The Existential Problem of Coonery

Let’s start by defining what a “coon” is. A “coon” is a black person who values what white people think of them more than they care to honor their culture and the suffrage of the racial group they identify with. A “coon” seeks to be accepted and praised by white people while seemingly enjoying any and all humiliation, marginalization, bias, prejudice or mistreatment expressed towards them by white people.

“Coons” are the bud of innumerable jokes within the black community and at the same time equally loathed by others in the community. For the purpose of providing an example, Omarosa Manigault is widely known as a “coon”. She is a black woman who despite what everyone else sees as an ego-maniacal racist in our current president (who I will not name) decided to join his cabinet as Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison for the White House. To some, it just looks like she had a previous relationship with 45 and as a result of their friendship – she took a job she was offered. Sounds simple? Except, there is a little more to it if we dig deeper. I cannot say with any certainty what her specific motivations were for taking a job with the devil himself.

However, if I am to use the data that I have available, I will wager that she took the position to further her waning notoriety and influence. The fact that she did that knowing many of the disgusting views her former boss held is why she gets labeled a “coon”. Like a good “coon” she also thought as many of them do – that it would be different for her because she has presented herself as a supportive, non-threatening black woman. She was willing to sacrifice her own self-worth and maybe even some of her natural self-serving ways of being to be associated with a white supremacist. This is seen as self-hatred in the black community and while it has often been reduced to the derogatory nomenclature of “coon” this is the existential problem we are dealing with as it pertains to individuals who follow this pedigree.

In communities of color, individuals are never standing for themselves alone. As a person of color, you represent yourself and your community. It is a heavy burden to bear, but still, it is a fact-of-life we all assume and understand from an early age. There is a myriad of reasons why black people become “coons” a few examples are:

1) You grew up around white people your entire life and were taught that they are vehicles to progress your social status making your mere association with them a positive catalyst for your existence.

2) You grew up being taught “white is right” and that black people are in a constant state of striving towards learning and knowing more, but never achieve mastery when juxtaposed against white people.

3) You were taught that “white people” are trustworthy over people of color in every situation and always have your best interest at heart. Note: This is synonymous with the messaging and positioning of slavery times that Massa was beating you for your own good in an effort to refine your heathen and innate ways.

4) They secretly or unknowingly hate everything about being black or (more generally a person of color) because their conditioning tells them that everything from their religion to cultural norms lies well outside of what white people think is normal, so they choose to manufacture a representative of themselves that they think is more socially-appealing.

Being deemed a “coon” is the extreme of self-hatred black people harbor towards themselves stemming back to slavery times. However, I would wager that all of us whether we are deemed a “coon” or not sacrifice a little of our existence every day in ways that make us cry ourselves to sleep or pray for a “better” way of living. My entire career has included opportunities, trade-offs, and circumstances in which I had to assess whether being loyal to my culture and people was more important than a paycheck. Personally, I have always chosen the people over the perceived losses I may incur. I’m not ignorant to the fear that is attached to walking that road of choosing values, ethics, and community over livelihood and prestige.

Sometimes you have to bite your tongue and get to a certain place before you can exude the bravery. It takes a lot more self-exploration and integrity to honor yourself above self-serving activities that serve to forward a white agenda shrouded as an opportunity for progression for your career, life etc. Trust me, I get it.

Thankfully, I have the courage and license to confidently decline opportunities especially when they are in gross misalignment with who I am and what I stand for. That means if you ask me to take lesser roles on a project or in curating an event where white people who are less qualified than me have the spotlight, the answer will be “no”. If I have to sign-on to do any work that will adversely impact my community in any way, the answer is: “no”. Unfortunately, money and influence are everything to some so much so that they have absolutely nothing without it. That is an existential crisis of epic proportions. Money and influence are great, but at what cost? In Omarosa’s case, she thought she was making a power move and ending up coming up short in the end. How you start is how you end.

When we talk about diversity, inclusion, and equity in the HR world, do not stop short of understanding whether your policies, rules, and culture create cultural pitfalls designed to make people of various marginalized groups choose “white” over choosing themselves. It is a dangerous pitfall and one that breeds resentment. There aren’t enough town halls, focus groups, culture days or employment branding to save your retention efforts if you continue to make people of color choose your agendas over what is important to them. A word of caution.

The Only Thing Leaders Should Have Top Of Mind For 2018 is Integrity

Integrity

This is the time of year that predictions are made and data is shared about what the strategic and operational goals are for the upcoming year. Although management firms spend an inordinate amount of time and money collecting this data all year long for these much-coveted reports, there is rarely anything earth-shattering about what CEO’s, business leaders or professionals have to say about where their focus will be in the new year. The usual banter will be about increasing engagement, improving candidate experience, technology, finding the best talent etc. As you can see, nothing really shocking.

