Oppression and Hope

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

    “The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost

Although the Civil Rights Movement began in the 1950s, the reasons for its importance to people of color still exist for many. The excuses run the gamut for not hiring: lack of skills, poor literacy, meager education, lackadaisical work habits. Those, and others, still prevent individuals from rising above poverty level income or minimum wage jobs – if job opportunities exist for them.

A cultural awareness that discrimination still exists and is quite healthy abounds in some places. The specter of cradle to grave bondage looms. There are two paths, to the school or to the jail. The myths of having a particular skin color is tantamount to indicating a person has violent propensities is taken as gospel for some. Explosions of emotional outrage from lack of communication skills and pent-up rage at locked doors and low expectations only serve to perpetuate the myths. And the myths continue to exist because the go unexamined.

Racial profiling is urged these days. The rationale is predicated on illegal immigration from the south and foreign terrorism from the Middle East. Our educational standards have dropped. Our global standing in quality education is now taking a back seat to China and Scandinavia. Yet, those areas also have their issues with ethnic inequities and poverty.

We need to consider the causes of the deficits domestically compared with those abroad. Perhaps one of the foundations is the fact that the underpinnings go deep into the psychology of the late 18th Century when there was no bright horizon for some save being released from this existence into a spiritual existence on another plane.

The new math of the 1950s endures. You have to be three times better in order to be considered half as good. Reduce that result by one-half if you’re a woman and another one-third if you’re a woman of color – any color.

Watching the documentary Raising Bertie (aired August 29 on PBS) should cause discomfort and motivate its audience to rise up, to advocate for positive change. It should drive the desire for more equality, not digging more ditches one generation after another. While there is dignity in being skilled in any particular endeavor, it should not be the chain that binds an entire race to be limited to only one or two choices and then no more. “Raising Bertie” represents how one segment of our population is viewed. It shows us the crossroads that challenge us and threaten to drag us into the dark days of our past or finally realize the wealth that population could be contributing to the wholeness of our country. We need to help make that happen. Those in this country deserve to have viable options.

Quality education that opens the doors not only for the individual but for the community (no matter how broad) should be available for all. Delivering quality education begins with insistence on excellence. It’s perpetuated with engendering curiosity that gets fed with the broadening of awareness. Quality education is evidenced by use of critical thinking skills that aid in problem solving instead of resorting to insults, bullying, harassment, and violence (warfare).

Quality education is not evidenced by very nice, flattering letter grades. It is evidenced by the ability to use the knowledge that was conveyed. That knowledge should be delivered through the textbooks, of course, and through exercises that provide practice in the discipline. Thus, execution of the proficiency is accomplished with dispatch in the real world, no matter what the setting.

Instructors provide guidance and interpretation of the subject and the content in the textbook. The books should challenge the student’s comprehension not pad their reading list. Therefore, tests of the student’s knowledge (evaluation of how well they have learned the subject), should not be a measure of how much and how well they learned compared with their fellow classmates. Instead, tests should reflect how much of the discipline was learned based on a measurable scale, not a bell curve. The grades are not to boost the student’s self esteem (and bury them in a false sense of accomplishment). The grades are not intended to embellish the instructor’s standing and continued tenure in their position. If they have not taught the subject, it is the instructor who needs the remedial work.

It is critical that we bring an end to our national oppression. It rides on the back of scrawny education. It emaciates our nation. And our nation becomes emaciated because the hunger for knowledge is not being satisfied.

The road away from all forms of slavery and to hope is paved with making our leaders at every level accountable for recognizing and respecting human rights to freedom.

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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.

Additional Reading:

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

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Censorship: Balancing the Interests

It doesn’t matter what type or what size it is, an organization needs a leader. It needs a person who will develop a vision that ignites a fire in the hearts of others who want to be part of that vision. And the person who carries that flame of inspiration also needs to develop a plan about how to make that vision a reality.

Censorship as a barrier

Censorship as a barrier

A vibrant organization has a free flow of communication – talking, reasoning, listening, making recommendations and suggestions, responding to input, and encouraging input. A dictatorship has one-way communication, from the top down, sans feedback or comments about where a plan has a flaw or suggestions that can make the plan even better. It’s as though the members of the group merely exist for the sake of their numbers, not for what they’re able to add to make the plan not only a reality but the best outcome for all under the leadership of the organizer.

Sometimes a twist in circumstances arises when things are done out of order. It can appear that one of the team members is pushing forth their own agenda. That happens when they’ve not had a private conference with the leader about their ideas. Perhaps that missing, private conference was because the team member feared reprisals for saying something that goes contrary to the expressed ideas of the leader. That’s a pity for many reasons. But embarrassing the leader before the world is not a good idea. Expect that there will be no further input from that member, no matter what the quality or the abilities of the one who spoke out of turn and at the wrong time.

