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Ducks in a Row: Culture Of Hypocrisy

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

Whttps://www.flickr.com/photos/bonniesducks/4395202521/almart loves showing off all they do for their employees and it has a lot of them.

From its website (emphasis mine).

Walmart employs 2.3 million associates around the world. About 75% of our store management teams started as hourly associates, and they earn between $50,000 and $170,000 a year. Walmart is investing $2.7 billion over two years in higher wages, education and training.

What isn’t mentioned is that around the same time

Walmart lifted wages [to $10/hr], it cut merit raises and introduced a training program that could keep hourly pay at $9 an hour for up to 18 months.

Walmart especially loves to brag about its special efforts, such as those for military workers and defines its culture as “our values in action.”

However…

What kind of values enable the following scenarios?

The report says that Walmart uses a point system to discipline workers, and too many points results in firing. Walmart reportedly gives workers disciplinary points for any absence they consider unauthorized, and working less than half of a scheduled shift is considered an absence.

  • ‘I passed out at work. They sent me to the hospital. The next day, they fired me for it.’
  • “I got into a car wreck on my way to work and was sent by ambulance to the hospital. I had two fractured ribs and a concussion. I reached a manager from the hospital, who said it would be ok, and I came into work the next day with wrapped ribs and a concussion. The front manager then said that they wouldn’t accept the doctor’s note from the hospital, and they fired me for missing that day.”
  • “My appendix ruptured while at work and because I already had eight points, I could not leave work to go to the ER without pointing out and losing my job. I should have been able to leave to go to the ER and not worry about losing my job. I had even said to management, ‘So if I fall out because of my appendix and have to go out in an ambulance…I will get a point and lose my job?’ The response from management was, ‘Yes.'”
  • “I was vomiting blood and had to go to the ER. I was there for two days and each day was a point. I then had two days off, and I brought my hospital notes in when I went back. They would not accept them.”

Of course, Walmart’s well-known attitude towards women is front and center

  • “My daughter was having seizures, I had to take time off to monitor her. They counted it against me. I passed out at work. They sent me to the hospital. The next day, they fired me for it.
  • Katie Orzehowski was forced to return to work still bleeding after a miscarriage or face being fired.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so grim, but apparently Walmart expects events, such as heart attacks and car accidents, to be scheduled.

If an employee does not call in to report an absence at least an hour in advance, they receive four points, the report says.

Most ironic of all is Walmart’s tag line, which reads, “Save money. Live better.”

More accurately, it should read “Save money. Live better — unless you work here.”

All of this proves once again that there is a major difference between words and actions.

Image credit: Duck Lover

Ryan’s Journal: Losing The Forest For The Trees

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/arturtula/15564944217/I was having a conversation this week about Silicon Valley companies. Some of them are doing amazing things.

When I was job hunting I would look at several and imagine myself there changing the world.

There were several though that also had great funding, great people, but I could not understand for the life of me what they did. They had a great list of customers, but I could not understand the value they brought.

There are two possible solutions to that conundrum.

One, I am just not savvy enough to understand (a very real possibility).

Two, they were full of hype and energy, but not substance. I can imagine that both statements are true when you look at the vast array of companies in the valley.

With that said, have we lost the forest for the trees? Have some companies been so hyped that people continue to pour money into them hoping for a huge payday that may never come to fruition?

Uber is in the news for a variety of reasons, some good, some bad. I recently read an article that Uber and Google are working on flying cars. While the concept of flying cars seems cool… I guess, I am more concerned with the participating companies.

Google provides value, products and that elusive quality, profit. They are well established, have multiple streams of income and could fail at this endeavor and live another day. It’s exciting to see them using their money for grand ideas, but it won’t decimate them either.

Uber provides value and services, but zero profit.

In fact, if Uber was run like a traditional company or household, they would have never even gone to market.

They operate more like a country that can print its own money. They take on debt, lose billions every year, yet keep on trucking.

Venture capital and perhaps greed are what allow this to occur. If they fail at the flying car concept what does it mean for the rest of the business?

I know there are very smart folks who are there and who are invested. I often wonder what their long game is. Do they believe they will become profitable at some point if they hang on long enough?

Another thing to consider is the economy. We have easy money right now with very low rates of interest.

For an investor it makes more sense to go with a high risk investment versus storing it in savings, because they essentially lose money due to inflation.

When the markets tighten does that mean Uber cannot seek out another round of funding?

My point is this.