However, 2017 has been illuminating. I wanted to say “different”, but that would mean that what I am about to share is new as of this year and it isn’t. In fact, what I will share is the result of something somewhere in the archives of time that started off as a snowball and is now an avalanche of end-of-the-world proportions crushing souls and careers to boot. This thing I speak of is the erosion of integrity and values in business.

2017 is the first year in my existence where just about every month there has been some company, company head or public figure who has come under scrutiny for either illegal or unethical practices. There have been so many “sorry’s” and “apologies flung around this year that it is becoming nauseating and unbelievable. The travesty in it all is that people who knew that all of this unethical and illegal behavior was the very thing that contributed to the fame, fortune and prestige always knew the things we see playing out. They were just waiting and hoping that the rest of the world would see it someday. So what has changed this year? For the first time ever and for reasons unknown to me, people were willing to believe the stories otherwise known over the years as individual gripes, “crazy talk”, imaginary happenings, urban legends and conspiracy theory this year. Suddenly, what was always in the shadows and dark got its much-deserved light via social media, blogs, livestreams, and a lot of bravery on the part of people who chose to break their silence.

In a lot of ways, this year has been one huge coming-out party and not in a good way. Whether it is our government and the corruption of the day or the growing list of sexual harassment and assault charges following the Harvey Weinstein debacle, it has not been a good year for US companies and more specifically humans as a whole. The latest debacle is set at Huffington Post. According to an article published yesterday by Gizmodo, Arianna Huffington ignored sexual harassment claims made by workers in her New York office while she was still running the company. The article goes on to state that one such former managing editor whose sexual misconduct was known to her also garnered a transfer to HuffPost India as a result of an HR investigation.  How an investigation that leads to the proof that an employee of yours is engaging in sexual misconduct doesn’t result in a termination is beyond me.

Without diving too deep into this particular story, I prefer to examine the over-arching narrative of CEO’s and leaders, in general, both men and women who consistently overlook, engage in, and embrace unethical and illegal practices as a means to secure opportunities, line their pockets and the pockets of their shareholders and investors. I would be lying if I said I had never encountered leaders or employees behaving unethically who somehow managed to keep their jobs, lives, and lifestyles intact. It has disgusted me. I often spoke up about it only to be met with “Well you know it is John Bae. Yes, he is a jerk and misogynist, but he brings in a shit ton of money for the company, so we have to tread lightly”.

Frankly, I am glad 2017 raised a proverbial mirror to all of the things that make us suck at being human. Now, that we all know and finally see what we all knew was commonplace in business how do we move forward in trust? Can “building trust within my organization” really be on your scorecard when your foundation has been flooded with the truth and is now crumbling as a result?  Can you genuinely accept that accolade for best company for women when you have investigations sitting on your desk overlooked and predators collecting checks on your dime? Can you really call your company culture “diverse and inclusive” if you secretly donate operating budget to the KKK or 45’s ongoing campaign? Note: “Diverse” and “inclusive” is maybe not appropriate if the latter applies.

Suddenly, no company, CEO or person is safe from the truth. Your money, prestige, and power are on a timer and the time is nearly up. The only thing leaders should be thinking about going into 2018 is integrity. I’m not sure where along the journey, so many decided that money trumped having values, meant destroying lives and doing it with a smile. Now is a time to ask your employees to blow the whistle internally before the public has its way with you and your brand. It is time, to be honest, and say sorry because you mean it. It is a good time to make amends and provide whatever you must to make it right with the people who show up daily to impact your bottom line.

Everybody needs to take one long hot shower to wash the filth of 2017 and before off and start anew in 2018 with a focus on treating employees, customers, and citizens of this world with the dignity they deserve as a matter of being a fellow human. It may cost you revenue. You may piss off your board of directors and investors, but isn’t it time for “good” to make a comeback?

For some starter tips on cleaning house, revisit an Aristocracy of HR throwback: The Untouchables: Why you should stop salvaging bad employees at every level.

Ask Czarina Live: The State of Working Parenthood

 

Ask Czarina- The State of Parenthood

I am coming at you from IBM Insight in Las Vegas. I promise you I will be back to churning out more than just Ask Czarina Live posts soon, but I am on the move a lot this month. Before I proceed, I want to thank everyone who joined me last week. It was great to have you and I am inviting you to join me this week and bring a friend.

Which brings me to our topic for this week’s Ask Czarina Live. This week’s topic is: The State of Working Parenthood.

I won’t spoil what I will share this Thursday, but I had a lot of hustling to do to be able to not only make it to Vegas for IBM Insight, but to be able to go to my speaking gig later in the week.

