Keep Your Friends Close

Which identity

Which identity


A perennial quote from Sun Tzu, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

There are several explanations regarding the meaning of the statement. One relates to being able to anticipate the actions of one’s foes. Another relates to understanding the motivations of those who are one’s antagonists or rivals. Thus, it explains why some businesses thrive in a highly competitive marketplace while others exit for one reason or another. Sometimes it isn’t a question of anticipating the actions of the competition as much as not having the foresight to envision the next enhancement or not being the one clever enough to create a strong consumer desire for your product or service.

Friend or Enemy

This brings us to the question of how to accurately identify the friend who may actually be the wolf in sheep’s clothing. So many who have survived either domestic workplace abuse thought they had an ally who could be trusted with the private grousing or the sharing of hopes and desires. How many can attest to sharing the details of a proposal with a manager only to later discover those very details have become part and parcel of a project under another’s direction?

Is it an enemy who tells you outright that you’ve been blacklisted and will not be working in any industry anymore? Or is that actually an ally who’s providing notice that adjustments in your plans need to be made? Better to know than to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to make the car run when it has no gas tank or wheels.

With a certainty, there will be disparaging remarks that are only made out of earshot. They will relate to one’s character, work product, sanity and stability, and other matters that are cause for people to spurn and disassociate. Yes, they can come from an outright enemy. That venue is to be expected. In fact, it’s the grist of many soap operas. But how do we define the one who is our most trusted who drops a word or phrase that casts doubt and discourages?

And then there’s the one who spreads false rumors or attributes negative comments about a person or group that were never made. If no one brings up the subject with the one given credit for having made those statements, it becomes nearly impossible to put out the flames of destruction. Better to address the matter when there’s some inkling of trouble. In circles of good social responsibility, making the bad news public from the owner of the blot rather than have it blown out of proportion and raise the question of whether a cover-up was attempted is a prudent move.

Friends and enemies. Yes, it’s a good idea to think of many situations, both social and business, as a potential for re-enacting an episode of Big Brother. When we think of the management style of leading by example, we don’t have too far to look for a role model. While it may seem like paranoia, being prepared for and able to anticipate the pitfalls is both rational and reasonable.

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Influences and Influencers

Using a Guidepost

Using a Guidepost

They’re so subtle that we don’t realize our thoughts and actions are being shaped by their impact. Yet various words that imply certain concepts trigger one type of response compared with another. That in turn makes the difference between one type of action compared with a different choice.

Sometimes it’s words that imply a certain type of reward. Sometimes it’s words that suggest a painful penalty or dreaded condition that causes avoidance or complete abandonment of a project or association. It can sometimes lead to isolation, blacklisting, and even one of our current blights – homelessness – existing on the streets in a camping style existence. Perhaps minimal government assistance is available; perhaps it’s been depleted. No matter which, government assistance is one of the reasons our taxes keep rising, thereby pushing our middle class closer to the low income strata or plunging into below poverty level.

It’s the below low income and poverty strata that will force people into either becoming extremely clever because they come up with viable alternatives that were overlooked. These alternatives can also be the negative side of the coin when gangs, illegal trafficking, and theft are the resort. Coercion into joining the darker side is what leads to growth of the practice. Rewards bestowed upon those who follow the rules of the “gang” are what act as the glue and the magnet for members.

Still, there are those who are not at low or poverty level income. They can be found in many economic segments. The liquor of their motivation is the feeling of power when they see the effects of their desired practices pay off and either eliminate the target or increase their level of power and influence.

The myths born of stereotypes perpetuate the dynamics of what is now referred to as “unconscious bias.” Playing into the stereotype myths is the reluctance to delve into learning about the subject and interacting with those who are associated with it in order to become more aware of the circumstances as well as become empowered through learning the truth of the matter.

It seems ethical practices are becoming a rarity. However, the emergence of various movements to disclose some of the historic backdoor practices seems to be forcing us into taking full cognizance of our so-called unconscious practices. In reality, they’re not unconscious; they’re part of a long-standing cultural practice of using unscrupulous tactics at the cost of humanity (a gross over generalization, but very close to the heart of the message).