Have we lost sight of the incremental steps it takes for us to achieve greatness by thinking we can accelerate the whole process with enough capital or am I the Luddite here?

I am a believer that debt can be good when there is a viable business model. I am less impressed though when a company has never turned a profit and had no projections to do so at any point soon, but can be valued so highly. What makes Uber so unique?

I say we need to keep dreaming the big dreams, but also look at the foundation.

Is it built on sand or rock?

Image credit: Artur (RUS) Potosi

Golden Oldies: Hate, Intolerance and Responsibility

Monday, September 5th, 2016

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 is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time. It’s been four years since I wrote this, but it could have been anytime in the last several decades. The time difference wouldn’t have been that noticeable, except that what I described just keeps getting worse. I find it both sad and disgusting that we humans seem incapable of growing and, instead of moving forward, we move backwards. Read other Golden Oldies here

my-way-hwyAnyone reading the news—local, national or global—knows that hate and intolerance are increasing at an alarming rate everywhere.

Also, because there have been/will be so many elections around the world this year ‘leadership’ is in the news even more so than usual.

What responsibility do leaders—business, political, religious, community—bear in fostering hate and intolerance?

A lot.

Not just the age old race and gender intolerance, but the I’m/we’re-RIGHT-so-you-should-do/think-our-way-or-else.

The ‘we’re right/you’re wrong’ attitude is as old as humanity and probably won’t ever change, but it’s the ‘do-it-our-way-or-else’ that shows the intolerance for what it really is.

And leaders aren’t helping; in fact, they are making it worse.

During my adult life (I missed being a Boomer by a hair) I’ve watched as hate and intolerance spread across the country masked by religion, a façade of political correctness or a mea culpa that is supposed to make everything OK, but doesn’t.

Various business, political, religious and community leaders give passionate, fiery talks to their followers and then express surprise and dismay when some of those same followers steal trade secrets, plant bombs, and kill individuals—whose only error was following their own beliefs.

We are no longer entitled to the pursuit of happiness if our happiness offends someone next door, the other end of the country, or the far side of the globe.

I remember Ann Rand saying in an interview that she believed that she had the right to be totally selfish, where upon the interviewer said that would give her freedom to kill.

Rand said absolutely not, in fact the reverse was true, since her selfishness couldn’t impinge anyone else’s right to be selfish.

Leaders aren’t responsible; we are, because we go along with it—as did the Germans when Hitler led them down the hate and intolerance path.

That about sums up my attitude

What’s yours?

Image credit: Street Sign Generator

Legalized Corruption

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/5502905667

I rarely write about politics, but it’s that time of year; I live on the border between two states and have to listen to political ads from both. So please, if this post offends you accept my apologies and wield your delete key.

My feelings are driven by the smugness I see across the political spectrum irregardless of parties and beliefs.

Smugness regarding the rarity of corruption in the US vs. its prevalence in other countries.

The way I see it, corruption in the US is rare primarily because it’s been legalized in the form of lobbying and PACs.

Lobbying has long influenced legislation, but as of 2010, when the Supreme Court effectively eliminated restrictions on outside groups, elections themselves went up for sale.

If you doubt me look no farther than the Americans for Prosperity, owned and run by the Koch brothers, which will spend at least $125 million this year, and the growth of super PACs overall.

In 2000, outside groups spent $52 million on campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. By 2012, that number had increased to $1 billion. (…) In 2014, as of early October, when the campaigns

had yet to do their big final pushes, overall spending was already more than $444 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Roughly $231 million was from the parties and their congressional committees, the rest from outside spending. The biggest chunk of that by far came from super PACs — more than $196 million.

What each of these wealthy individuals have in common is passion, but unbridled passion is the hallmark of the fanatic—and fanaticism paves the road to a closed mind—one that is evidenced by fear, hate and bigotry.

Legal corruption or not, voting is important—if for no other reason than not voting precludes your right to complain.

Or, as my mom used to say when faced with two bad choices, just “hold your nose” and vote against X as opposed to for Y.

And you can avoid the corruption by ignoring ads, whether pro or con, and evaluating candidates and issues in a holistic and pragmatic way that looks at what makes the most long-term sense.

Flickr image credit: DonkeyHotey

The Hypocrites of Tech

Monday, September 15th, 2014

4744202563_f23be1cbb0_mSince it was first announced, iPad commercials have shown kids using them and millions of parents took to them to keep their kids entertained.

One major exception was Steve Jobs, the guru of consumer technology (his kids read hardcopy books).

