The Consultant's Desk

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

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Time for Reflection and Development

Things have been building to a point during these last several months. The basis for the various situations and conditions were a curiosity. They were also not only annoying and inconvenient, they were also vexing. It was disturbing to have Life seem to be closing down and therefore one's existence being shuffled to the Exit.

The situations could no longer endure and a remedy needed to be sought. However, it still felt as though a barrier between me and current situations was being erected. It's important to put these types of premonitions in their place and also to not allow them to overwhelm with their unsubstantiated suggestions. The basis of a situation needs to be identified and understood before the issues can be properly addressed. So I arranged to be taken to the hospital and have things diagnosed. I anticipated a long wait. In order to deal with that, I took with me three of five books I purchased in September that were to form some of the content I would be presenting on domestic violence as it affects the workplace.

Although I was seen immediately, there were many intervals where nothing happened and time needed to be filled. One of the books I brought with me is Blind-Sided: Homicide Where It Is Least Expected by Gregory K. Moffatt (Sep 30, 2000); I began reading it during my wait on December 13. The first chapter explores three different types of homicides, domestic, serial, and confrontational (meaning targeting a large, random group). It also analyses why these types of murderers are called a nice guy by friends and acquaintances as well as what pressures were impacting these types of people that ultimately led to their explosion of emotions.

While the reading was engaging and the theories being proposed were fascinating, I began to weary and Nurse was concerned with the fact that the wait would endure for quite a bit longer. She turned on a television for me. That was when the news about the shootings at Sandy Hook reached me.

In these ensuing times, there are fits, rantings, weeping, mourning. People reach out to others to comfort or be consoled. There are the outraged who demand better gun controls and compare the United States laws on gun control with other countries. They compare the two, essentially saying the other is better and we should adopt their policies. Caution here. One must examine the existing terrain before planting sugar cane lest it be planted in a swamp.

One of the issues that stands out in situations of murder to any degree is a very fundamental need for something very basic. It's so basic that we take it for granted and ignore caring for it in the proper way so that our global community can thrive. That need it communication. Not just talking. Not merely putting together a group of words that create sentences that build into paragraphs and ultimately to speech.

Additionally, communication has many dynamics. Not the least of the dynamics involved in good communication is listening to what is being said. Given the fact that different words have differing meanings to different people in different contexts, we have a responsibility to ask clarifying questions in order to insure that what we think we hear is the actual message and that the words being used are understood for what they intend to convey.

It is only when we have good communication that we have the ability to express ourselves and be heard. Those are the catalysts for action and progress. Those are the catalysts for change. We usually aspire to positive change an better conditions. There were social pressures impacting the Sandy Hill killer, pressures that he had no skill at verbalizing. So he resorted to exacting and relieving his frustrations on those around him. Ruling out insanity (which is the typical cop-out and label in situations like this), the ability to communicate his concerns may have gotten him associated with the person who could provide the tools and resources necessary to ameliorate the stresses and therefore prevent the rampage. We need to work on developing much better communication skills.

Not New

My friend, Patti Yaritz, shared an image on Facebook. It was an image of Martin Luther King, Jr. with an excerpt from his speech "Eulogy for the Martyred Children" delivered on September 18, 1963 in Birmingham, AL. It evoked a lot of thoughts, feelings, and recollections. I vocalized:

I remember the circumstances of this speech. It was during the time of the church bombings in the Deep South. I believe three little girls who were in Sunday School were the victims of a bomb that impacted their Baptist church. You're right, Patti. There isn't a lot of difference between the precious little lives that had faint opportunity to experience, much less violate, Life then and the ones that were violated last week.

And now all we have left is to hang our collective heads in misery, once we've spent some energy being angry and ranting at the world. But as we hang our heads in misery, we shall actively begin to construct new, better ways to encourage an age of reasonableness so that incidents such as these (and that are not a result of some type of formally declared warfare) will either be less likely to occur or will become a nonexistent alternative for anyone.