The way to escaping the negative influences and unethical practices, the gang mentality, is to pull the covers off the perpetrators in order to show who and what they are. Before taking drastic measures, it is prudent to attempt discussing the matter with them as a means of changing behavior or creating an awareness of the rewards of doing things in a positive way. Perhaps those private conversations are why we have so many movements these days; because the conversations were not effective and the thought processes of the perpetrator were too firmly ingrained.

Unfortunately, we as a society tend toward the easy path of group mentality. We follow the practices of those who are staying with the herd in order to gain the benefits of being part of the group’s practices. Rather than becoming more inventive with regard to devising viable, reasonable alternative, we look forward to gaining a better foothold by doing as the others do. If only there were the luxury of time to consider the consequences – social and individual – of those practices. If only there were some type of exposure to the consequences that the practices have on the stakeholders. Perhaps that is when the influence and influencers will no longer wield as much power.

Perhaps a few samples of various practices would be helpful. Then pick and choose which are the more ethical practices and which are not. Some profiles are listed under “career coaching” or “career advice” on one site. How interesting to find some vendors who offer fortune telling services as a means of delivering advice. But their reviews are stellar.

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Teachable Moments: Mother’s Letter to Ivanka

What are the ethical considerations here

What are the ethical considerations here

Ahem. We learned that Ivanka Trump (daughter of billionaire President-elect) flew on a JetBlue plane in Coach class with her husband and children on December 22, 2016. Apparently her mother never had a talk with her about protocol or etiquette. This is definitely a (overdue) teachable moment and a time for some words from Mother. This is a time when an overwrought mother with too much on her plate will be challenged to be tactful and soft spoken so that the bottom line message can be heard. Here we go.

~~~~~

Ivanka, we need to have a conversation. No, you don’t need to do an inventory of the jewelry to be sold on your website. You definitely don’t need anyone else in the room with us. This is a private conversation. You need to listen carefully. You should ask questions. Don’t be like your father and ask questions that will twist things into making it allowable for you to do something similar at a later date. We need to help you grasp some concepts.

First, although your father gained an amazing number of states in order to win the Electoral College vote, he did not win the popular vote. Do you understand what that means, my love? No, it does not mean his message was what the people of the United States believe and want. It means (just as he kept shouting during his campaign) that there was something fishy with the election.

Bless his heart, he hates to be undone. He has to be top dog. He will never admit that there was tomfoolery when it came to affirming him as the choice of the people. My dear, the popular vote shows he was not.

But he has chosen to put himself in the spotlight through his years. He has chosen to be (in fact, he has insisted on being) center stage and refuses to allow anyone else to occupy that space. He has chosen to be a public figure; he insists on it – until it goes against him. Now that he’s been elected, now that he’s been confirmed by the Electoral College, he is more than a public figure. You, and your siblings, need to conduct yourselves as progeny of the incoming President of the United States.

Not only that, my dear, your father is a billionaire. All of us know that. Your salary is far above that of the average person. You are different.

What the hell were you thinking when you and Jared booked that flight from D.C. to New York on a commercial airline IN COACH with the children?

[deep breath]

You have never been one who is part of the general population. You are different, my love. You can afford much more than the mere average American (even though you occasionally try to appeal to them by walking through the crowds with your security team). This should not be a news flash, Ivanka. Your father is not adored by the population. You do not have an esteemed position in the country. You are, at best, tolerated by necessity, nothing more.

Just as that poor man was yelling, you should have taken a private plane. The you and Jared can afford that. It wasn’t a trans-Atlantic flight so there was no major expense. Even that is affordable with your income and allowance. What the hell were you two thinking?

It’s good that you bring up that meeting with the diplomats from Japan. That was quite a stir the two of you raised. No, your father hadn’t been elected. He was still on the campaign trail. Still, it may have been better if Melania (even with her broken English) had been there instead of you. Your being there made it appear that you were assuming the role of First Lady. It made it appear that you were part of diplomatic, confidential negotiations. You don’t even have security clearance!