“They haven’t used it,” he told me. “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”

Jobs wasn’t alone.

Since then, I’ve met a number of technology chief executives and venture capitalists who say similar things: they strictly limit their children’s screen time, often banning all gadgets on school nights, and allocating ascetic time limits on weekends.

Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired and now chief executive of 3D Robotics, Alex Constantinople, the chief executive of the OutCast Agency, Evan Williams, a founder of Blogger, Twitter and Medium and Lesley Gold, founder and chief executive of the SutherlandGold Group all limit or say no to technology for their kids.

“That’s because we have seen the dangers of technology firsthand. I’ve seen it in myself, I don’t want to see that happen to my kids.” –Chris Anderson

Limited or outright banned, technology is handled differently by those in tech when it comes to their kids.

Although some non-tech parents I know give smartphones to children as young as 8, many who work in tech wait until their child is 14. While these teenagers can make calls and text, they are not given a data plan until 16. But there is one rule that is universal among the tech parents I polled.

“This is rule No. 1: There are no screens in the bedroom. Period. Ever,” Mr. Anderson said.

In the light of new research, barring electronic screens from the bedroom has taken on new urgency and not just for kids.

The blue light from personal electronic devices has also been linked to serious physical and mental health problems.

(My sister’s doctor warned her months ago, but it took the article to make her stop.)

What the tech world sees is no different from what other people see on the news, but they pay more attention.

Not that any of this will change the ads or overall marketing of tech—it will keep targeting kids—hook them early they’re yours for life—and encouraging people of all ages to use their screens when it’s dark.

So much for the vaunted tech values of authenticity and transparency.

Actually, taking a step back, tech’s attitude seems more in tune with politicians’ attitude—more of a do as I say, not as I do approach.

Flickr image credit: Ernest McGray, Jr.

Ducks in a Row: Words vs. Actions

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

http://www.flickr.com/photos/australianshepherds/5913720524/Today’s message is simple and should come as no surprise: people are more attuned to what you do than what you say.

Following is an excerpt from a reader who is a middle manager in the health care industry.

“Things have been going pretty well in my world. But boy the bigger my organization gets the less personal it gets. Twice in the last few months I’ve e-mailed the concerns of my employees to higher ups and gotten back the message almost verbatim – “if they aren’t happy, perhaps this isn’t the best fit for them” – with no actually reference made to the concern I brought up.

Another Radiology Manager in the system is leaving because she kept hearing that at her manager meetings too and got sick of it.

Yet some of our evaluation points are about our “work family” and treating each other with respect, etc. and taking initiative. To me it appears we put the right thing down on paper and have an unspoken different approach all together on how to treat employees.”

The problem isn’t one of bigger = impersonal, nor is it exclusive to healthcare or large organizations.

The problem is either

  • bad management, using “we are so busy” as a cover for “don’t bother us;” or
  • hypocrisy, as in “do as I say, not as I do.”

Which is it?

Bad attitude or hypocrisy?

Does it matter?

Whatever the reason ignoring the problem yields the same result: increased turnover with associated costs, impaired efficiency as new people hit the learning curve and a likely drop in customer satisfaction.

Flickr image credit: carterse

Quotable Quotes: More H. L. Mencken

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

As I promised last week, today is a “tour of Mencken’s irreverent view of politics and democracy that will provide great zingers for holiday get-togethers and leave you chuckling.”

Let’s start with democracy, since everyone seems to agree that it’s a good thing. Of course, definitions vary and Mencken offers some great choices in case you haven’t settled on one.

I’ll start with a basic definition and get more sarcastic from there, Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.

Mencken didn’t think much of “the people” and my guess is no county was excepted from this scathing comment, Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.

Hand-in-glove with that thought is this one, Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

He also said, Democracy is also a form of worship. It is the worship of Jackals by Jackasses. Not only worship, but elect; we jackasses keep electing jackals—party be damned.

Of course, you can’t expect a lot more when Democracy is only a dream: it should be put in the same category as Arcadia, Santa Claus, and Heaven.

Finally, Mencken sums up his attitude towards democracy thusly, I confess I enjoy democracy immensely. It is incomparably idiotic, and hence incomparably amusing.

Now on to the politics and politicians.

Again, we’ll start with a definition, A politician is an animal which can sit on a fence and yet keep both ears to the ground.

He also said, A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar. It’s hard to disagree with that comment, too.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that politicians of all stripes say anything to get elected; it’s nothing new, Mencken noticed it, too, If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner.

