The Desk

July 15, 2017

Evaluating Character

There are candidates who present themselves and proclaim that they have a passion about a particular cause that makes them uniquely qualified because of the insights that passion caused them to discover. For the most part, this is a very real facet of gaining knowledge and expertise. It supplements knowledge of the primary discipline that, in turn, creates the ability to forecast consequences of one act compared with another on future outcomes.

Sometimes the interview will aid in discovering the candidate’s growing interest in their passion and how it’s applicable to the work they seek. Some will be insightful and bring this interest into the conversation at some strategic time. Caution needs to be used if the added awareness and qualification for the position is couched on this passion and not direct experience.

Sometimes this “passion” is fleeting; it exists only for the sake of gaining a better position over the competition. One sign of a fleeting passion is the inability to have a detailed conversation about it as it relates to the position, the work, the overall direction of the company and its target. Or there may be detailed knowledge. The false passion is more like a moving target as discussion of it evolves in relation to the position – or anything else. Scrutiny comes into play to discern whether the knowledge is tantamount to merely parroting marketplace rhetoric. One with real passion will be able to offer unique insights; they have ideas that are more than the typical hyperbole.

We all have biases of one type or another. It’s important to be aware of them and to admit to them so that those biases can be put aside when making critical decisions, especially about hiring qualified talent. That’s why evaluating a candidate who professes a special interest that makes them more qualified than others needs special care.

Melania Trump’s passion about children, especially abused children, became a matter for closer scrutiny and an example of necessary care when evaluating a candidate. Because of her association with an unpopular, high-profile figure (not to mention some very public gaffes), she does not have the usual adoring audience. In fact, her background shows behavior that’s been quite the opposite of the reaction that is usually expected of someone in her position.

We look at the woman who is noted as having a favorable university education. A rare quality is that she speaks seven foreign languages. She is noted as having a strong interest in art, architecture, and design. On paper, it’s expected that she would be the one making decisions about her destiny and being very outspoken in that area. Yet, the public gaffes that follow and haunt her show she has poor discretion and depends on others to do her speech writing.

She has declared FLOTUS causes that are vogue since the late days of the campaign only to abandon one for something else that seems to be taking public attention by storm and then abandoning that cause as well. Does this FLOTUS have a cause, a passion?

There is a consistency in her behavior. Using recent audio clips of statements she’s made, we find she is noted for her defense of her controversial husband with the averment, “while her husband is fair and treats everyone equally, he will ‘punch back ten times harder’ if he is attacked.” Perhaps that defense was pulled from a statement her husband made a year earlier.

Those who speculated about her refusal to move into the White House in January. She made a campaign declaration that she wears the color of the place where she lives. Many thought that meant she eagerly looked forward living in the White House. After hearing one fabricated-sounding excuse after another for keeping her distance from her husband’s new domicile for five months, speculation rose that she may be suffering from abuse and wanted to keep the distance for whatever reason could be manufactured.

In May, the President and his wife took their first official trip outside of the United States. In the initial days of the trip, the relationship showed strain. It wasn’t until the flight that brought the couple home to the White House that the tension dissipated. Uncharacteristic of previous behavior, she seemed animated and happy, even in the presence of her husband. That was also the day when Melania’s interest in fostering her FLOTUS cause was announced, care for children of abuse.

Attention to children of abuse seems like a legitimate cause. The speculation about the atmosphere in the First Family home points to the possibility that this is the cause that will endure. However, the reasoning for her absence from the home evaporated when it was reported that she had Secret Service escort her son to and from school while she stayed in the Trump Tower penthouse alone. Yet she seemed to blossom when in the company of abused children in foreign countries.

The legitimacy of her cause to support abuse victims also wears thin when we hear that campaign support of her husband repeated in speeches after the inauguration and as more damaging headlines emerge about the leadership abilities of her husband. “. . . he will ‘punch back ten times harder’ if he is attacked.” Has Melania developed Stockholm Syndrome and it’s being evidenced by way of this repeated statement in his defense?

