Monthly Archives: December 2015

Syrian Refugees: To accept or not to accept? That is the question.

syrianThe answer is yes. Before you call me a bleeding heart liberal, let me explain.   I understand the risks of letting in people; after all ISIS could sneak someone in as a refugee.   They could also sneak someone in pretty easily over the Mexican border or the Canadian border or radicalize any number of people within the United States.   What percentage of refugees will commit crimes? Will it be any higher than the native population?   We already have a high crime rate, how many refugees have committed crimes compared to the general population? Compared to the already existing illegal immigrant population?   If we fear a refugee, perhaps we should fear our neighbor as well?   Then, you have to ask yourself the question: What would it take to keep us completely safe? The answer is a Government so invasive no one on either the right or left would want to live under it; it would mean no guns, border checkpoints at every county line, registrations of everyone, neighbor spying on neighbor.   In effect, it would be 1937 Germany.   No one wants that…except ISIS.   You see, I believe ISIS knows it can’t topple the United States by killing us; after all we do that pretty well enough already.   Think of the people that die from gun violence in the United States, from knife violence, from automobile accidents, by industrial accidents.   More people die in the United States as a result of slip and falls than all the terrorism we’ve ever experienced in our entire national history. So can ISIS beat us by killing us? The answer is no, they cannot. They CAN beat us by making us so afraid that we destroy ourselves, by destroying our way of life. You see, that is the real threat- at least to a nation. Oh sure, they may kill you or a loved one and that will be a tragedy, but it is a personal tragedy, not a national tragedy.   Too many Americans have died to give us the freedoms we have today for us to demean them by taking that freedom away ourselves.   Since 9-11 the war has been on foreign soil; we’ve felt comfortable knowing that “other people” namely our sons and daughters in the military were the only ones at risk. Well, the war has come home; why shouldn’t it? Do you think that you can wage war without being involved? We are all in this together, so prepare yourselves, be ready to confront any terrorist that appears, and be an American.   The man who shields you from a terrorist bullet in a crowded movie theatre may just very well be one of those recent Syrian immigrants.

Fostering Feedback

Do you want honest feedback?  Really?   You should.  What your organization produces is only as good as its participation, and no manager is better than the sum of themselves and their employees.   A manager has to create a culture that fosters honest feedback.  To do this, he or she needs to set the example.   At meetings you need to first ask for feedback.  You may not get it initially as employees will be hesitant to give honest opinions as opposed to being politically correct in the bureaucratic sense of the word.   To encourage honest feedback a manager might say, “Look, I just brainstormed this idea and haven’t thought it through yet.  I need you to tell me if it makes any sense at all or is it total crap?”     You may start with a relatively minor or unimportant idea in order to enable employees to risk giving an honest opinion.   If someone offers an opinion, you can’t reject it.  You can be neutral but don’t shut it down.  Say, “Good, thanks for that idea!  Are there any others?”   You can prod participation by saying, “Hey I can’t do this all on my own, I need your help and input.”    If no one offers anything, ask specific people, and be gracious to any feedback.  You may need to start small and build up trust.   If any ideas are reasonable, start implementing them and crediting the people who offered them.  You need to show in concrete terms that you are receptive to ideas, and people will get credit for their ideas.     Once you have established a culture of feedback, you will be able to put forth ideas and have every member of your team offer an honest opinion.  Right or wrong, if all feedback is treated with respect, you will be able to quickly analyze all sides to an issue or problem.   Imagine putting forth a problem with a proposed solution and asking for feedback.  Within a half hour every member of your team has chimed in and you’ve discovered three angles you never thought about, a completely new idea, and caught a disasterous pitfall that would have killed the project’s success.   As you adjourn, everyone feels like they’ve contributed and they trust you will synthesize the best of the feedback into a revised proposal that will again be run through “the gauntlet” of feedback.     It may not be quick or easy to arrive at a culture that fosters true feedback, but if you do, you will be much stronger than any of your peer managers.   Not only will you be more effective at delivering quality product, but you will be seen as a true leader of people.   Remember true leaders lead, they just don’t manage.

