Archive for the 'Ethics' Category
Monday, September 4th, 2017
Have you ever taken time to wonder why there is a holiday dedicated to people who work?
Then before you get too caught up in shopping, beer and BBQ, take a minute to learn exactly where the holiday comes from.
It’s the result of an 1894 labor strike against the Pullman Company (think aspirational, luxury private railroad cars).
Engineer and industrialist George Pullman’s workers all lived in company-owned buildings. The town was highly stratified. Pullman himself lived in a mansion, managers resided in houses, skilled workers lived in small apartments, and laborers stayed in barracks-style dormitories. The housing conditions were cramped by modern standards, but the town was sanitary and safe, and even included paved streets and stores.
Then the disastrous economic depression of the 1890s struck. Pullman made a decision to cut costs — by lowering wages.
In a sense, workers throughout Chicago, and the country at large, were in the same boat as the Pullman employees. Wages dropped across the board, and prices fell. However, after cutting pay by nearly 30%, Pullman refused to lower the rent on the company-owned buildings and the prices in the company-owned stores accordingly.
Federal troops used extreme force to break the strike resulting in 30 deaths, while rioting and sabotage left 80 million dollars worth of damage in its wake.
Indiana state professor and labor historian Richard Schneirov said President Grover Cleveland’s decision to declare Labor Day as a holiday for workers was likely a move meant to please his constituents after the controversial handling of the strike. The president was a Democrat, and most urban laborers at the time were Catholic Democrats.
Congress approved (knowing their constituents would also be pleased).
Makes you wonder what the current president and congress would do.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Wednesday, August 30th, 2017
Note: It’s imperative to recognize that culture has nothing to do with perks, such as free food, fancy offices, free services, etc.
Culture is about values and how they play out in both the internal and external functioning of the company.
But company culture isn’t the end game — micro cultures are.
Micro cultures are based on individual bosses’ values.
Both cultures are fundamental to that perennially popular subject, employee engagement.
HBS’ Jim Heskett recently asked his audience what’s needed to engender employee engagement given that engaged employees are 2.7% more productive.
Most of the responses talked about the need for managers to respect their people, listen to ideas from everyone, have better people skills, etc., and several mentioned the skills acquired with an MBA.
But, as I pointed out, and Heskett cited in his summary, “Respect and valuing employee input have little to do with education and much to do with personal values.”
Unfortunately, education is no guarantee of values.
Colleges are no different, with MBA students leading the pack. “56 percent of MBA students admitted to cheating… In 1997, McCabe did a survey in which 84 percent of undergraduate business students admitted cheating versus 72 percent of engineering students and 66 percent of all students. In a 1964 survey by Columbia University, 66 percent of business students surveyed at 99 campuses said they cheated at least once.”
If scholastic success was based on cheating it’s likely that that lack of respect/get-ahead-at-all-costs mentality would carry over to their management style.
Yesterday’s post ended with this comment,
That [provide an environment in which people can learn, grow and excel] is what a good boss is supposed to do.
But it’s the great ones who actually do it.
In fact, they go beyond that and shelter their people from any kind of toxic culture coming down from above.
Image credit: thinkpublic
Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017
Do you watch Shark Tank? I do, but there is one thing that drives me nuts.
It’s the constant reference by all the Sharks, especially Mark Cuban, to the American Dream.
It’s the idea that starting a business and financial success is proof that the American (every country has it’s own version) Dream is alive and well.
Only problem is that making money and owning a house were never what the original dream was about.
The term was popularized in a 1931 book, “The Epic of America,” by James Truslow Adams, and referred to far more intrinsic values and I seriously doubt that even .05% of people are aware of the original meaning.
Mr. Adams emphasized ideals rather than material goods, a “dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement.” And he clarified, “It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of a social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and recognized by others for what they are.”
We’ve come a long way since 1931, but seem to have forgotten to bring our values along.
Thanks to KG for sending the article.
Image credit: ethos.org
Tuesday, August 8th, 2017
I’m assuming you’ve read the anti-diversity manifesto, or articles about it, from the Google engineer decrying his company’s diversity efforts and harking back to the ancient reasoning that women are biologically incapable of being good coders, cops and firemen, among other incapables.
(It’s always sad to see this level of scientific ignorance in a technical person. Of course, it’s not easier in a (supposedly) educated politician.)
There are dozens of responses, but Yonatan Zunger’s is the best I’ve seen (hat tip to KG for sending it).