This candidate is stellar on paper. But once the background investigation begins, the visage falls apart. Perhaps the abused children cause is yet another cause du jour.

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June 27, 2017

Revised Healthcare Legislation

In May, the revised healthcare bill was presented to the House – and was approved. It was then sent to the Senate for approval and enactment.

We talk about the importance of transparency in business in order to gain trust and support. Apparently no one had that conversation with the crafters of the Senate’s version of the healthcare bill. The revisions were taken into a Star Chamber environment where the details were kept under strict secrecy.

We talk about the importance of diversity in creating product that appeals to a broader cross section of customers. That diversity provides for more input from different perspectives that result in a stronger product. It seems those conversations were also forgotten by mentors of Senate members. No women were included in the committee that hammered out the details of the bill.

Many have voiced concerns about matters such as women’s health issues (which present in a different manner than men’s), reproductive rights for women, pre-existing health conditions and coverage for them. Our veterans are concerned about coverage for disabilities acquired during warfare and military service. PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is on the minds of many because of how that condition is growing. We need to be mindful of the fact that PTSD affects more than just military and veteran populations. Those who are survivors of major traumas and abuse are also prone to suffer from various forms of PTSD. However, that could now be considered a non-covered, pre-existing condition.

The House version of the healthcare bill had some major difficulties. Citizens raised their voices. The Senate version of the bill was modified but there have been many white knuckle days while the arcane revisions were crafted. The revisions did not satisfy the tastes of the entire Senate. Probably to the relief of many HR and benefits administrators, the vote on the revised healthcare bill has been delayed.

The costs associated with gaining coverage are skewed against the middle and lower classes of our population. According to an analysis on CBS This Morning, costs for those two income levels will eventually be four times greater than they are now while those in the upper class will enjoy tax breaks and premium increases that are not as draconian.

AARP published an article about the House version of the bill. It raised concerns and cited flaws in the bill. However flawed, the bill passed over to the Senate for review and approval; that is what brought us to this juncture in our review of things reaching The Desk today. The Senate version of the bill (formally called “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017”) has problems. So many, in fact, that even the partisan support that was expected for it failed. There was simply too much secrecy. The bill failed to address the concerns of the greatest boss of the Legislative branch – The People.

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May 14, 2017

Conflict: Metrics cf. Performance

Filed under: Ethics,Management,Morale — Yvonne LaRose @ 1:57 PM
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The idea for it was probably spawned by fitness tracking appliances. Whether it becomes a standard practice embraced by employees remains to be seen. Right now electronic badges worn by employees can track their physiology and provide information about their performance and engagement in the workplace. The badges are also equipped with two speakers that track the quality of vocalizations (not the words) in order to detect tension. The only time the speakers aren’t in operation is when an employee enters the bathroom.

Employers and managers use the data provided by these trackers in order to determine who is performing and at what level. The question is whether these badges are then useful for determining who needs additional training or coaching or maybe even a transfer to a different department where the employee skills are better used.

What the trackers do provide is feedback to the employees who elected to use them. The data also provides them with information about what may have contributed to a good, productive day compared with one of those days when their performance wasn’t as stellar.

What are the ethics in using this type of tracked information? One argument is the badges are only issued to employees who are willing to use them. That is the PR statement. It doesn’t address the matter of how many employees submit to using the badges because they fear retaliation or negative consequences if they refuse.

Another thing to consider with regard to performance is the degree to which outside factors, such as family stresses, influence a worker’s performance or reaction to various stimuli. Health conditions can also figure into how people manage situations, health conditions that were previously a private matter. Still another critical issue is the level of ethical practices an employee uses in executing their job. An aggressive sales person will use many questionable tactics in order to close the deal. Concerns about consequences after the fact are negligible, if they exist at all. Obviously, those more aggressive tactics are not going to be reported to the supervisor or manager. And it may be that the manager is the one who set the example for the strategy.

