Monthly Archives: July 2014
Update on Israel vs. Hamas
In a previous post I correctly predicted that the current Israeli-Hamas flare-up would be different this time around. Perhaps the Central Intelligence Agency should hire me? At any rate, Israel has been pounding Hamas relentlessly. Unfortunately due to the nature of the conflict and the strategy of Hamas to locate their military assets in mosques, school yards and other sensitive buildings, Israeli fire has been resulting in significant civilian casualties. We are seeing the pictures of dead children as in previous conflicts but unlike previous times, we are also seeing commentary linking the casualties to Hamas practices. This really hasn’t happened in a strong way before and this new development is giving the Israelis license to pound Hamas and to weather the negative publicity that Hamas has counted upon in the past to stop Israeli action. In news today, Israel called up 18,000 additional reservists and Prime Minister Netanyahu has made it clear that this will be a protracted conflict. Public opinion in favor of Netanyahu and his strategy is running at an unprecedented 95% positive among Israeli Jews. Oddly enough the leader of international pressure to halt Israeli operations has been led by the United States. Russia is busy defending its actions in Ukraine, China remains neutral as usual and Britain and France are focused on Ukraine and stopping future Soviet aggression. In the same way that Putin has blown off President Obama, Prime Minister Netanyahu has followed suite and rebuffed John Kerry’s peace initiatives. I guess he figures that if Putin can get away with it, then he and the Israel lobby in the US, will definitely be able to pull off thumbing their noses at President Obama’s futile efforts. I certainly wouldn’t want to be a Hamas commander these days. Apparently their main headquarters is underneath a hospital, and while it is unlikely that Israel would take it out without a strong (and very internationally public) warning to evacuate, the fact that the Israelis took out the Gaza power station shows they aren’t afraid to hit sensitive targets. Hamas definitely miscalculated and they (and all of Gaza unfortunately) are paying the price. Meanwhile as long as Abbas can keep the West Bank in check, the West Bank Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority will come out ahead when all the dust clears.
Bad Female Managers
It is unlikely that you will see an article titled “Bad Male Managers,” just as you’ll likely not see an article labelled “The White Crime problem.” While bad management spans all genders, races, and ethnicities, general aspersions from individual negative examples tend to be applied to non-white, non-male groups. I imagine this is a fairly general trend that benefits the majority group, and one would see articles about bad non-Han Chinese managers in China rather than their majority group as well. This circumstance adds an extra burden on all non-majority populations in terms of performance. They are not only representing themselves but they are to some extent also representing their minority group. There is a collective pressure to create a positive stereotype. Therefore when a woman is a bad manager, she casts that negativity on all within her female peer group, and that is why we all cringe when we run into a really, really, bad female manager. We know what that means; it means that every male manager she comes in contact with will have a more negative opinion of all female managers as a consequence. Fair? Certainly not, but it is accurate. This pressure to positively represent is something that many white male managers will likely have no experience with and understanding it will make them better managers. In a positive light it means that there is an added incentive for your fellow black, female, Arab, or transgender managers to do well. The negative side of that is the additional pressure and distraction associated with this heavier burden. “If I look bad, am I going to screw this up for all the rest of the female managers in the company?” Worrying about this wider impact may tend to result in more conservative decisions and restricted risk taking. It may also result in managers affecting behaviors that are modelled rather than innate. A female manager trying to manage like a stereotypical male manager in a way that doesn’t agree with her natural inclinations and demeanor will result in her not managing to her potential. Creating a positive atmosphere that lets all managers and employees feel safe that they are being judged as an individual will help reduce the stress on your minority employees and will also likely increase performance.
Amendments to Executive Orders 11478 & 11246
On Monday July 21, 2014 President Obama signed an Executive Order extending protections to transgendered Federal employees, adding onto the LGB protections already afforded during the Clinton Administration, and also extended LGBT protections to all Federal contractors. Given the amount of services and goods bought by the Federal Government, this Executive Order will have a significant effect on private industry. Conservative religious leaders instantly raised religious based objections to the Order citing the recent Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case. (See previous blog on that topic.) However, it is unlikely that those opposed to LGBT rights will find the argument as easily won in a future Supreme Court case because the justices will have to factor in the corollary religious effects of a ruling against the Executive Order. The Hobby Lobby decision supported religious freedom centered around a very powerful belief based on one of the Ten Commandments: thou shalt not kill. Once a baby is conceived, it takes discrete deliberate action to terminate it before it is born. A large portion of our population has this belief, and it is strongly held. However, the Ten Commandments say nothing specifically about LGBT issues. References to homosexuality and transgendered status are in Biblical texts that also speak of stoning for adultery, prohibiting the eating of pork, and not shaving one’s forelocks. Thus upholding religious freedom to not observe the Executive Order would have to apply to all other biblical (and Koranic, and Talmudic, and Mormon texts) that are equivalent in their level of condemnation or punishment. This would be a far too broad interpretation that would open nearly every Federal law or statute to a religious exemption. It would be a big stretch for constitutionalist judges to make. Therefore it is likely that the executive Order will stand and LGBT people will see an increase in the legal protections afforded them against employment based discrimination.