Zunger is a 14 year Google veteran, who left last week to join a startup. He not only refutes it, but analyzes why the damage goes well beyond the obvious. If you haven’t seen it, it is well worth the few minutes it will take to read.
Ayori Selassie’s is shorter and I’ve reproduced it in full below.
The penis doesn’t write code, the brain does.
Women also have a brain therefore they write code too.
There, I fixed your #GoogleManifesto.
The one thing in the manifesto I do agree with is that freedom of speech should mean that anyone can speak their mind without fear of shaming or harassment.
However, the tactics he describes that are commonly used in liberal bastions on those espousing right and alt-right attitudes are exactly the same tactics used on progressives and liberals in conservative strongholds.
It boils down to the age-old us / them attitude.
Join me tomorrow for a look at the skills that will power your career now and in the future — and have nothing to do with STEM.
Image credit: Yahoo
Monday, July 31st, 2017
It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.
Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.
Heroes. Humanity has always had heroes. While it’s doubtful that will ever change, what constitutes a hero has changed radically over the centuries. I wrote this post in 2009, as the trend of elevating the most inane individuals, and even the dregs of society, to hero/role model status. As the old saying goes, something’s got to give.
Read other Golden Oldies here.
Last Friday I wrote Narcissism and Leadership and how much narcissism has increased over the last few years.
I’ve never understood the preoccupation with the glitterati, but I have wondered how much our celebrity-worshiping culture affects kids?
According to Drew Pinsky MD, AKA, Dr. Drew on radio and TV, and S. Mark Young, a social scientist it may be especially dangerous for young people, who view celebrities as role models.
“They are the sponges of our culture. Their values are now being set. Are they really the values we want our young people to be absorbing? … It harkens back to the question of how much are young people affected by models of social learning. Humans are the only animals who learn by watching other humans.”
Worse than dysfunctional celebs is our penchant for making heroes out of the bad guys.
18 year-old, 6-foot-5, 200-pound “Colton Harris-Moore is suspected in about 50 burglary cases since he slipped away from a halfway house in April 2008. Now, authorities say, he may have adopted a more dangerous hobby: stealing airplanes.”
Adin Stevens of Seattle is selling T-shirts celebrating him and there is a fan club on Facebook.
I’m not surprised, in a world where serial killers have groupies and people fight for souvenirs of death-row inmates it figures that they’re going to romanticize someone who manages to not get caught.
But what makes me ill are his mother’s comments, “I hope to hell he stole those airplanes – I would be so proud,” Pam Kohler said, noting her son’s lack of training. “But put in there that I want him to wear a parachute next time.”
It’s tough enough to grow up these days; it’s tougher in a dysfunctional home or in areas that are gang-controlled, but what kid stands a chance with parents like this?
What can we do? Where can we find more positive role models that have the glamour that mesmerizes kids and grownups alike?
When will we glorify function instead of dysfunction? Meaning instead of money?
Image credit: Chesi – Fotos CC on flickr
Join me tomorrow for Wally Bock’s take on heroes and how they need to change.
Thursday, April 27th, 2017
A few days ago Miki sent me an article about Tanium giving prospective customers a look into their client hospital’s live network, but without permission or protecting the identity of the hospital completely.
I wrote her back today as follows.
I had not seen this on my own, but I have been reading about the company for a few days now.
Coming from the medtech industry and security specifically I will say this.
The fact that he and his company used live hospital data without their consent will be a deathblow to them.
Hospitals take this very seriously because they are the ones who are held responsible by the Office for Civil Rights under Health and Human Services.
The hospital will be shown to have a vulnerability and will be forced to pay fines, lose out on government funds and potentially face sanctions.
As a result the rest of the healthcare industry will treat Tanium like a pariah because they will not want to face repercussions.
Regardless of the industry it’s shocking to see how folks think it’s ok to manipulate or abuse customer relationships for their own profit, it always ends badly.
Sadly, I think they will find a way to smooth it over. Google, Facebook, etc sell customer data all the time. It’s how so many make their money and no one seems to care.
I know HIPPA is supposed to prevent this stuff, but I’m sure companies are getting around that, too, they just haven’t been caught, yet.
That’s the key, not being caught.
Every company that is caught, or just challenged, cries that they take their customer’s privacy seriously or that that’s not what their culture stands for, etc.
But only when they are caught.