2012 is a presidential election year and the show has already begun, A national political campaign is better than the best circus ever heard of, with a mass baptism and a couple of hangings thrown in.

Let’s end with one final definition along with the reason for it. Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.

And the reason? Each party steals so many articles of faith from the other, and the candidates spend so much time making each other’s speeches, that by the time election day is past there is nothing much to do save turn the sitting rascals out and let a new gang in.

Image credit: Wikipedia

If the Shoe Fits: Are You Clueless?

Friday, December 9th, 2011

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mThe dichotomy between what founders think/say and what they actually do never ceases to amaze me.

I’m not referring to the ‘malice aforethought’ type hypocrites who know damn well that their actions contradict their words, but

  • believe no one will notice, AKA, they won’t be caught;
  • provide abundant excuses when they are; or
  • offer rationalizations to prove why “this time it’s different.”

I’m referring to the inadvertent ones who are totally clueless.

I see this a lot in founders who are so totally focused on short term product development that they ignore or delegate the stuff that will make or break their company down the road.

Culture and business planning, especially staffing plans, are two items that founders often kick to the side or delegate; and while I’m all for delegation some stuff just shouldn’t be.

Culture is the values of the company made visible for all to see. Can you really delegate that with a few notes on a napkin and instructions to a harried colleague?

Founders know that strong financials are necessary if they want funding, but other planning functions, such as staffing plans, often don’t seem as critical, so they are delegated or, worse, procrastinated.

The toll these inadvertent actions take can be huge and often far enough in the future that their actual origins are lost.

This “stuff” can break your social contract.

Do you make time for this stuff?

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Flickr image credit: HikingArtist

Leadership’s Future: Awful Acts in Politics

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

vote-and-winMy apologies if there has been too much politics lately, but you have to admit it’s difficult to avoid when so much of it is tied to “leadership” issues.

Or the lack thereof.

I rarely read op-ed pieces, but the title caught my, Awful, Awfuler, Awfulest; wouldn’t you click on that?

The author, Gail Collins, had written an article debating which state had the worst “leaders” running for election and chose Nevada as the winner.

Immediately, there were outcries from voters who believed their state had been unfairly overlooked on the dreadfulness meter.

Maine has a candidate for governor whose wife and kids live in their “primary residence” in Florida (the the other house is in Maine); Missouri has honors as the state with the least variety, 26 different candidates since 1980 from just two families; Florida has the dubious honor of a gubernatorial candidate whose company was fined $1.7 billion for fraudulent Medicare billing.

She says that in Net York’s race one candidate seems to tie every issue to his opponent’s sex life, while the main opponent doesn’t talk at all and a minor one is a self-proclaimed madam.

Nevada still won and you’ll have to click the link to learn why. (Hint: One of the candidates claims that Dearborn, Mich., and Frankford, Texas (a ghost town) are governed under Sharia, which is Islamic law.)  And take a moment to read some of the 229 comments for more hilarious examples and observations.

Why do we continue to accept acts from those in public service that we would condemn in other circumstances?

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/1807572441/

The Hypocrisy of Leaders, Et Al

Friday, March 5th, 2010

hypocriteAnyone who knows me knows that hypocrisy and fanaticism are tied for first place on my list of things-that-I-detest.

Political, religious and business hypocrisy continue to make headlines; rarely do I find myself laughing, but this time I did.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, the undisputed king of monopolistic uncompetitive practices is boo-hooing to both US and European regulators that Google has an unfair advantage in search.

Ballmer said Microsoft believes Google Inc. has done a number of things to gain an unfair advantage in the Internet’s lucrative search advertising market. He didn’t specify the alleged misconduct.

I am not alone in considering this totally ludicrous. And it’s not what Google does or does not do, but that Ballmer has the audacity to complain in the wake of Microsoft’s own track record.

And therein lays the real problem.

The idea that if ‘they’ do it it’s unfair, immoral, or illegal, but if we do it it’s OK.

We saw it in the arguments of torture being acceptable on the detainees at Gitmo.

We see it in the political and religious leaders who preach high moral codes while practicing immorality.

We see it in business leaders who preach ethics and practice them only as long as it’s convenient.

We see it in parents who demand better education and then condemn any teacher that doesn’t give their child a good grade.

We see it in colleagues whom we complain of slacking only to do something similar ourselves.

We see it in friends who share our private information even as we share someone else’s.

To paraphrase Walt Kelly’s Pogo, “We have met the hypocrite and he is us.”

Image credit: Kain Kalju on flickr

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