The idea that the color of someone’s skin has anything to do with creating a “diverse” organization is, well . . . bigoted and racist. It’s a patronizing idea that could only emanate from guilty, pampered and clueless people who live in segregated suburbs, teach in pristine ivory towers, and generally see unicorns and rainbows everywhere. I find the idea to be offensive, but it is a core component of the catechism of official beliefs held by the Masters of the Universe in government, large corporations, and universities. This belief is so ingrained that few can see how abhorrent it really is.
Yes – I just called you a bigot and a racist – go find a Safe Space if you are feeling threatened.
Hiring for Cultural Fit
Your company’s diversity program isn’t really creating diversity in your workforce. True diversity is about thoughts and ideas and doesn’t come from skin color or sexual orientation. Admit it – you don’t want real diversity in your organization. You are looking for cultural fit. You don’t want any of those people who challenge ideas and assumptions. And you definitely don’t want someone who will tell your CXO’s that their brilliant idea is the dumbest utterance ever spoken. In most cases, an ideal employee is a sycophant who will stroke the soft and fragile feathers of your mollycoddled executives and managers. The perfect employee keeps his mouth shut in order to keep his job.
To me, the idea of cultural fit is all about hiring people who will go along to get along. It is about hiring people who won’t challenge the status quo in your organization. Those people are easy to find and they come in all races, shapes, sizes, and sexual orientations. Their resumes all look exactly alike and your HR people are experts at identifying them in only 12 seconds. “This one’s different – chuck it in the garbage.”
A black and white issue?
Many organizations look at diversity as a binary issue. “We’re a diverse organization” can often be translated as “Look, we have black people working here.” So condescending! A slightly different translation is “Look, we have white, black, yellow and brown people, all in the proper proportions working in harmony. Hakuna Matata!” A purple female veteran in a wheelchair gets quadruple bonus points for the EEO Report. Even better if she is a lesbian and don’t worry that she has no actual skills.
One company I worked for hired a brilliant Chinese woman with a Ph.D. in physics for a specific management position. She and I had lunch together often and we always had lively discussions. I was more than a little bit smitten with her because a great brain is the first thing I am attracted to in a woman. The only problem was that she was a terrible manager. Rather than fire her, or get her training in management skills, the company created a new position under her to do the real management work. I don’t know what the rationale of the executives was, but I have always suspected that she fulfilled some diversity quota that they thought they needed. Unfortunately, the executives weren’t fulfilling their fiduciary responsibility to shareholders. Other employees just found it maddening and demoralizing. Most Americans really want to believe we live in a meritocracy and anything less is a bad deal for everyone.
Where are all the old people?
When I was in graduate school, I worked at a Fortune 500 company and asked some of my coworkers where all the old engineers were. They looked at me like I had 3 eyes and they squirmed uncomfortably until someone worked up courage to chime in. “There aren’t any,” one sheepishly replied. “They burn out by 40 because they can’t handle the pressure.” They had all sorts of officially approved diversity in that company, but very little diversity of wisdom earned from decades of experience. Wisdom is much more difficult to measure than skin color.
There’s another reason why no one wants mature workers – they are highly resistant to brainwashing and bad ideas. They ask “why” too often. By the time you hit 40, you have zero tolerance for stupidity. That’s why the CIA won’t hire anyone over 35. It is also why Big 4 consulting firms like to recruit right out of college. You have to start the programming early.
“Jeffrey. You don’t understand reality. We only do this so we won’t get sued! We are not really as ignorant and stupid as you think. We’re not really racists and bigots.” Hmmm. I suppose I am not a master of the universe because I am not smart enough to understand how Title VII really permits blatant preferences in hiring based on “race, color, religion, sex or national origin” just so you won’t get sued.
Real diversity isn’t a black and white issue and it comes in many forms. While skin color is the least important, it is the most highly prized. However, if you are looking for the “right” kind of diversity – the kind where people have different ideas – stop looking at meaningless, superficial indicators. Just hire the most qualified person for the job!
For some excellent reading on this subject, take a look at Hard Truths About Race on Campus in the Wall Street Journal. Ilya Somin’s recent piece on racial preferences at the University of Texas is also excellent. To top it off, read what Walter Williams has to say about Stubborn Ignorance.
If you are really angry with me over my lack of enlightenment, or agree with me fully, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright Jeffrey Morgan, 2016by
Iterative processes seem to be all the rage in the corporate sector right now. I find this to be mildly amusing. Have no CXO’s ever taken piano lessons? Musicians, artists, dancers, carpenters, chefs and athletes have used and understood iterative processes for centuries. They live them every day.