I sincerely hope you are correct and that Tanium takes a major blow and, more importantly, that the CEO is forced out, but I’m not holding my breath. I guess I’ve finally gotten pretty cynical about this stuff.
So now I’m trying to decide if Miki’s cynicism is warranted or if I’m right and the publicized results of Tanium’s actions will have the effect they should.
I’ll keep you informed as there are more developments.
Image credit: Wikipedia
Thursday, April 20th, 2017
I grew up watching Fox News. I am reformed now, but there was a time when I thought the stances that were represented on that network aligned with my own belief system.
I remember a segment that they would do called “Culture Wars.” In the piece they would discuss an instance where conservative values were being infringed upon by the liberal left.
An example might be a town that once had a community nativity scene that the courts ruled was unlawful. Fox News would hype this up and explain how there was a war on Christmas and on conservatives.
Fast forward 15 years and it has become apparent that there is a culture war within the ranks of Fox News. Just this week Fox fired one of their top on air personalities, Bill O’Reily. He has been a presence on the network for years and continued to bring in top ratings for his time slot.
It has come to light that O’Reily and Fox paid more than $13 Million to several women to settle alleged sexual harassment charges.
As of right now I am not sure if the allegations are true or not but I will say this, the appearance of impropriety looms large.
Fox has been in the spotlight recently for sexually harassing women that worked there and promoting a culture of sexism. Most networks place attractive people on air, but even the most casual observer can see there is a certain level of skin on Fox News that is not present on other networks.
Before any of the charges came out I was actually amazed that they were so blatant with the way they sexualized the women on the shows as it seemed to detract from the story the women were presenting.
When we look at the specific case of Bill O’Reily I try to look at it from the context of the network as a whole. As a pivotal member of the organization he had a hand in setting the tone for the culture.
As the charges of sexism came to light for the network I thought it only a matter of time until specific charges were leveled at some of the men on air.
I have never worked at a TV network, but I find it hard to imagine that people didn’t talk.
Women who were put in uncomfortable situations would have surly spoken to their coworkers.
Men would have overheard things in locker rooms and elsewhere. The on air talent had to be acutely aware of the sexually charged atmosphere that was prevalent.
Why did it take this long for it to all come out? I guess an easy answer could be money.
In O’Reily’s case he gave money to women so they wouldn’t talk. In the case of on air talent being sexually harassed it may have been money and credibility.
As a man I cannot completely relate, but I have had female coworkers tell me that it’s tough to tell someone you felt harassed for fear that you will be labeled in a negative way.
If we trace it back to adolescence I am sure we all have memories of girls and guys who were put in compromising positions, but didn’t speak out for fear of being ostracized from the group.
Perhaps that is at work at Fox News as well.
My point to all of this is simple. O’Reily benefited from the loose culture of the network. Regardless of whether the allegations are true, he benefited from the fact that he kept silent about the mistreatment around him.
If we take it all the way and he is guilty of misconduct, he benefited from the belief that he would be protected as all of the other aggressors had been.
As a society what must we do to change this error? One way I see it is we must enable people to speak out without fear. That is much easier said than done.
We must also attach shame to actions that take advantage of others. We have gotten to a place where we are uncomfortable confronting others, but in this case we must.
I no longer watch Fox News, but the few times I see it in passing I think about the culture wars within. Ideally they would become transparent and learn from this. I have been alive for longer than two days though and strongly doubt that will be the outcome.
My lesson I have learned is I must be the change, I cannot wait on others to lead it.
Image credit: Politics USA
Tuesday, April 4th, 2017
It’s likely you are too young to have heard of a book called The Hidden Persuaders.
Originally published in 1957 and now back in print to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, The Hidden Persuaders is Vance Packard’s pioneering and prescient work revealing how advertisers use psychological methods to tap into our unconscious desires in order to “persuade” us to buy the products they are selling.
A classic examination of how our thoughts and feelings are manipulated by business, media and politicians, The Hidden Persuaders was the first book to expose the hidden world of “motivation research,” the psychological technique that advertisers use to probe our minds in order to control our actions as consumers. Through analysis of products, political campaigns and television programs of the 1950s, Packard shows how the insidious manipulation practices that have come to dominate today’s corporate-driven world began.
It was considered highly unethical and, although there was no social media to spread the word, people were vocally upset enough that many companies stopped doing it.
Gone but not forgotten.