Still, we are told it’s the data that is the payload for the founder of Humanyze. So there’s little incentive to make these badges a pricey item to add to the management toolbox and increases its desirability for increasing productivity, engagement, and more informed management strategies. It provides more information, metrics, insight into what makes the worker tick.

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March 2, 2017

Terms of Art: Multitasking

Multitasking gone wrong

Multitasking gone wrong

The job ad called for someone who know how to multitask. The interviewee said they’re an expert at multitasking. In actuality, they were probably talking about being hyperactive and distracted while doing multiple things that are not in any way related to the other. What they’re actually talking about is double (or even triple) scheduling several tasks that aren’t related and then getting burnout because the person’s attention is being simultaneously pulled in many directions. Guess who’s going to drop the ball. Guess who’ll get blamed for the mess that results.

Terms start out meaning one thing. They’re an evolution of the language we use. Eventually the term becomes accepted and used without having a sense of what it actually means. It just gets used at an increasing rate and in more places until it’s just a more sophisticated sounding term that people assume means one thing. But in actual practice, what the person is thinking it means is a totally different situation.

In a business sense, you might think of multitasking as similar to supply chain management or SCM. SCM is a large scale multitasking endeavor. It involves more of the picture and more points of reference to track and manage. It involves managing and coordinating different parts of a process so that the entire thing comes together at the same time. This is very important when you have schedules that need to be kept. The degree to which the project is well organized and orchestrated indicates there will be few glitches.

Still in a business sense, a prime example of multitasking would be in the kitchen of a restaurant (or even a fast food establishment). You start with preparing the tools in order to cook the food. Then you begin the food preparation while the stove (or oven) is heating. Maybe it’s the pot or skillet that needs to hold the food. No matter. While those are in process, it’s time to cut, peel, dice the items that will go into the cooking container. Likewise, the food that needs the longest duration for cooking will be the first into the container. Meanwhile, whatever utensils that were used and are no longer necessary for the preparation can be washed and stored as the dish continues to cook. All the items for the plate are being processed to reach the plate at the same and with the same temperature.

In a domestic setting, it’s entirely possible to start washing a load of laundry while another load dries. Since neither of those activities need to be monitored, it’s possible to start the dishwasher as well as vacuum (or sweep) the floor. The machines are minding the long duration, automated activities while the one task that requires human management is done.

So when you’re talking about multitasking (or any other jargon of the day), make certain you know the proper definition of what you’re doing and discussing. To do otherwise may bring you to the end of a conversation filled with misunderstandings and disappointments. Make certain you’re both talking about the same thing and that you understand the concepts behind the definition.

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December 25, 2016

Colorado School of Public Health Dean Description

Filed under: Education and Training,Management — Yvonne LaRose @ 7:34 PM
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An announcement from American Public Health Association on December 13 announced an opening for the position of Dean at the Colorado School of Public Health.

The position descriptions were two .PDF attachments. As a one-time courtesy, those descriptions are being included in this post.

The announcement said

“Greetings ICEHS!

Please see attached job Description and advertisement for Colorado SPH Dean. The deadline ‘to receive full consideration’ is January 9, 2017.”

The description: coloradosph-dean-job-description-final

The advertisement: coloradosph-dean-ad-final-003-1

Best wishes to all who apply.

November 24, 2016

Post-Election Stress

Filed under: Diversity,Leaders,Morale — Yvonne LaRose @ 12:01 PM
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There are some who are still going through the decompression phase of post-election stress. There are still some experiencing anger, anxiety, depression.

Under Pressure

Under Pressure

According to an interview with Washington-based psychologist Alison Howard, which appeared in Psychology Today, “. . . “I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Howard, who stressed that such feelings were natural and not a mental health pathology. (Emphasis supplied)

There are other accounts of how this election has taken a toll on the population. “Stephen Strosny, a psychologist in a Washington suburb who voted for Clinton, said he started noticing a spike in election-related stress in April, when he coined the term Election Stress Disorder, whose symptoms include anxiety, trouble concentrating and nervousness with resentment.”