Ask Czarina Live Blog Tile

As a business owner, professional and mom of 3 who also happens to be in the midst of picking up steam as a speaker- my travel is picking up and responsibilities at home remain the same. I know all about the opportunities in front of me and I know what I stand to gain. At the same time, I am forever calculating the risks and cons to what I do. As such, I am calling all working parents and that includes stay-at-home moms and dads. I’ll explore the following:

  • Why I stopped making a distinction between these two groups of parents even though society continues to drive a hard line.
  • Whether it is easier now or in past generations to be a parent.
  • What I do to release present day parenting pressures making life bearable for everyone involved.
  • Is work-life balance attainable?
  • Is the request for “more flexibility” new or are we in a time and place where it is more accepted?

In addition, I will be exploring a few articles that summarize the state of working parenthood. Here are the links to the articles, should you be interested in checking them out in advance:

Kids of working moms are better off

How working moms define success

What workers around the world want: More flexibility

 Stay-at-home moms are on the rise

Join me on Thursday at 11pm EST/10pm CST/8pm PST for my second  “Ask Czarina Live”. Last week I promised you that I would be posting the replays of “Ask Czarina Live” to “The Aristocracy of HR” You Tube Channel for those of you not ready to take the Periscope plunge. Unfortunately, Periscope has a bug that is preventing my broadcasts from properly being saved in my gallery, so I am currently unable to share my shows in both places. They are working on it and I will let you know when I am able to do it. For now, you can continue to view replays on Periscope, within the 24-hour window allotted,

As usual it will be fun, fresh, and insightful. I look forward to seeing you there.

Want more? Click here to watch the latest “Ask Czarina” episode. Subscribe to “The Aristocracy of HR” You Tube Channel to be notified when new episodes are published.

When Workforce Outsourcing Goes Wrong

 

Image courtesy of Flickr.com

Some time ago, my dad was unemployed and picking up contract work when it was made available to him. In order to procure this contract work, he had to sign up with a few security agencies. In doing so, he eventually landed a full-time gig supervising security guards and investigators for a major supermarket chain. The nature of his employment agreement with this chain was that he was technically employed by the security firm but assigned to the supermarket as a worker- so no company perks, benefits or official employer-employee relationship. This supermarket is well-known for their concepts around creating democratized workforces that enjoy their work, have a passion for what they do and are rewarded in innumerable ways for such efforts. I’ll let you ponder that one.

Despite the purported mindful leadership at the helm, my father had no direction of what was right or wrong- where it concerned his employment. What do I mean?  As a supervisor, his job was to watch the cameras for any potential for theft. He also supervised a staff of investigators and store detectives. In addition, he was required to walk the store to observe customer behavior ensuring the overall security of the premises. When the store closed at night, he was responsible for making sure all remaining customers exited in a timely fashion so he could continue his nightly closing procedure. At least weekly, there would be a customer that felt his presence was “harassing” when he would pleasantly ask the customer to proceed to the nearest register, because they decided to shop for food at 9:50 p.m. and the store was closing in ten minutes. There would be one or two customers who tried to steal goods under his watch and he would act accordingly. There were managers that would gossip about him saying he “had an attitude” because he didn’t spend time chatting with them on the floor. In light of all of this, no complaint was ever logged with the agency he was employed by  and so he continued on doing his job. Yet there were very different views and perceptions about whether he was doing his job,

Until…

One day, he is told don’t show up to his normal store. Manager X didn’t want him there any longer, so the agency pulled him- no questions asked. The agency’s response was “that’s a tough store to work in and lots of guys have had issues with that manager- we’ll just reassign you.”  He was reassigned to a new store, things were great there until some months in- he receives notice that another manager wrote to the regional head to say that: “a customer allegedly complained about him harassing them at closing- suggesting that he should not be employed by any of the supermarket’s other locations.” He was never called by the agency to find out his side of the story. He had to proactively seek out answers- which was met with the following answer “we have a lot of issues with the managers there- we’ll get you working with some other clients.”

The problem with this entire situation is the employee-whether my dad or someone else is always in limbo. The supermarket and the agency operated under separate and very different standards of operation- which was confusing to the people working for either of them. The agency signed and enforced a contract with this company that basically prevented them from defending their employees. Their unwillingness to get to the bottom of the alleged complaint against my dad (which affected his employment) told me that they were far more concerned about tarnishing the business relationship than retaining him as a contractor. They set the precedent that, anytime any alleged customer complaint was filed or if a manager disliked any contractor they sent- the worker could expect to be ousted from that location.

He who fails to plan, plans to fail…

The biggest mistake they made in this partnership was not planning for a collaboration that ensured the seamless integration of workers whether directly employed or via the agency. You cannot have a successful workforce outsourcing situation where the rules are different for how employees work and are treated because of the nature of their employment. Since this company was quite possibly the biggest account they had-therefore contributing to a large portion of their revenue; the agency was unwilling to stand up for their workers when these issues arose. In return, they also had a hard time retaining people with this account because of the treatment.