Some people simply don’t know where they are and don’t recognize that others take the meeting place with the discretion they would expect in their own home. Certain types of speech are acceptable. Desecrating the venue with distracting content that isn’t at all related to the mission can cause more than discomfort. It’s obvious that a rational person would not do such a thing but what would cause a person to feel it is appropriate? In a professional gathering, it will seem out of place to begin screaming expletives and threats at all those present. It also sends a message to the rest of the group when one person begins publicly ranting about inappropriate behavior by the leader when the information isn’t true. In these scenarios, is outright censorship appropriate?

No matter how egregious the sin, it’s a good idea to use due process, that is, tell the person what they’ve done that is an offense to the group, to the leader, to their own self, or to all. At least they will go forward with an awareness. If the offending conduct is repeated, it can be deemed that it was repeated with knowledge and was deliberate. They’ve already been advised that the behavior is not appropriate and will not be condoned.

But what if the conduct that urged insurrection is a belief held by more than just one? We go back to the logic of private counsel. A delegation of one or as many as three will want to talk with the leader and explain that the group is dissatisfied and wants to see certain changes. The changes can even be outlined in order to show where the group would like to be led.

Some people are authoritarian, others are focused on the good of the group. The authoritarian will not hear good counsel or new ideas, no matter how they are structured, no matter how courteous or compelling the conversation. A leader who is focused on the good of the group will see the areas where they need to accede and either do so or will negotiate a new position.

Censorship is a tool. It needs to be used judiciously and the circumstances dictating its use need to be carefully evaluated. It’s helpful for warding off negative behavior that can lead to the demise of the group. It can only make things worse if it’s used without good judgment.

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About Thought Leaders

We had a teachable moment back in May when thought leader Keith Halperin put forth his ideas about why some individuals should be discounted and not considered recruiting thought leaders. There were assertions about various characteristics of people he considers unqualified. Perhaps it was more an opinion piece than it was actual fact. Still, his words predominate the opinions of many in the recruiting space. For those who struggle against these opinions and find their efforts are suppressed or repressed while others avail themselves of taking credit for the innovations, let us look at the factors that create the foundations for being considered a thought leader.

getting direction for being a thought leaer

Getting direction for being a thought leader

“Becoming a thought leader is about making money and making history.” “[A] thought leader has earned his or her title because that person’s ideas have gone viral.”

There are those who, like the unethical used car sales person, will make disparaging remarks about the competition in order to promote their own wares. Sometimes those are just as flawed and lacking (or more so) that the alternative. Just as an abuser uses circular reasoning, those who ‘do not’ qualify for the designation of a desired title will use their form of persuasion to cast aspersions and persuade others to come to their shop. It seems Keith is exercising that tactic to promote his theory.

In “What Is a Thought Leader?” the attributes of a thought leader are examined. Brilliance is one of those attributes that can be hard to pin down at certain times. According to authors Prince and Rogers””, “Brilliance is a function of acclaim, created where others bestow the accolades.” That is true. However, that type of brilliance is very transitory, here today and gone when you leave the auditorium. It is also as valid as how well the lead blankets are at repressing the “voice” of the leader. For example, how many women (or people of color, for that matter) throughout history truly were/are thought leaders but because of their position in society, their voices are muted or their words were stolen by others who could not measure up to the concepts? The source of those tactics is typically akin to what drives an abuser: fear, envy, awareness of inadequacy, lack of knowledge about how to learn, unwillingness to take direction from someone who is deemed subservient, manic need for control. When those propensities are made manifest, the logical path is to spend as little time in the acid pit as possible. Is it any wonder then, that those who could be considered deserving of being called thought leaders are sparse? And there is another tactic that has a lot of popularity in the more competitive industries (as well as abuse). Discourage others from associating with the source of the jealousy. If that isn’t effective, threaten financial harm or even exact it.

Let’s consider Carly Fiorina who started her career as a receptionist. But she used that position to gain the knowledge necessary to network (in a very subtle way) with the people she needed to know while also working her way through the jungle that ultimately led to her being the leader of a publicly-traded Fortune 500 corporation. She was an exception but she also had tenacity, which is also a mark of a thought leader. How many others are not and is there room in the leadership space for them to stand in the limelight?

Martin de’Campo talked with the industry through a series of articles he wrote about recruiting luminaries, the first of which appeared in 2002. He took the time to outline what in each person’s character made them unique and deserving of recognition. What is fascinating about the profiles he presented is that he found aspects about the people that did not duplicate the others yet they exemplified practices to aspire to claim as one’s own. (You’d probably find yourself in a very enjoyable milieu if all of them were present in the same room at the same time.) He cited accomplishments that denote an exception to being among the throng and that tend to distinguish for positive reasons. The practices are enduring and good. People walk away from conferences and other industry confabs with the names of these people on their lips and in their minds, striving to deliver their business card into the hands of the “leaders.”