An Excellent Example of a Gender Transition Policy that is Out of this World

At the risk of my consulting business I’ll call out one of the better gender transition policies available for public viewing.    In a similar way to being the first Agency to put a human on the moon, NASA has developed one of the first gender transition policies.   Other Federal agencies and departments are also crafting similar documents.   As they are finalized, they will become public documents without copyright restrictions.   The NASA policy is a 14 page document, and uncharacteristic to government products, it is is concise and to the point, and comprehensive.   If your company needs to adopt a gender transitioning policy you would be well served to download the NASA policy at:    http://odeo.hq.nasa.gov/documents/Gender_Trans_Guide.pdf

Of course, adopting a policy is one step, you would also need to develop an accompanying support structure and at a minimum train your managers to implement the policy.    If you have an employee transitioning or planning to transition, a training class for all employees immediately involved in interacting with the transitioning employee may be advisable.   A proper transition plan can be effective in not only retaining the transitioning employee, preventing harassment/EEO lawsuits, but also to minimize any potential disruptions with other employees and/or address their concerns regarding the situation.

Jenni Contrisciani, MBA

Don’t Flush Your Profits…

Transgender Bathroom Access and the Risk of Lawsuits

Jenni Contrisciani, MBA

According to a UCLA Law School study, there are approximately 700,000 transgender individuals in the United States.     The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that approximately 59% of the US population is employed.    The Human Rights campaign estimates a 14% unemployment rate for transgender workers, approximately double that for the national average.    Assuming an equivalent age distribution of transgender individuals and accounting for increased unemployment means there are roughly 400,000 transgender employees in the United States.     Statistica.com puts the number of Americans currently employed as 122.47 million people, so approximately one out of 306 employees are transgendered.  If you filled the University of Michigan football stadium with workers (115,000) 375 of them would be transgender.    Given rampant underemployment in the transgender community this figure may only be two thirds of this number in professional work place settings, however this still represents 200 people in the University of Michigan stadium example, and 264,000 people nationally.

Recent EEOC and court cases have clearly stated that transgender individuals must have access to the restrooms of the gender in which they identify.  The Federal Government has issued clear directives to its departments and agencies to this effect.    Companies that do not have a transgender restroom policy are at risk of lawsuits by employees, with the accompanying risk of monetary damages.    Companies with identified transgender employees must have clear restroom policies adopted and published.   Given that many transgender individuals are closeted, but may come out at any time and publicly assert they are transgender, means that even companies that do not have identified transgender employees need restroom policies.

The transgender community is well connected through social media, and aware of recent court cases. The “coming out” of celebrities such as Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner and Navy SEAL Christopher/Kristin Beck have raised the likelihood of transgender individuals openly identifying as their true gender and demanding equal rights under Federal EEOC guidelines and court precedent.    Therefore a prudent employer needs to establish a transgender restroom policy.

But what about my other employees, employers will ask?   The women in my company won’t be happy with “men” in their restroom!     If existing experience is any indication, this will be a concern that will need to be addressed in your company.    You may need training to both enact a transgender restroom policy and keep your employees happy.     There are several key points to emphasize.   Just as there are transgender women, who were or are, genetically male, there are also transgender men who are/were genetically female.   Transgender men can appear with beards and well developed musculature.   A transgender man in the women’s room would probably be more disturbing to women than a transgender woman, who dresses as a woman.     Without a transgender restroom policy, forcing employees to use the restroom of their genetic gender may result in masculine transgender men in the women’s room, and transgender women wearing dresses, high heels in the men’s room and applying make-up at the sink.

Second, as with any restroom situation, the company must state that it will police any inappropriate behavior.   While there have been no documented cases of transwomen acting inappropriately in women’s restrooms, the red herring of sexual perversion and inappropriate behavior is often raised.   In addition to reassuring employees that there have been no cases of inappropriate behavior in restrooms documented to date, company policy is still in effect if there ever was.

Third, most modern restrooms contain a sink area and individual stalls.   Aside from shoe size, there really isn’t any way to discern a transgender woman versus a genetic woman in the stall next door, assuming proper sit-down behavior by the transwoman.  Even so, there is privacy in bathroom stalls.  If necessary, stalls can be further privatized to reassure any individual.

Fourth, it should be addressed that transgender people are desperately wanting to blend in with the gender of their choice, so the only interaction a genetic woman  would likely have with a transwoman in the restroom would be if she asked her at the sink how she learned how to do her makeup so well.   Again, there have been no incidences of abnormal behavior in professional settings or the multiple school settings where transgender individuals are allowed to use the restroom of their gender identity.

Of course, change is hard and employees may come with very fixed and predetermined viewpoints.  This is where training can be effective in dispelling many of the myths and misperceptions of transgender individuals.   Not only can you more likely retain a talented transgender employee, but a well stated and public restroom policy may attract talented transgender individuals.

If you do not have a policy in place currently, it would be wise to do so and would demonstrate foresight and fiscal responsibility to do so.

Jenni Contrisciani, MBA

Jennicontrisciani@outlook.com