And then to show off your line of jewelry! I thought you were intelligent! Do you realize the types of ethical concerns that were raised during that flight of fancy? Let me put this in commoner’s vernacular. There were subtle messages of bribery and coercion laced throughout that meeting. There are already rumors (not to mention outright statements) that diplomats and political emissaries feel they must stay at a Trump property when they visit. (Thus, they feel they must line the pockets of the new President. Argh!) The jewelry thing gave the impression that they must purchase your goods. You should have saved the marketing ploy for another place and another venue – or just left it to your marketing team. (Not to mention they’d have been much better at it.)

You haven’t learned about your father’s shouting tirades – yet. Kellyanne has been shielding you from them. She’ll be integral in doing that after the inauguration but one day. One day you’ll do the unacceptable and even those lurid comments about his beautiful, hot daughter will not protect you from the real man that we three wives know.

Use common sense, Ivanka. Being a woman of the people doesn’t mean flying on commercial airlines in coach. Being a woman of the people means doing things that bring you popularity among them because of your benevolence, because of your charisma. And those attributes will flow to you because you are promoting things that are reachable and desired by the average person aiming to reach a better status, not being able to purchase a several thousand-dollar bit of jewelry that only millionaires and billionaires can afford.

Use common sense, Ivanka. And if there is a God in Heaven, encourage your father to do likewise. It’s becoming an embarrassment to acknowledge that I was married to him.

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Lessons in History – Conflicts of Interest

Recent headlines, similar to one from today’s Guardian, keep making me reflect on 20th Century events in politics and business. The make me wonder how things will actually play out (if allowed) in comparison to the Teapot Dome and Watergate situations.

Symbols of Government Ethics

Symbols of Government Ethics

The recent appointees in the developing Trump Administration have interesting, interwoven and strategic situations and alliances. They’re quite similar to the ones of the Teapot Dome flavor.

The Teapot Dome story is also documented on Wikipedia. The Brookings Institute provided more chronicling of the incident.

Enter Watergate

And then there’s Watergate and the lessons it taught us about being neglectful and too trusting in decisions made by government leaders. Reference.com summarizes that point in history while also available is the Front Line documentary history of the administration that gave rise to Watergate.

A Look at Bribery as Causation

A recent article that appeared in Corporate Counsel considered the impact of bribery on fraudulent practices in government and its influence on conflicts of interest. Some of the statistics are broken out for the reader. One of particular note is:

The United States ranked 20th. It still falls within the top 20 countries that TRACE considers “low risk.” The riskiest area for bribery in the U.S. is “business interactions with government.”

Also earning breakout attention:

• Syria suffered a considerable setback in its bribery environment, followed by Belize, with their overall risk scores rising. Syria is now one of the eight riskiest countries in the world for bribery.
• The seven other riskiest countries in order are Nigeria (199th out of 199 countries), Angola, Yemen, Guinea, Cambodia, Myanmar and South Sudan.

With regard to graft driving contracts approvals in foreign governments, one reader noted that in “. . . Italy, it’s simply accepted that many dealings with businesses or government bodies require a little grease on the wheels. So much so, that base salaries for some civil servants are less relevant than what can be made on top.” That reader recommends the book The Dark Heart of Italy for more edification. It should be noted that similar practices are heavily used in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) as revealed in a recent study conducted through Fuller Seminary. According to that study, the non-Muslim population was/is being subjected to extreme conditions of discrimination that keeps them in conditions of economic distress unless they agree to act as government-sponsored spies against family members.

Ethics Lessons

Should we be learning from history or is it our fate to close our ears and minds and simply allow ourselves to be repeatedly crushed under the Wheel of Time as it rotates? Perhaps it’s time to not only remember the lessons of the past but also become proactive about not reliving them.

When it comes to “conflicts of interest“, the layman can look to Wikipedia for its various definitions and examples or to other books that provide guidance.

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Consider signing and sharing a petition to evaluate the fitness to serve before confirmation of the President-elect.

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Oscar and Minorities

Hollywood

Hollywood California USA. World Famous Hollywood Sign Concept.

Not the first time in their history, the Oscar Awards ceremony has a boycott in store this year. Started by Jada Pinkett Smith, it didn’t take long for the boycott of the Oscars ceremony (announced the day after the nominations were revealed) would take place. And the announcement was close on the heels of another protest in Hollywood – women’s salaries compared with those of men.