Although the article recommends being mindful of self in order to overcome the stresses being experienced at this time, there is something more that I would recommend.

  • Find a positive aspect of things that happen.
  • Develop an attitude of Life as filled with teachable moments.
  • See your life as a continuing path.
  • See your role and your activities as purposeful and meaningful.
  • Endeavor to fulfill some aspect (or become prepared to do so) of those activities each hour of each day.
  • Be open to candid and respectful conversations with others about how your endeavors can be a cohesive effort toward improvement – for living together, working together, bein part of the same community.
  • Identify the things in your life that have mutualities with others of opposite positions.
  • Build on the differences of perspectives and how each can be applied to something that is of mutual benefit.

No matter what you do, it isn’t necessary to carry around a mental self image like the one above. Make certain your endeavors are lawful and leading toward a positive outcome.

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June 30, 2016

Troubled Landscape: Generations

So much of the time the typical comments heard about the new work force is in relation to generations that are post Baby Boom. There are comparisons. There are complaints. There are acknowledgements of positive attributes. There are concerns about the pressures they are already beginning to endure and sympathy for their conditions. There is awareness that they are deferring many of the usual inroads into adult life.

The majority of the complaints are with regard to whether the younger workforce is actually qualified to manage the needed tasks in a responsible way. Indeed, there are many instances wherein the complaints are justified. Quality of service and quality of workmanship is missing. The customer winds up needing to explain the concepts to the one doing the serving when the situation should be the reverse.

But the stream of soft, dewy faces continues to bombard the large and small silver screens. The older faces that either bear white hair or none at all become more faint and then drop out of view. Finally, a storyteller (read scriptwriter) allows us to be part of the scene being painted and we begin to see the cycle of life happening whereas we thought we were standing in a timeless environment. We are aging; it is time for the younger, newer to prepare to over the positions we once occupied. Our roles need to change.

At one time, we considered the younger generation as self absorbed and like a petulant child that demands what has yet to be earned. In a more reflective moment, we realize the Millennials are mimicking what we ourselves did some 40 to 50 years ago. We considered ourselves quite sophisticated and adult. We knew everything and were exquisite. We deserved not only what we had but had earned (and were entitled to) even more. Not only that, today’s Millennials and every generation before them feels their compensation should be much higher so that there is the ability to put their foot out of the nest in order to create their own.

And there’s the difficulty. The compensation seems misaligned in many instances. Not only that. There seems to be too little money available to be paid to the growing numbers of those who would like to be employed. Compounding that situation is the fact that inflation continues while the dollar’s buying power continues to shrink. That phenomenon is not merely because of inflation. It is also impacted by the fact that we now live in a global economy. It is simply good business to manufacture as cheaply as possible in order to sell at the highest possible markup and reap the best profit for the efforts to get to market with quality product or service.

And then there’s the issue of quality service – and training. In the rush to fill the orders and seats that are needed to create delivery, there’s something that’s being overlooked or given short shrift. It’s a precious asset. Few appreciate just how valuable it is. It’s called training. It’s sibling is mentoring. Good training will bring about quality service. Good training (and quality practice) will bring about quality product. And good mentoring will provide the insights not available in the textbook. That mentoring will also be the barometer of when the next plateau of development needs to be approached.

There's a mixture of generations working as one entity today

Previous roles are changed as life cycles evolve.

The difficulty with this easy-to-read picture is that the workforce is now a collage of generations. Some are just commencing Life. Others are in reboot mode because their previous industry collapsed or because they were downsized and cut out in order to cut costs. Difficult as it may be, there are many who are willing to subsume their ego and thoughts about their previous status in order to be included in the numbers who are employed and actually earning a living rather than being supported by government stipends or the kindnesses of strangers and family. Everyone is going through the spin cycle in order to come out still fresh and sparkly and equipped to produce because of the quality of knowledge, skill, education, experiences, and eagerness to be all they can be – and to help the business get there.