What is missing from the latest Israel-Hamas flare-up? Arab protest. We aren’t hearing much from the surrounding Arab countries. Previous fighting usually resulted in multiple Arab governments pressing hard for a cease-fire, and declaring condemnation of Israel. Not much of that is happening this time. Despite Hamas running up their own civilian casualties and displaying their usual dead children videos, Arab governments aren’t pushing for a stop to the fighting. Why? Well for one, Hamas was allied with the Muslim brotherhood that is now persona non grata in Egypt. The new Egyptian military government is perfectly willing to sit by and let Israel bloody the ally of its enemy. Hamas chose unwisely in Egypt power politics. Hamas was also an Iranian counterweight to Israeli action. As Iran moves closer to having a nuclear weapon, Arab governments such as Saudi Arabia become more concerned. A neutralized Hamas would make it much easier for Israel to take action against Iranian nuclear targets. Even if they don’t take action, the increased threat of action will help US and allied countries in their nuclear negotiations with Iran. Add to that the fact that Hezbollah is currently engaged heavily in Syria and Iraq, which further curtails Iran’s ability to strike Israel, in turn ratchets up pressure on Iran in the nuclear talks. So, degradation of Hamas generally works in the favor of most Arab countries. The plethora of other conflicts underway around the globe also works against Hamas. Videos of paraded dead Palestinian children have to compete with ISIS beheadings, downed jetliners in Ukraine, and a host of other global strategies. All of this means that Israel will likely have more time to sustain an attack on Hamas before international pressure mounts to stop it. Like the much younger sibling who smacks his older brother because he knows mom will intervene before he can get beat-up too badly, Hamas has antagonized Israel in the past with the rationalization that the international community and public opinion would step in (like mom)to save it before things got too bad. It may not work out that way this time, and Hamas may end up far more bloodied than they anticipated. It might even turn the population against them if they compare their status with that of the Palestinians in the West Bank.
Too Much Sugar Ruins the Pie. That’s what my mama told me when she was doing her best to teach me how to cook, and although I never learned to even cook simple spaghetti really well, I can relate how that adage applies to HR and management. I’ve observed many supervisors that think they are being good managers by heaping praise on their employees. After all, everybody likes to hear they are doing a good job, and hearing it more often makes them even happier, right? Some do it genuinely, others for manipulative reasons. In both cases, over-application of praise results in it ultimately becoming meaningless. If an employee is praised for doing marginally well even on trivial tasks, then all but the shallowest worker learns that the praise is worth about as much as any other devalued currency; you couldn’t buy a sack of potatoes with it even with a wheelbarrow full. Like currency, praise needs to have a standard, and preferably a gold standard. I rarely praise, but when I do, my employees know they have done something really spectacular and they go away with a beaming smile, and tell their co-workers that Jennifer said they did something great. They are genuinely proud of it. Contrast that to the manager who always praises and the employee who walks away with a suspicious, or at best a weak forced smile. The other important thing is that you need to use real sugar. There goes the pie analogy again, but let’s continue slicing it. Employees can spot forced, or non-genuine praise fairly soon after getting to know a manager. If you give praise to further your goals (making happy employees that work hard for you) you are doing it out of a spirit of manipulation. This will shine through. You need to drop all thoughts of using praise as a tool, set your standard, and dish it out as it is genuinely deserved. For one, you will be seen as someone who is genuine and not manipulative, and two, you actually will be so. That’s good for management, and it’s also great when you look in the mirror at night before you go to bed. So managers, use real sugar, but don’t use too much. You might just find a new respect from your people.
I don’t think the Ukrainian separatists knew Malaysian flight 17 was a commercial flight. It’s clear from the tapes that they thought it was a Ukrainian military transport. Planes get shot down in war zones. That’s a fact of war. It’s dirty, it’s nasty, people die. I guess that’s kinda the point in war, isn’t it? Prior to Malaysian Flight 17 getting shot down, four different planes had been hit and blown out of the sky in the preceding few days. Everyone knew it was dangerous airspace. British Airways and Air France both detoured their flights around the war zone, however Malaysian Airlines decided to fly their plane straight through the war zone. Why? Well it saved a bit of fuel and a few minutes of flight time. I’m not condoning war or violence, but war sometimes happens. When it does, innocent people die. But the victims of Malaysian flight 17 didn’t have to die. Had Malaysian Airlines followed the same safety protocols as the British and French, those people wouldn’t have died. To me, that’s even more criminal than the unavoidable random innocents getting killed in an ugly war. The flight 17 deaths could have been prevented. I hope that after all the geopolitical posturing is done, that Malaysian Airlines faces some consequences for their actions. Thought you were saving a few thousand dollars in jet fuel; well you lost an entire multi-million dollar jetliner, millions in lawsuits and attorney fees, and cost nearly 300 people their lives. Go take that to the bank Malaysian Airlines.