Process Engineering from a Chain Smoking Pianist
My God, I do believe that’s the worst thing I have ever heard. Those soul crushing words were uttered by my first really good piano teacher at our initial meeting. She had trained numerous national competition winners and was one tough, chain smoking cookie. Our 1-hour lessons inevitably turned into 2-hour, brutal, extreme workout sessions while she was trying to teach me how to practice. Her English Bulldog, Max snored under the baby grand through every lesson. Learning to practice effectively took years and Max stuck it out with me.
Iterative Production Processes
It’s the same process whether you are talking about a piano sonata or an electrical engineering problem. Isolate difficulties into small packages. Practice, work out the problem in ultra slow motion. Do it again and again and again, until you get it right, gradually getting faster and better. Repeat the process with the next difficulty and start building it out one component at a time until you have the process going from end to end. That’s when you discover new macro problems and difficulties you hadn’t previously anticipated at the micro level. So, you go back and work through the new problems until you find solutions. It could take hours, weeks or months to solve the problems, depending on the scope and difficulties of the project.
Button Up Your Shirt!
I recently worked on a contract at a conservative international corporation and received a call from my manager who was working at a location about 100 miles away. “Button up your shirt” he shouted. “It’s a political thing. Just go along with me on this.”
I was stunned. I was appropriately dressed in business casual attire that was a few notches above the average employee. I thought I was looking quite posh! An HR manager spotted me working with some vendors in a common area and noticed that my shirt was open to the second button – where I always wear it. She tracked down my manager at another location and relayed the message for me to button my shirt. Several HR minions probably had to be pulled in to rectify this crisis.
If this sort of thing is going on in your corporation, your operations and corporate culture are way off course and completely broken. This is a symptom of huge organizational problems. Six figures to be a button cop? What does that contribute to the organization’s mission and how are you going to fix this sort of problem in your organization?
HR Departments in medium to large US and multinational corporations seem to have done a pretty good job at creating racial and ethnic diversity in their organizations. Their most spectacular success though, has been the complete eradication of diversity of thought in the workforce. In spite of the very superficial aspect of skin color, everyone dresses the same, thinks the same and speaks the same corporate mumbo jumbo. How can you address business problems requiring massive process changes when everyone thinks exactly alike?
There is only One True Form of Diversity
Diversity of thought is the only real form of diversity. The product of an employee’s brain is the only contribution he or she can make to an organization’s effort to produce a quality product or service. If everyone thinks the same, your business operations will always be the same. You can never improve them. From this point of view, there is no diversity at all in most large corporations, regardless of what their EEO-4 reports may state. There is no measurement for Intellectual Diversity. There is no box to check for:
☑ Thinks Differently
Tilting at Windmills
In the 12 seconds that corporate recruiters supposedly spend sizing up a candidate on paper, there is no way to assess anything except a candidate’s CQ (Cooperation Quotient). In the early 90’s I was working my way through grad school at a Fortune 500 company. The engineers complained that HR always sent them unqualified candidates. The Boss and engineers would interview the candidates, ask them a few basic questions, and reject them. They looked good on paper, but they didn’t actually know how to build and troubleshoot circuits – our department’s mission. The Boss would then send the staff engineers to job fairs to recruit the people who were eventually hired. One of the company’s top Master Engineers still hadn’t completed his BSEE yet. In the current environment, that genius of an engineer wouldn’t even get an interview. Finding the perfect fit is like tilting at windmills.
Selection for Intellectual Diversity
If corporate recruiters started considering Intellectual Diversity rather than selecting for Cooperation Quotient, companies could identify and recruit more creative candidates who would almost certainly provide fresh perspectives and effective solutions for business problems. These are the potential employees whose brains can’t be squeezed into an 8-foot cubicle. Those artists, musicians, sculptors and bakers have developed knowledge, skills, perspectives and problem solving abilities that traditionally trained staff may never be able to acquire. It’s simply a matter of applying those skills to a different metaphor, which is a fairly simple transition if your brain has already been programmed for it.
There is a huge risk though – those new recruits may not button up their shirts all the way.
If you would like to discuss improving business and IT processes in your organization, send me an e-mail at email@example.com.
Jeffrey Morgan is President of e-volve Information Technology Services and has worked as an independent consultant since 1993.
Information Technology Governance for Executives