Today’s world of work is a difficult landscape.

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June 3, 2016

Gender Pay Gap Effects on Ethnicities

In 2014, a American Association of University Women (AAUW) study found there was a 78% difference between compensation for men compared to women. The study also looked at pay differences by ethnicity based on gender. The numbers were historic, meaning the rates of difference are essentially the same over the past 10 to 15 years of measuring such data.

Also in 2014, AAUW announced its acquisition of $tart $mart and Work $mart, “workshops empower college and professional women to negotiate better salaries and benefits,” Work $mart being the program for women already in the workforce.

In April 2014, AAUW looked at the wage gap as a function of race and gender compared with white men as well as a function of within women’s ethnicity. The broader spectrum was more disheartening by showing a deeper cut in earning power.

Bound by inequality

Not isolated to women, pay disparity impacts Black men to the same degree

An article in the June 2014 Harvard Business Review agreed with the findings of AAUW. According to an item at InfoPlease.com, it isn’t expected that women will reach wage parity with men until 2059. A Washington Post article from March 8, 2016 paints a more dismal picture by saying a study projects it will be 177 years before equity is reached.

You would think that with all this talk about lack of pay equity between men and women that there would be little disparity along ethnic lines for men. Not true. On June 1, 2016, a new study was released that found Black men are paid 73 cents to every dollar earned by White male counterparts. Even in 2011, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found the disparity was 71%. So it can be said that there’s been some improvement. The 2011 article analyzes why there is a difference. A June 2015 Pacific Standard article looks at the pay disparity of Black men to White and points out several factors contributing to its existence. It also asserts that even though there may be some progress toward closing the gap for men, it may not be a result of gaining positive inroads as much as it represents losing ground.

On a positive note, being a Black gay male means a better chance of earning more than even a White straight man (study published in April 2015).

CBS Money Watch looked at the 12 professions where disparity is the worst and did a slide show of them in a story from March 2016.

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May 4, 2016

Interests and Hobbies for Distinction

Filed under: Hiring,Job Search,Recruiting — Yvonne LaRose @ 3:38 PM
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An article recently came to my attention. The recommendations were dubious. Then an opportunity to share the knowledge with a group of recruiters arose. The group shared my reservations. The recommendation was to include one’s interests and hobbies on the resume and profile in order to distinguish special skills and stand out among the competition. The article proposed that the interests and hobbies would indicate particular strengths and abilities that can be used as indicia of success in the job that needs to be filled. dreamstimefree_14073429

The group of recruiters voiced opinions on the matter:

  • “I don’t normally pay attention to that section.”
  • It doesn’t really have any relevance to the job that’s on my desk
  • “I don’t use it.”

Job seekers are looking for whatever they can use to set themselves apart in a positive way. No doubt they will read that same article and believe that the advice applies to all job searches of whatever type and all manner of positions. After a lot of research in order to re-locate the correct article, one rose to the surface that made some distinguishing points about using hobbies and interests. They are helpful when the position is in a more esoteric area that requires unique skills that indicate traits such as perseverance, attention to detail, impervious to high levels of stress.

But what about the company that needs to fill a vacancy for a position in a special needs school? The person who knows and is able to use sign language may list that as a language skill and hobby in light of the fact that they do volunteer work at the John Tracy Clinic.

When we speak of job search, there’s an automatic default to ideas about jobs in the office. However, there are many types of jobs in different industries. A person could have a strong interest in health and medicine but they don’t want to be involved in working on people. There are also animals that require similar services. What about forestry as an option. Or that same person simply doesn’t want to be involved in health services but has a strong interest and keen skills in computers and programming. Perhaps their path to success is in the health sciences arena at a hospital or health facility.

So the candidate loves DIY projects. Could that mean they’re good a analysis, have strong concentration and focus skills, and are good at interpreting diagrams? Maybe there’s a niche for them in some form of construction or machine work.

