let's look to Bush as an example of a Fortune 500 CEO. When you realize the CEO is self-motivated as opposed to making decisions based on the welfare of the corporation, its shareholders' interests, and the welfare of its workforce; when the CEO is oblivious to industry demands; when the CEO has lost touch with economic pressures and industry prices -- and it's obvious to everyone -- who should step in and talk with the CEO about stepping down, assigning his/her role to someone else?

It seems to me this is a job for another executive officer, not the corporate recruiter nor for the most senior level officer in HR.

Was this the wrong question to ask or just the wrong audience? What I later discovered was having gone through some of this analysis several years ago, before Enron et al. were part of the news wherein there was an analysis of

Given these thoughts, you are now challenged to answer the two questions.

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