Let me use this window of opportunity to reassert my contentions from 2002. We in the employment industry need to develop (and be trained to identify) legal methods to determine who abusers and potential abusers are before we bring them into the workplace and thus give them a license to leak their propensities onto others who have nothing to do with the real underlying problem.

Abuse is a malignancy, a sickness, that is spreading its evil into many aspects of our lives. Communication is part of the remedy, to be sure. Respect is another. But abuse of good communication skills to the extent that they are not being used is one of the problems that needs to be solved. There are many other issues impacting us today. However, the demand for the reduction of abuse, increase of better communication skills are reaching a fevered pitch. We are past time to begin the remedies but we're not out of time.

Sponsored Link: Blind-Sided: Homicide Where It Is Least Expected

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Selection Quandaries Terminology

Yvonne brought my attention to the fact that as students, professionals, speakers, and/or writers, we have a tendency to use terms that we think everyone understands.  Since we would prefer to read a blog without having to open twenty tabs to understand what is being said, and causing our browsers to catastrophically fail, we thought that defining some of the terminology from the previous post would be helpful.  This also provides me with the opportunity to practice applying these terms before completing course projects and final exams.  Having said this, I have provided links to these definitions for those of you who wish to make your own interpretations.

“Business necessity” can be defined as a discriminatory job requirement or employment practice that is necessary to ensure that an essential task or duty for a specific job can be performed safely and successfully.  For example, a candidate who was recently convicted of child molestation can be legally disqualified for a cashiering position at a toy store since the individual’s essential duty of assisting customers requires her/him to come into contact with children.  On the other hand, if the same candidate applies for a position as an office cleaner for an accounting firm, s/he cannot be legally disqualified as a result of the conviction because her/his essential duties do not require contact with children.

"Essential duties" are duties/tasks that are critical to an individual's success in performing her/his job.  Using the candidate who was recently convicted of child molestation as an example, the candidate will need to serve customers who bring their children to the toy store. Contact with children in this situation is unavoidable because serving customers with children is an essential part of a toy store cashier's job. 

“Bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ)” is an employment qualification that employers may consider when making employment decisions.  The employer must demonstrate that excluded individuals could not perform the job duties required and that those job duties are essential to the employer’s business; however, it is important to note that race and color are excluded from this defense.  For instance, a gym can disqualify male candidates for a female locker room attendant position if the attendant's presence is in the locker room is required at all times.

“Legally problematic” means that a practice is not illegal; however, the practice could lead to illegal practices, or the practice could be perceived as illegal.  For instance, asking questions that could identify an applicant’s gender is legally problematic because Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that it is illegal to consider a person’s gender in the employment decision, unless it is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). In this situation, this practice could lead to intentional or unintentional bias in the employment decision, or the organization could be perceived as showing bias in the employment decision.

“Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)” is a U.S. law that prohibits workplace discrimination and harassment based on national origin, race, gender, color, genetic information, and religion.  Title VII also created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to enforce the laws in the Act.  The law has been expanded to include discrimination or harassment based upon pregnancy, sexual harassment of employees, and stereotyping based on national origin, race, gender, color, and religion.  However, some employers are exempt from Title VII laws as indicated under the “Definitions” section.

“Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC )” is a regulatory committee charged with enforcing U.S. laws that prohibit workplace discrimination and harassment based on genetic information, national origin, race, gender, color, age, disability, and religion; furthermore, the EEOC provides guidance to federal agencies and ensures that U.S. federal agencies are in compliance with EEO regulations.  The EEOC has been instrumental in interpreting employment law, and its interpretations and decisions have significantly contributed to past and present U.S. Supreme Court rulings pertaining to employment law.  The EEOC has the authority to investigate charges of discrimination and harassment, assist in resolving the charges, and file lawsuits against employers if the employers refuse to cooperate.  Since many states have their own anti-discrimination laws, the EEOC works with local and state agencies called Fair Employment Practice Agencies (FEPAs) so that employees who wish to file discrimination charges can do so on a state and/or federal level.