The world of work is becoming increasingly complicated in regard to qualifying for a position and simply getting in the door. Occupations that you wouldn’t think of as requiring a resume now use that tool as part of the entry point. Do hobbies and extracurricular activities have a place and purpose on the resume or application? At times, they do. But they need to be used strategically if they are used at all. Sometimes they can become the bullet that shot the high school cheerleader who is applying for a mid-level management position in the foot. She’s remembered decades after leaving her application but not for the reasons she intended.

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March 9, 2016

Taking Charge

One thing that can lead to marginalization is turning the human into a non-thinking, uncreative entity (as compared with a sentient being who is capable of making meaningful contributions). There is very little to nothing that’s rewarding and motivating about existing in PVS (persistent vegetative state), except perhaps the appreciation that the speed at which activities are successfully executed is at a stellar rate that can be matched by few, if any.

Some grow weary of the monotony. They see the value is automation and encourage use of robotics so that the opportunity to challenge their minds is more available. Even those with the most minimal level of intelligence delight is being able to conquer a new task. Having that reasonable task put before them is exciting.

There are some people who have been conditioned to believe they will be punished for attempting to stretch their role in an organization beyond being PVS. They fear the unknown realm of persecution and retribution for daring to do more than the repetitious. They have experimented with new endeavors and found success nearly every time they’ve done so. Having been exposed to the sweet taste of adventure and new challenges, they want to emerge into the areas where their friends and colleagues are similarly nudged into more involvement – and recognition.

Use Your Skills

Use Your Skills

That fear of retribution is the inhibiting factor. It needs to be overcome. The only way to do that is to take charge of the situation. If the path of asking permission to be included in the next endeavor doesn’t work out, there are other ways to get from Point A to Point B. Some of them take a little (and some a lot) more effort.

The supervisor or manager seems to have favorites for the project. Sometimes it’s because the manager has been watching the progress of their workers and knows what to expect. They know the quality of the work that will be produced, the amount of attention to detail, the speed at which the work will be done, how well the worker interacts with others, how smoothly things blend. Sounds like networking to me.

How much of a challenge is that task compared to today’s mashed potatoes same as? If it’s the equivalent of going from boiling an egg to preparing a nine-course meal overnight, this may not be the time to experiment. If this is merely turning a boiled egg into an Easter egg (or a deviled egg), this may be an opportunity waiting to happen. How to broach that stupid roadblock of being allowed to get involved is the issue.

Perhaps a facsimile is the answer. “Hey, Boss. I’ve been watching the others working on the [deviled egg] and I’ve been experimenting with making them on my own time. Here’s a sample of what I did on my own. I’d like to do it with the others so I can be involved in doing it in the company style.” Mind you, this is the prime sample that’s being put forth. The BETA version is just not the version that should be used as an example of what’s your best.

Was it accepted? Great! It wasn’t? Get permission to work with the others to learn their technique. Better yet, sidle up to one of those who’s a “friend” and ask them to show you how to make yours better. Sidle up to another chum so that they’ll ask to have you included in their group for the next batch of [deviled eggs]. Or just go to an outside group and make some [deviled eggs] they way they do so that you have practice doing it and an audience that benefits from the fact that you were involved in making [deviled eggs]. No matter which way you go – direct or indirect – you have at least one new skill to append to your resume accomplishments.

It’s one thing to aimlessly drift from one boring and uninspiring situation to the next while waiting (and that’s the critical concept here – waiting) for something better to come along and take you with it. Having a mentor who can push you forward at Opportunity’s knock is great. But sometimes it’s necessary to take charge of your situation and do something to spur your opportunities to open to you.

There will be times when taking charge means quietly looking elsewhere for what’s going to be better in terms of many things you desire and have long-term positive payoffs. There will also be times when taking charge simply means becoming more assertive. Mind you, I said “assertive,” not “aggressive,” that is, demanding what you want instead of stating your case about why you are a great option.

Wait! What was that I heard? Was it Opportunity knocking at your door?

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