I try to not take sides in the Israeli Palestinian conflict, I really do. I try to look at it dispassionately away from the standard “US support of Israel at all costs” party line. I have friends who are Palestinian, and friends who are of Arab ancestry. They are all wonderful, hard working and amazing people. That’s why it is so hard to watch what is happening in the Gaza Strip right now. Hamas seems to start their Quixotic attacks on Israel just when their political power seems to be starting to wane, and their useless attacks on Israel prop up Hamas at the expense of the Palestinian people. At least the leadership in the West Bank has sense enough to not start a fight they can’t win, at least not as of the time of this writing. Hamas preys on the Palestinians of Gaza, sacrificing them on the alter of martyrdom and maintaining Hamas power. Hamas’ industry is one of perpetual misery perpetrated on innocent people, both Palestinians and Jews. Israel uses missiles to defend its people. Hamas uses people to defend its missiles. By placing their launchers in neighborhood mosques and schools, they taunt Israel to strike them, causing civilian casualties that Hamas can then use to rouse popular support for their bellicose stance against Israel. When will the Gazan Palestinians wake to the fact that Hamas is treating them akin to animals meant for slaughter? It pains me to see the predictable and totally unnecessary destruction that results from their useless attacks on Israel. Neither side can ultimately claim legitimate right to the land. The Jews, the Muslims, and the Christians all came and conquered and slaughtered at various times throughout history. While a few worry about political power, ancient wrongs, and indulging their penchant for murder, millions of shopkeepers, barbers, farmers, and children who just want to live peaceful, uneventful lives suffer. There can be no perfect peace there, but can there be some semblance of co-existence? I pray all can find it in their hearts to do what is right now, what is best for their people, not to live in the past reliving past wrongs. May God grant some peace to Palestinians and Israelis.
Dealing with the Transgender “Bathroom Issue”
Of all the issues you must address with a transgender (TG) hire or transition in your workplace, the bathroom issue is probably the most obvious surface issue, and is also the one that will generate the most discussion and potential resistance from current employees. Actions you undertake will fall into two categories, 1.) Physical, and 2.) Training/Culture.
First, separate but equal accommodations are not to the letter of the law. As a corollary, think of “Black” and “White only” restrooms. Enough said on that. If your workplace has single toilet restrooms, you can simply change the “men” and “women” signs to the “men/women” or unisex signs. Many small businesses and small offices have these facilities, and aside from transgender employee compliance, this is good for your transgender customers and will also equalize wait times for women who generally require longer bathroom stays. For multiple facility restrooms, attention to properly installed doors and general privacy barriers are important and should be upgraded if complete privacy is not afforded. An example is installing stall walls and doors that are lower to the ground and higher to the ceiling. Since this does not involve changing walls or plumbing, these changes can be done at minimal cost and your employees will likely appreciate a bathroom upgrade anyway. It should be noted that changing a single restroom to unisex in a large factory complex is not compliant; a TG employee should find it as easy to get to, and use, a restroom as any non-TG employee.
Training is absolutely necessary. It is very likely that some employees will object to a TG employee using their bathroom. We must of course protect TG rights, but we must also be cognizant of the fears and concerns of all the other employees as well. This is not to say in any way that TG rights need to be sacrificed; it simply means that we must do our best to not alienate the rest of the workforce while we integrate TG employees. Employees should be assured that the existing company policy of privacy within a stall is being maintained, and will continue to be enforced. This policy applies to all employees. If your company doesn’t have such a policy, it is simple to adopt one and generally will preclude anyone from peering over stalls, utilizing camera phones under stall walls, or having sex in stalls. It should be emphasized that this policy is not a result of hiring a TG employee but rather as a reminder to all employees that bathroom decorum is a common sense policy. Employees should be reminded that the common areas of the restroom are exactly as the name implies, and that activities like hand washing, hair combing, and makeup application are all activities done in public. For example, are you worried that a man will see you doing your eyeliner in your car? If concern persists, one of my favorite techniques is to say: “Examine this sentence: “I would be uncomfortable sharing a bathroom with a TG person.” Now substitute the word “black” for TG and have employees say it out loud. “I would be uncomfortable sharing a bathroom with a black person.” Hopefully, most people are sensitive to racial discrimination and will see the connection of past racial discrimination to current TG discrimination feelings. Of course, including comprehensive employee training on TG issues is a good practice; however if that is not possible, then an hour long presentation or seminar should be done at a minimum. The goal should be to educate employees on TG issues such that they won’t feel threatened by the inclusion of TG employees, and hopefully see the many positive benefits that the inclusion of a TG individual will have on the company’s diversity and performance. Often, the concern is expressed at male to female (MtF) transgendered individuals in women’s restrooms. Training should include a good mix of facts, advocacy, and light humor. As they say, you can’t judge a person who hasn’t walked a mile in your five inch designer open toed platform pumps, and ladies, MtF transgendered individuals have. Give them a chance; you might be pleasantly bored at how much they are just like your other girlfriend coworkers. Remember, gender resides in the brain.