Thank you for reading!  If you have any suggestions or comments regarding how these terms are defined, or if I left something out, please feel free to comment about it.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Selection Quandaries

While I have been writing about employee engagement, I have been taking a college course on the selection process. When I first registered for the course, I assumed that I would be learning how to recruit candidates. In other words, I thought that I would learn how to convince individuals to apply for positions within an organization. I soon discovered that my assumptions were incorrect, and I will never be able to look at a job description or an employment application without recalling what I've learned.

Students attending this course were asked to demonstrate their understanding of the material by creating a "staffing handbook" for a fictitious small/medium-sized organization. The requirements for this handbook included: discussing the organization's job analysis methodology, designing a job analysis form to identify a specific position's duties and the KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities) necessary to perform those duties, sharing the organization's interviewing philosophy, developing interview questions related to the KSAs identified in the job analysis, the organization's view of pre-employment testing, creating a sample interview evaluation form, describing the performance assessment that candidates would participate in to determine if they were qualified for a specific position, and constructing a sample performance assessment evaluation form.

There were two sections of the handbook that needed to be reviewed by my professor before I could proceed; the job analysis section and the interview questions. Since I had discussed job analysis in a previous course, I was confident in my ability to discuss job analysis methodology, identify the necessary KSAs, and create a job analysis form. I submitted this section to my professor for her to review; I received positive feedback from my professor, and earned full credit for the assignment. Since the feedback provided about the job analysis section was positive; I created a list of situational interview questions that focused on the KSAs I had identified.  My professor noted that my questions were "very focused on the KSAs" and gave me full credit for the interview questions assignment.

Now that I was free to tackle the remainder of the handbook, I found that the application section was the most troublesome for me. To begin, I had to distinguish what questions were legal, "legally problematic," and illegal. To make matters even more complex, I learned that some questions could be asked if rephrased properly. For example: asking an applicant's age could violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but asking if the person is 18 years of age or older is acceptable.

While my textbook addressed some of these issues, some of the advice it provided was outdated. For instance, the textbook stated that asking for arrest information is illegal. I found that it is illegal in some states; however, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) stated that asking for arrest information is not a Title VII violation if the organization can prove business necessity. My textbook recommended inquiring if an individual has been convicted of crimes on the application; however, the EEOC recommended that questions regarding convictions should be omitted until the candidate is being interviewed. I also discovered that inquiries about an individual's discharge from military service and or an individual's need for reasonable accommodation fall into the "legally problematic" category. In order to ask these questions on a job application, the organization would need to prove business necessity. The legal disclaimer was also difficult to create from scratch; however, since my handbook was relatively free of borrowed material up to this point, I decided to allocate a portion of the 10% borrowed material allowance to assist in writing the disclaimer.

With the EEOC's recommendations regarding arrest and conviction records still fresh in my mind, I was able to address the pre-employment testing section with more confidence. The organization's philosophy will be simple and cost-effective; a background check will not be required until candidates receive a conditional offer of employment.  Since my fictitious organization has 8 locations and employs a total of approximately 500 employees, the performance assessment method used will be situational, and candidates will be asked to spend an "hour in an employee's shoes".  Several store employees will act as customers, and candidates' reactions to predetermined scenarios will be observed and recorded. The evaluation forms for both the interview and performance assessments utilize a simple rating system that will allow managers to compare candidates' responses or reactions to the desired behaviors identified in the job analysis.  Candidates with higher "scores" will demonstrate desired behaviors more frequently than candidates with lower "scores."

On that note, I would like to invite our readers to share what part(s) of the selection process they find problematic and why.

Thank you for reading, and I look forward to your comments and responses. 

Equal Employment Commission. Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964