The complaint is there are far too few roles for Blacks on the big screen that result in far too few who are eligible for nomination for having done exceptional work. Some of Hollywood argues back that there aren’t enough stories to be told. In the alternative, the viewing public only identifies with White faces and characters, thus the casting of the parts. But the Oscars acknowledge the work of more than just those on the screen. There are also writers, directors, composers, designers, and more who comprise the entertainment experience. This year none of color were among those nominated. Protests regarding the good ole boys club atmosphere among those who can nominate and vote for Oscar recipients grew with such intensity that protocols were immediately changed and implemented – but too late for this year’s nominees. As long ago as 1970, George C. Scott was noted as having expressed his disdain for the Oscars. “George C. Scott held nothing but contempt for the Oscar organization. He called it a ‘2 hour meat parade’. He said the whole thing was offensive, barbarous, and innately corrupt.”

It was complained that only movies about slaves and slavery or racism are put forward as examples of Blacks who have done superlative work as actors. What about the other portrayals that could have been available? There are far too few. Why is that? It seems one of the complaints expressed during this year’s protest are accurate. It isn’t so much that the parts aren’t available so much as a matter of the parts for Black characters are converted to being played by White actors. This fact was memorialized in a book I happened to discover circa 2007 while at a Los Angeles branch library that dealt with the subject of Black Hollywood. A random opening of the book brought me to a section about the Western, “The Searchers” in which the scout is portrayed as a White man. According to the book, the scout was actually Negro but Hollywood didn’t find it appropriate to portray that fact.

The refusal of Hollywood to cast Black actors in positive roles has been cited as one of the reasons there is still a struggle for Blacks to rise into being viewed as a population other than suspect and available for exploitation. The outcries of 2016 are merely echoes of what was openly expressed in a 1999 paper on ethics wherein the three authors state:

Forcibly brought here as slaves to the white man, blacks have never been treated as completely equal to whites. Stereotypes of blacks as lazy, stupid, foolish, cowardly, submissive, irresponsible, childish, violent, sub-human, and animal-like, are rampant in today’s society. These degrading stereotypes are reinforced and enhanced by the negative portrayal of blacks in the media. Black characters have appeared in American films since the beginning of the industry in 1 888. But blacks weren’t even hired to portray blacks in early works. Instead, white actors and actresses were hired to portray the characters while in “blackface.” (http:/www.moderntimes.com/palace/black/open.htm). By refusing to hire black actors to portray black characters, demeaning stereotypes were being created as blacks were presented in an unfavorable light. In addition, blacks were purposely portrayed in films with negative stereotypes that reinforced white supremacy over blacks. This has had a tremendous effect on our society’s view of blacks since motion pictures have had more of an impact on the public mind than any other entertainment medium in the last ninety years.

Add to that representation the unstated but very prevalent attitude that Blacks are an exotic race that is more for the appeasement of sexual gratification and stimulation, not for critical thinking and stubborn business aptitude.

The reference librarian who attempted to help me relocate that book from 2007 found a list of titles that may be helpful to your further inquiry on the subject of Hollywood and accurate portrayal of race. He never found the book. He explained that it may have been removed from the shelves. However, the list of titles he did find is provocative and can be found at the bottom of this post. To get more information about any of the titles, you may visit the page of your favorite book seller or put the title into your favorite search engine.

This boycott and protest is not new to Oscar. The civil rights of a pantheon of actors of all colors and genders, of every sexual preference, has endured throughout the ages. The question, then, is whether this latest wave will be effective in bringing about positive, enduring change.

References:

Other References:

  • Cinema Civil Rights: Regulation, Repression, and Race in the Classical Hollywood Era by Ellen C. Scott
  • Reel Racism: Confronting Hollywood’s Construction of Afro-American Culture by Vincent F. Rocchio
  • Race Results: Hollywood vs. Supreme Court ; ten decades of racial decisions and film by Eileen C. Moore
  • Framing the South: Hollywood, Television, and Race during the Civil Rights Struggle by Allison Schoen
  • The subject of film and race : retheorizing politics, ideology, and cinema by Gerald Sim

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Re-electing the Convicted

I’m upset.

Meet the Press featured a special segment about former legislators who served prison terms. Their convictions involved fraud and racketeering, among other matters. Now that they’ve been released, they’re running for office again (Published October 19th 2014, 10:43 am).

The former Governor of Louisiana is among those who served at least five years in prison for racketeering.