The terms of any workforce outsourcing agreement need to be true to how each entity operates, while also ensuring the fair and consistent treatment of employees. Each party has to be willing to be flexible in their terms-as the relationship continues, to allow for tweaks to the service level agreement in place. As a vendor, your primary focus cannot be the money you will make on the account. You also have to seriously consider your ability to hire and retain the talent you will need to sustain the account.

Here are some other items to consider when entering a workforce outsourcing contract:

1) Did you ask about the company culture? You need to. Understanding and deciding how your workforce will blend with the existing client workforce is an important consideration for how successful you will be.

2) Creating a conflict mediation practice. Just like the client values their employees, you do too (hopefully). If you do, it is important that anyone you hire knows how they can resolve an issue should one arise. There should also be a collective agreement between you and the client of how these issues will be resolved.

3) How do you socialize the onboarding of new staff? Will the client simply have people show up to work on Monday or will there be a formal meet and greet? Whether an employee is a contractor or directly employed by the company, it is important for management to communicate the acquisition of new talent and communicate the expectations for how everyone will work together.

4) What can you do to make “contractors” feel like they are a part of the company? Can you afford to offer contractors a discount or pro-rated benefits? Making people feel more like an employee even if the relationship is temporary, can increase productivity and improve their engagement in the business and operations.

Customers don’t care who employees work for when it comes to patronizing your business. They know that they expect to have a great experience and if something should go wrong- they will be provided with a consistent and speedy resolution. Spending time in the beginning to develop and incorporate some basic talent management practices into your workforce outsourcing agreement will help to assimilate these new people into the current workforce seamlessly.

Ready to develop or improve your talent management strategy for your business? Contact me.

“Pregnancy” is not a bad word

Image Courtesy of “Think Progress”

After being pregnant three times over the past seven years, I have seen, heard, and endured things that have both shocked me and made me angry. For starters, there are far too many employers that are still treating pregnancy as if it is a cardinal sin and a complete undoing to their business. Having children whether as an older more tenured employee or an early careerist is a life decision that need not be vetted or agreed with by an employer. Certainly, there are the usual considerations of the inevitable impact of having children depending on where you are in your career; but they are just that- considerations.

Consider this instead:

*The U.S. is one of only 4 countries that doesn’t offer paid leave to new mothers — the others are Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and Lesotho.

*Having a baby is a leading cause of “poverty spells” in the U.S. — when income dips below what’s needed for basic living expenses.

When you are notified by an employee that they are pregnant, they haven’t just given you their resignation simultaneously. Pregnant women are not only capable of continuing their duties (unless sickness and or the physical nature of their job interfere), but they are worthy of having your support as an employer.

As a new business owner, I would like to impart some food-for thought for dealing with pregnancy in general and pregnant employees:

  1. Stop saying dumb things to your pregnant employees. If you are hesitant to say what you’re thinking or you are unsure; do yourself a favor and be quiet.
  2. Be kind. In as much as pregnant women are willing and capable, a little compassion can go a long way.  Ask them how they are feeling. If they are struggling during the first trimester or beyond; allow some leniency. It’s that whole do onto others philosophy.
  3. Did you also know?  *51% of new mothers lack any paid leave so some take unpaid leave, some quit, some even lose their jobs. If you can help it, get out of this third-world mentality that exists in the US and offer your female employees a dose of relief in the way of a paid maternity leave, the ability to phase-back to work, short-term disability etc.
  4. While said employee is on leave, do your best to refrain from contacting her regarding work related things or anything in general. Maternity leave is supposed to be a time for healing, bonding, and family. Respect the employee’s time.
  5. Lastly, if there are concerns about adequate time and the like- communicate your concern, but don’t over communicate. There are dr.’s appointments, unforeseen sicknesses, etc. Again, if this is a good employee do your best to work through these hurdles. In business, there are always workarounds whether you want to openly admit it or not).
  6. Don’t forget your male employees. They are becoming dads too and may need your support as well.

Pregnant women are not second-class citizens. You do not have to fundamentally agree with the act of childbearing or its timing but you do have an obligation to respect the decision and support your employees as best you can.

Every year Working Mother.com compiles a list of the best 100 companies for the working mother. One of their requirements for application acceptance is that they offer at least one week of paid family leave or they must be on their way to implementing some sort of paid maternity leave. The list is great and proof that nothing I said here is pie-in-the-sky. Check the list of companies out here.

Here’s a wacky bonus tip: don’t touch your pregnant employee unless you ask. I once had a manager push in my protruding belly button because she thought it was odd and cute. Please stop doing these things. It doesn’t bode well for anyone involved.

What are some innovative arrangements or policies you have implemented to support your pregnant or even new mother employees?

*Statistics from MomRising.org- http://www.momsrising.org/issues_and_resources/maternity

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