The interesting thing about being a thought leader is its transitory nature. It means the “leader” inspires. Once the inspiration is reduced to implementation and execution, there is no longer leadership because it has become managing the execution and practice of the concept. “[L]eadership is about the initiation of new directions. Implementing them is a managerial undertaking.” The interesting thing I’ve noticed about many industries, and especially in the recruiting space, is that there are so many who are avid to claim ownership of the ideas generated by others so that the practice of those concepts can be executed by the envious wannabes. As with plagiarism, attribution is late or never arrives; evidence of the source is quick to be destroyed. It’s worth pondering how many more-than qualified individuals are passed over in deference to the lesser candidate because of the unrecognized abilities, suppression, or even repression of the former’s viability. Censorship can rob us in many ways on a social level because the ideas and advancements that can lead to a better life are not allowed to emerge. The flimsy, purloined imitation fails and is then discarded as worthless.

Authors Prince and Rogers offer a two-part definition of thought leadership that is quite telling and supports the notion of unattributed source of ideas. Part one of the definition explains: “what we’re talking about . . . is “brilliance.” What’s essential to understand is that brilliance doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and it’s a total waste of time to debate whether it’s authentic or not. Brilliance is a function of acclaim, created where others bestow the accolades.” The second part of the definition holds some provoking concepts and a possible reason for the suppression of those who actually originate the innovative ideas. “A thought leader is an individual or firm that significantly profits from being recognized as such.” Being able to “profit” from something doesn’t always mean financial gain. “Profit” can be derived in many ways. But the imitators seek the wealth – especially in lean times. They will quickly abandon what requires time and nurturing in deference to the quick payoff.

“Whenever you advocate a new idea to your colleagues or boss, you show thought leadership.” Self proclaimed thought leaders are full of flushable content, eh? To the extent that others want to claim ownership of the ideas and credit for the innovation, bespeaks the fact that the idea has merit enough to encourage adoption. To disparage the practice, especially because another didn’t come up with it or misunderstood, failed, and didn’t ask for guidance from the originator shows the fraud. Self-proclaimed thought leader? I don’t think so. Incidentally, what happened to all those articles and other things that mysteriously got deleted or lost? Who’s the “Cinderella” in your space?

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Where Do I Start?

Where do I start? It feels like I’ve been hit by an avalanche of stuff that relates to “ethics” that’s been having falloff for about the past four to six months. All of the underlying principles and concepts (one would think) are common knowledge and regular practice. But there are people out there who say one thing and when pressed to act, will do quite the opposite of the rhetoric they spout.

Where do I start? Maybe I should start putting my Vocabulary Builder in this blog on a weekly basis and fill it with three ethics or legal terms. No. I don’t think that would do any good. There are people out there who, like drug addicts and substance abusers, will say the word, define it perfectly, and then return to doing what they did to commit an error in the first place — as though the definition they just perfectly provided did not exist at all.

Where do I start? The concepts I’m thinking of relate to piracy, lying, misrepresentation, defamation, business slander, intentional interference with business opportunity, defamation by insinuation, fraud, stealing, espionage, confidentiality, whistleblowing. But as I survey the recruiting landscape, especially the more popular and better-known venues, these issues (along with many other things) appear to be the community standard or in layman’s terms, the standard way of doing things. These are merely the superficial tactics. They do not touch on the more colorful strategies such as staging fights in order to draw traffic and thereby justify higher advertising revenues. Nor do that reach into blacklisting (in its various forms) to prevent the competition from being seen or found and read and thereby prevented from vying along with others for similar or the same types of opportunities for business promotion and development.

Some are successful because of the means they use to achieve their goals. They wear angelic faces and excuse their actions by being the first to speak of what was done and gild the acts with enough truth that the untruths and support of them seem plausible. How unfortunate that the ones who are being harmed cannot speak in order to disclose the other side of the story. Those who we see as the successes are touted for their skills and resourcefulness. They teach classes on what they do so that others may replicate the procedure thereby preserving and prolonging unethical behavior. It also serves to hold the conduct up to most of the light of day and condone the practices as proper and correct.

If these practices were proper and correct, why would it then be necessary to lie about what was actually done? Why would it be necessary to use deception to induce the target to deliver information or make a change?

I look at recruiters (and business people) who cook up numbers and hold them out as attainable in order to induce their candidate to leave their present job for the more speculative one — the one with the cooked numbers. I hear about those who are fired because they could not reach inflated goals and are then left unemployed in a tight labor market with few resources to fall back on — and they have families.

Where do I start? It seems this is merely the scream before the discussion of the issues. And discussion of the issues needs to take place on a bite-by-bite basis. I will not even attempt to determine which topic has the most significant and deserves being in the spotlight first. But the bites will come. And I hope you will respond through comments here or in the Ethics in Recruiting forum.

NOTA BENE: Link to “Ethics in Recruiting” updated.