The behavioral social science behind Hidden Persuaders continued to grow and became a driving force underlying the deliberate addictiveness of video games.
60 years, continued research and a name change to “gamificaton” and it has become the basis of today’s management approach for gig economy companies like Uber.
Uber helps solve this fundamental problem by using psychological inducements and other techniques unearthed by social science to influence when, where and how long drivers work. It’s a quest for a perfectly efficient system: a balance between rider demand and driver supply at the lowest cost to passengers and the company.
Employing hundreds of social scientists and data scientists, Uber has experimented with video game techniques, graphics and noncash rewards of little value that can prod drivers into working longer and harder — and sometimes at hours and locations that are less lucrative for them.
Is it ethical to manipulate a workforce to produce more work at less cost to their non-employer?
Of course, Uber and “ethical action” seems an oxymoron, but psychological manipulation does appear to be on the uptick in many companies.
This article should be required reading for anyone who works in the “gig economy” or is thinking about doing so.
Hat tip to KG for pointing it out.
Image credit: Geoff Simon
Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
“We value/care about our employees” is one of the most hypocritical statements companies make these days.
(“Our customers are very important to us” is the other.)
The Republican-controlled Congress is pushing through a bill to give corporations the ability to intrude deeper and more personally into your life than ever before.
A little-noticed bill moving through Congress would allow companies to require employees to undergo genetic testing or risk paying a penalty of thousands of dollars, and would let employers see that genetic and other health information. (…) The new bill gets around that landmark law by stating explicitly that GINA and other protections do not apply when genetic tests are part of a ‘workplace wellness’ program.
This mean that, in the name of “wellness,” your boss will know if you were treated for an STD or that you are predisposed for alcoholism, Parkinson’s, cancer, or whatever.
Not only your boss, but the unregulated company that runs your company’s wellness program, but is not constrained by HIPPA rules.
Employers, especially large ones, generally hire outside companies to run them [wellness programs]. These companies are largely unregulated, and they are allowed to see genetic test results with employee names. (…) They sometimes sell the health information they collect from employees.
Can your company actually force you to comply?
No, but the penalty for refusing is costly in the form of higher insurance premiums and co-pays.
No health insurance at your company? You could still take a major financial hit.
If an employer has a wellness program but does sponsor health insurance, rather than increasing insurance premiums, the employer could dock the paychecks of workers who don’t participate.
In general, Corporate America’s attitude towards its employees reflects its attitude towards customers.
For the most part, that ranges from “general nuisance” to “necessary evil.”
And while the number of exceptions to that attitude, at least when it comes to customers, is growing, it doesn’t always apply to employees.
As the provisions of this long-desired bill prove.
That said, it will be a great recruiting tool for those companies that don’t do it.
Image credit: Daniel R. Blume
Tuesday, March 7th, 2017
Do you believe that Twitter was founded with effects like Arab Spring in mind? Or that Mark Zukerberg started Facebook for altruistic reasons? Or that Instagram, Snapchat and other similar sites actually have your wellbeing in mind?
If so, you probably also believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.
The primary purpose of every one of these sites is simple: to make as much money as possible.
By using personalization to achieve behavioral addiction.
Infinite personalization comprises the artificial intelligence-driven, big-data based tools that allow algorithms to build a personalized Internet echo chamber customized just for you, designed to make you feel great. Infinite personalization feeds you the real, the fake, and everything in between, with the simple goal of holding your attention and getting you to come back for more. It is the process by which companies can measure, match, and predict consumers’ individual preferences with amazing accuracy and then tailor offerings to maximize revenue.
It’s done with full knowledge and, in my opinion, malice afore thought.
It’s why tech titans, starting with Steve Jobs in 2010, limit their kids, as I said a couple of years ago in The Hypocrites of Tech.
They want their kids to grow to positions of leadership and power and know they can’t if their world shrinks to a self-enhancing echo chamber that only regurgitates information that fits their preconceived ideas.
Personalization is active in the real world, too, and has been for several years, with young adults inventing ways to shrink their world by curating their college roommates and demanding “safe places.”
All I can say it ‘good luck’ when their carefully curated echo chamber has to function in the work-world.
However, it’s a sad and scary commentary that in the frenzy to make more and more money tech is providing a detailed roadmap, along with the supporting technology, for demagogs to become dictators.
For a more detailed look at behavioral addiction check out Adam Alter’s Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked
Image credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com
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