Management by Cult of Personality
People want and need to believe. They need to believe in something, or someone in order to feel fulfilled and actualized as human beings. The antithesis is the assembly line worker making a dull product under a bad manager; he doesn’t believe in the company mission, he doesn’t believe in the product he’s making, he doesn’t believe in his supervisor, and ultimately he won’t believe in himself. His level of motivation to perform on the job will suffer consequently. Most of us don’t work for companies, or agencies whose goal is to “save the world.” Companies try their best to inculcate a sense of “mission” in their employees, but for most, this mission can only go so far. Like the army grunt in the foxhole, employees most often look to their direct supervisor (their noncommissioned officer,) for motivation and sense of mission. Unfortunately too many times their supervisor is found wanting, providing leadership as bland as the product that the worker is making, selling, or servicing. Let’s face it; even the most ultimate Nike shoe is still a piece of leather and rubber covering a stinky foot. It’s hard to get excited about any company that is based on profit. That’s why a successful manager needs to market herself 24/7 to the people she manages. She needs to be seen as looking out for the employees, to be fair and impartial in all her dealings, morally above reproach, be seen as a hard worker, be appropriately sarcastic and supportive of upper management as the need requires, and above all she must be sincere. This requires a commitment of leadership, and an ongoing focus to be the motivator for her employees. If done correctly she will hear, “My boss is working late so I will too,” or “I have to get this done so I don’t let down the boss,” or “I screwed up and it was my fault, I let my team down.” A successful leader builds a cult of personality based on the foundation of his sincerity and commitment. From this foundation, he needs to work diligently to appear to be a person worthy to be followed, to be worthy of the belief of his employees. History abounds with great military leaders and officers whose men would literally die for them. Fortunately our bar is lower, we don’t need people to die for us, just give an honest day’s effort. By giving a person grasping at straws for something to believe in, a conscientious manager can provide just that, and in so doing not only help their own success but make their employee’s lives and day at work that much more fulfilling and worthwhile. Being a good manager isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon; it’s not winning a single battle, it’s winning an entire long protracted war.
How an Assassin and a Racist Helped Further Transgender Rights…
This year is the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights bill, which was the basis for the Macy V. Eric Holder decision where the EEOC ruled in favor of Macy, saying that discrimination based on someone changing their gender is a form of sex stereotyping under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Originally, “sex” was not part of the Civil Rights Act, which focused primarily on rights for black Americans. In an effort to torpedo the bill, Rep Howard Smith, D-VA, then chairman of the House of Representatives rules committee, added the term “sex” to follow religion to the original Act language. Smith, a racist and active segregationist, hoped that adding language relating to women’s rights would increase opposition to the bill from misogynistic House members. In general, House members hoping to stop the Act supported the amendment, while those in favor of the Act generally voted against it. The debate over the “sex” amendment was short and filled with dismissive and joking comments regarding the status of women and gender. At the end of the debate, the amendment passed by a narrow margin, 168 to 133. Some researchers such as Freeman attribute passage to the National Women’s Organization, however their lobbying ability would have been described as “weak as best.”
Passage of the bill looked unlikely, however the assassination of President Kennedy served as the emotional lever that his very skilled and ruthless successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, used to force the Civil Rights Act through Congress. Citing opposition to the Act as an action dishonoring the slain President, Johnson was able to get a positive vote. Had Kennedy not been killed by an assassin, it is very possible that the Act would not have been passed in 1964. While the tide of history would have ultimately produced some variant of the Civil Rights Act with a provision preventing discrimination based on sex (gender) it was these two unlikely events that combined to produce what would eventually culminate in the Macy V. Holder decision and president Obama’s executive order preventing transgender discrimination in the Federal government. History works in strange and unlikely ways.