There’s also a clip of him on the campaign trail. He talks with an elderly Black woman. She expresses her favorable impression of him and promises to support his election because she’s aware that he’s focused on the good of the people and wants to help them. Perhaps she isn’t aware of his on-camera quip elsewhere: He’s just fine under the sheets. And there he’s a wizard. The implications of that statement are frightening.

It hints at his private life activities. It seems to forebode a return to old-style practices that seem to be budding throughout all of the Obama administration and especially in light of the anti-Obama tactics being used to put Republicans into office. Collectively, there is a presage of socially returning to practices of a national historic nature.

What is unclear is why these three men are eligible to run for office. They have been convicted of felonies and served time for their crimes against society. At least one has admitted he believes he’s above the law and cannot be caught at involvement in his activities. Again, the former Governor says he can’t be caught unless he’s found with a dead woman in his bed or with a young boy and neither, he says, is likely. Do the others have similar attitudes? It would be good for the Press to devote more focus on these people, to investigate the legitimacy of the candidacies. Usually, one loses their rights of citizenship after being convicted and serving prison time.

Is anyone aware of these previously convicted legislators who appear to still have the same intents and propensities?

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Is Anyone Listening?

The age-old complaint has resurfaced. Job seekers place little value in using recruiters because they aren’t reliable.

An applicant will be induced to apply for a very alluring sounding position, whether permanent or through a staffing agency. But when they get past the application, all sorts of little bugs start creeping out of the woodwork that weren’t expect. New conditions, new requirements, new qualifications. Those are predicated on the fact that the office actually exists.

Another amazing thing that happens is, after enduring an hour or so of machine assisted testing and achieving high scores on each test, the position turns out to be something that doesn’t require that much expertise and the firm doesn’t typically send people out who have that much. They only want the most basic skills possible. Next, the new candidate is told they will be called when something comes up. Someone else was sent out on the advertised situation. Or, there is another opportunity but the rate will be a little lower than the one in the ad. Can you start tomorrow?

Some agencies are a reflection of the fact that humans are part of the wheels that turn. Office functions must be done. Sometimes things get overlooked or lost or misplaced or sent to the wrong place. But it’s the temp who gets blamed for the difficulty and the blame is cemented to the worker’s reputation. Applicants are now very wary of temp agencies.

A Drawer Full of Resumes

One recruiter who did permanent placements had an entire drawer full of engineering resumes that had not been reviewed. Needless to say, the applicants had not been contacted at all. Did any of them meet some of the criteria for new orders? Well, they needed to be organized so why not make that determination while doing the sorting and organizing.

I was the researcher in that firm. The engineering terminology and highlights of career accomplishments weren’t part of my vocabulary. I went to the recruiter to seek clarification about the language. Unfortunately, he had about as much knowledge as I did. The resumes went back into a stack and filed away.

The Other Side of the Coin

Applicants and candidates also have some failings that need to be corrected. So let’s not lay all of the blame for failed opportunities at the feet of the recruiter. Stephen cites some very valid counter arguments. Also notable is the fact that he’s willing to own up to some of the errors that are committed.

Mike (another recruiter) groaned one day about a candidate who seemed to be intentionally obstinate. But the candidate hemmed and hawed about setting a date for a personal interview. It must have been their desire to not look too anxious. They agreed to a phone (not an in-person) interview, maybe. And the date and time of even the phone interview couldn’t be nailed down. The situation raised a lot of questions. Perhaps the office was too far in terms of travel. Then, again, with the cost of gasoline, it could be the candidate didn’t have gas money and didn’t want to admit that. Who knows what bugaboos were attacking that candidate’s ability to meet the invitation. The point is, they did not and had no reasonable explanations for their change in direction. Would gentle probing for the reason have helped? No matter. Opportunity lost.

Job Market

News informs us that the job market is softening. There are more jobs available. The difficulty with the news is that we aren’t told what quality of jobs are blossoming. Are they permanent jobs, entry level, across the enterprise, focused in just one industry, or are they temporary jobs?

No matter what types of jobs they are, another concern is the rate of pay. Job seekers are also weary of attempting to make ends meet with minimum wages of $7.25 (federal) or as much as $10 per hour. It simply isn’t a livable wage these days. There are true stories of people who are working two and three jobs in order to support their families. One of the ways they finally manage to do so is by virtue of the fact that there’s another wage earner in the household. But they still don’t have health insurance.