Life in the Black

The subject of blacklisting comes up in a lot of inquiries on the column. It forces consideration of what is actually being sought. That could be how to identify when blacklisting has occurred. In the alternative, it could relate to how to handle things in case blacklisting is happening in your own career, what alternatives are available. Or it could relate to how to manage your career in order to sidestep being blacklisted in an industry that is wont to use that practice.

Whatever the case, I’ve addressed the question of blacklisting once while I had a column on That question related to how to ascertain whether the potential employer company had been blacklisted and therefore would not be as lucrative an opportunity as another. From that question (how to identify a blacklisted company), came an article discussing the matter. Otherwise, I’ve said nothing about blacklisting since then, especially in relation to one’s career. Maybe it’s time.

It’s a difficult topic to cover, especially for those who are passionate about certain things. Suppression of enterprise and advancement, restraint of trade for petty reasons, qualify as just those “things” that deter discussion. And as was said before, there is no formal list of people or companies that should not be used. It’s imply word of mouth, as with the McCarthy era.

In addition to the negative, blacklisting has a positive influence. When the social norms are being pushed outside of acceptable boundaries, ostracism induces the offender to move back toward the community standard in humbled conformance or acceptance of the standard, leave the social structure, or die so that normalcy can be restored. It depends on how it’s being used as to whether it is a positive social dynamic or not.

The interesting thing about blacklisting is that it does not happen in a vacuum and its effects are not isolated to one place. As discussed in many articles about the McCarthy era (which is the most publicized of blacklisting practices), the ripple effects reached into issues of unpaid debt, housing, neighborhood demographics, emigration, and (of course) the war for skilled talent, as well as the cost of labor.

What blacklisting does when used for the wrong reasons or to enforce a social standard that is against official public policy is it shortchanges the community of talent and innovation that could be used for profoundly empowering endeavors, not just for the one who has the knowledge but for the community at large. The consequence of that suppression is that things continue in the same manner without innovation and bereft of the potential for increased efficiency, cost savings, adaptation to higher uses.

What is interesting is that those who use this method of suppressing talent and competition have not thought through the consequences of their acts and how this can (and does) reach back to bite the one implementing it. The motivation for blacklisting does arise in a vacuum. There is only one erroneous view that rejects all other possibilities, a bit as a child or one who is poorly educated would do.

For those who are being impacted by this dynamic, there are many alternatives for survival and modified success. But those need to be discussed in a different venue.

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