The Desk

April 22, 2007

This Isn’t Kansas Anymore

Filed under: Ethics,Recruiting — Yvonne LaRose @ 9:52 PM

There are some things in Life that just flat out scare me. They leave me with knocking knees, chattering teeth, and whites of the eyes the size of half dollars. While “Aliens” may have qualified for this category the first time around, it no longer deserves that position. It was fiction. Movies have an ending. Even when they’re part of a series, there’s always an ending to the one you’re watching. And, it was fiction. It was make believe. It wasn’t real.

That’s why there are some things in Life that just flat out scare me. They’re real and people actually believe what they’re doing is not only right but laudable.

Recruiting Bloggers Are Journalists

Let’s look at the first thing that scares me. It’s blogging recruiters. It looks like time is passing faster than I can keep up. It was almost a year ago that the California Court of Appeal held that bloggers are journalists. That is to say, bloggers are purveyors of news. Because of that status, they are entitled to protect the identity of their sources.

Randy Dotinga of the Christian Science Monitor put the issues precisely in the eye of the reader when he pondered whether bloggers have the same responsibility as journalists with an “obligation to check facts, run corrections, and disclose conflicts of interest? Or are they ordinary opinion-slingers, like barbers or bartenders, with no special responsibilities – or rights?” Dotinga’s analysis was written a year before the Court of Appeals decision. Notably, Dotinga ponders whether along with the rights of a journalist, bloggers will also take on the responsibilities of one.

Eugene Volokh looks at the Court of Appeals decision and sees that it is a victory. He discloses his conflict of interest perspective by stating outright that he was one of the amici briefs in the Apple case. Apple argued that bloggers “are not members of any professional community governed by ethical and professional standards.” Excellent point, Apple. But I’m getting ahead of myself in regard to things that scare me.

To be sure, there are good recruiting blogs on the Net. There are good HR blogs out there, as well as consultants, and other parts of the employment industry. Some are written with care and consideration of the thoughts put forward as well as the quality of the information and its value. There are others that seem to challenge the reader to keep up with the syllable count. Things are dashed off for the shock value. And in some “communities,” what you find is a lot of gossip among a bunch of buddies trying to top the other, without regard to the consumming readership (except for the numbers).

Judge Volokh instructs us that “Under the California journalist’s privilege, all those who communicate to the public in a relatively regular way (as opposed to speaking only occasionally, or speaking only to a few friends) are protected, and are covered by the language ‘newspapers, magazines, or other periodical publications.'” The act of a recruiter who maintains a blog and keeps it updated makes them a journalist. The court sidestepped the issue of whether the content is legitimate or illegitimate news. the issue is that there is a regular communication to the public. It doesn’t matter whether it makes sense or not nor whether others are able to interpret what it says. And as to “illegitimate” news, I guess that could be considered lies? Not valid information? Gossip and conjecture? The court refused to address it.

There are those who care about the content that they publish and its value to the public that reads it. There are those who are not cut from the “give me the money” cloth. They apply critical thinking to the concepts they ponder and provide usable information. It is, therefore, the public’s responsibility to do careful reading in order to find the legitimate news and patronize it. Perhaps it is encouraging to realize that 34% of bloggers see what they’re doing as having journalistic form and strive to uphold those standards.

As controversial as my words have been deemed to be, perhaps I, especially, should be glad that my status is that of a journalist for several reasons. And I am allowed to draw the analogies I do from other situations in comparison to recruiting, staffing, retention, and all the other disciplines that go into the employment industry formula because of my status as a blogger and therefore as a journalist.

But I’m still scared. It appears there are not many in the recruiting industry who are capable of drawing analogies. This fact was unequivocably demonstrated earlier this month as a Bush press conference made its impression on me and I shared the thoughts and equivalencies with the larger community for discussion. The response was essentially, “Don’t rock the boat!” I’m scheduled for beheading very soon.

Recruiters Are Ethical

For every single negative, it takes ten positives to compensate for it. That is to say, a 1:10 ratio is necessary in order to maintain a status quo.

There are recruiters who are driven by numbers and only numbers. The numbers may be amount of bodies they took from one location and put into another. The numbers may equate to how many days it took to make the transitions. The numbers may be dollars and cents that were derived from getting the warm bodies into the new site. Or the numbers may equate to how many times they were able to get their words and name published on a particular website. It’s just about the numbers and nothing more.

There are some recruiters who don’t care what they have to say in order to win. If it means they need to lie in order to be in the front of the pack, then that’s what it takes; it will be done. If it means manufacture some loose translation of history as fact in order to get what they want, then the cloth will be woven. Some recruiters will create a distraction in order to make it seem that they’ve been wronged and therefore deserve the award. After a time, the purpose of the antics is lost and there’s just a drive to keep up the behavior because it’s become the accustomed thing to do. To the extent there are those who will support this or else pander to it in order to just shut up the noisemaker, there is encouragement and the system will spread.

Not all recruiters are like this. But it makes you wonder if there are sufficient numbers to not only maintain the status quo but also tip the scales to the positive side. So I guess I’m not really scared in the traditional sense of the word. Unethical recruiters do not scare me. They disgust me.

Unethical leaders do not scare me. They disgust me. The reason is because they counsel their selves and their followers to do unethical things to the detriment of anyone and everyone in their way. They care not the consequences of their actions. They care about the big payoff that they gain. The payoff could be money, power, prestige, control, website traffic, advertisers with more revenue, money, power, prestige. Oh, I’m repeating myself. If these leaders cannot show others how to follow the very rules that they have set out for their organization, how is it that they can in any sense deem theirselves to be ethical and good leaders?

There are some who would say they believe in diversity. Yet when it comes to hiring a person with a disability, that person is passed over in deference to one who has no impairments. The person of color is negated but the person of the leader’s ethnicity is hire even though not as qualified. Women are in the organization but in support roles. And women are encouraged to be petty and sniping; professionalism is discouraged. Skimming is encouraged and stealing log notes so that candidates can be claimed who are actually part of the Rolodex of someone else.

Yet another example of poor ethics is taking content and shopping it around a community before publishing it. Thus, it looks like an also-ran rather than the original content that was intended. Meanwhile, the shoppers have had time to opine on various aspects of the content and appear to be quite insightful and astute. Yet another is pretending to be a student and asking for help on a project. It’s actually a means of getting someone else to do all the research while the fake intern gets credit for the work. Have you seen someone ask for a project and then prevent the person who is to do the work from learning about the process? It’s a little difficult to write a report when there’s no knowledge and barred access. But it’s easy to point a finger and say that the person who was to do the assignment failed and didn’t follow through. What a reference!

So what scares me is the thought of having the negative side of recruiting be in charge of setting the rules and steering the recruiting ship. What scares me is leadership that doesn’t understand the very rules they’ve written. What scares me is that the negative side of recruiting is very capable of using all the tricks in the bag to defeat those who are ethical and then leave us in a jungle of snakes, venom, and flying bullets. If that’s the way the system begins to work all of the time, then maybe it’s time for us to abandon the system and not use it at all.

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Books on Recruiting and Journalism from Amazon.com

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