Employment vs Personal Expression

by Race in the Workplace special correspondent Erica Mauter

Your employer tells you you can no longer wear the facial piercing you’re sporting. My knee-jerk, perhaps idealistic, perhaps somewhat-indicative-of-my-age response is, “I would not want to work at a company where this is even an issue.” You can control that to some extent while you’re searching for a job by targeting companies where it won’t be an issue. But what if your current employer drops this on you and you had planned to stay a while?

DiversityInc asks if your piercing is worth your job.

“‘You have a generational issue and that’s a diversity issue… A lot of baby boomers, who horrified their parents with long hair, are horrified with the piercings of the younger generations. But an employer has a right to set a reasonable dress code that could include restrictions on hair, piercings, attire and a variety of things. There’s nothing unlawful about an employer saying, ‘We don’t want body piercings.’”

I understand how this policy makes sense in a role that requires contact with external customers. But if your exposure is mostly internal, how much should the company’s image and your representation thereof be a factor? Your work speaks for itself, right?

I’m going on 30, and I’m probably going to be looking for a job soon. I’ve had my eyebrow pierced for 10 years, so it’s not like it’s a product of my quarter-life crisis. I was considering getting rid of it because I’m “too old” but this unexpected job hunt might push me farther towards taking it out. It hasn’t been an issue at my current company, but I am an engineer and the somewhat conservative culture of engineering combined with the somewhat conservative culture of the Upper Midwest makes for folks in hiring positions who place a little more emphasis on that sort of thing.

So I’ll be asking my friendly neighborhood HR manager what her professional opinion is on that.

Speaking of HR…

“If an employee offers that they [have facial piercings] for a religious reason, then the manager should neither accept that reason at face value nor dismiss that reason at face value… Their reason may be valid, but the employer may have a counter interest, so the manager should report the claim to human resources.”

Nose? Eyebrow? Tongue? Labret? Are some facial piercings more okay than others? Is it about the location? The bling? What about earrings on guys? I imagine that, while of course the policy should be enforced uniformly, actual enforcement is somewhat at the discretion of one’s manager and HR.

The reason for a “no piercings” policy: No one has to decide what’s okay and what’s not.

links for 2008-01-23

links for 2008-01-18

3 sure-fire ways to alienate people of color at your meeting

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

The next time you plan a meeting — whether it’s an internal meeting or a full-blown conference — take a minute to think about how people of color will perceive your efforts.

It may not seem as if diversity plays much of a role in meeting-planning, but you’d be surprised. Check out Association Meetings magazine’s cover story this month, titled “Bias? What bias?”, in which the editor was kind enough to include some of my thoughts on the subject.

So, what are some things you should not do if you want to make people of color feel included at your meeting?

1. Create a discussion panel that is a veritable diversity ghetto

Another common way associations attempt to diversify their meetings is to include what Carmen Van Kerckhove, co-founder and president of New Demographic, an anti-racism training company in New York, calls “the panel of marginalized people.” This is a panel that features, for example, a black person, a Hispanic person, a young person, and a person with a physical disability put on display to discuss their issues as members of a specific group. Instead of creating “the ‘diversity ghetto,’ planners could include those issues in the main topics of the conference.”

You have no idea how many conference organizers have asked me to be on their diversity ghetto panel. And this doesn’t just happen at conferences where the organizers are mostly white — Asian-American conferences are often guilty of this too. Many a time I have found myself, The Half-White Asian, on a panel along with The Bisexual Asian and The Disabled Asian. Of course no one used those labels explicitly, but it’s what the audience was thinking as they looked at us.

2. Force the person of color to talk about race and nothing else

And include minorities among your mainstream topic speakers, she adds. “It’s more powerful if you have a panel of top executives that includes a person of color discussing a business issue, than it is to just plop that person of color up there to talk about their race.” The Association Forum of Chicagoland, Chicago, is very attuned to this, says vice president and COO Pamm Schroeder. But, she adds, it takes more work to find new, diverse voices than it does to just fall back on speakers you already know and have good evaluations for.

Organizations have a tendency to think of diversity as a thing that is wholly separate from the day-to-day matters of business. So instead of thinking “Joe has some great ideas about where our industry is headed, let’s make sure he speaks,” the meeting planner thinks: “Joe is black, let’s show some diversity by having him speak about what it’s like to be a black man in this industry.”

3. Don’t reach out to people of color because you assume that your industry “just isn’t that diverse”

…Another common misperception made by dominant-culture planners, says Van Kerckhove, happens when people look around at a meeting and, seeing that there are few people of color, assume that it’s because there are few people of color in the profession or interest group the meeting serves. In fact, it may be that “many of the people organizing the conferences haven’t stepped out of their comfort zone to do a more thorough search to find people who are different from the mainstream” of attendees, she says.

Just because there was little diversity at every other meeting you’ve been to doesn’t mean that there’s no diversity in the industry. It could be that people of color are turned off by the meetings and opt to stay home. It’s up you to create an environment that’s inclusive to all people.

links for 2008-01-17

Recommended Reading

by Race in the Workplace special correspondent Erica Mauter

Racism Easily Partners With Business, Personal, and Social Issues in the Workplace - The Black Factor
“Racism may be the catalyst that provokes an incident at work, but other business, personal or social needs may combine with racism to increase the magnitude of the event—and the scope of illegality… [M]any employers try to knowingly morph racist behavior and actions into personal/social issues between workers. That is how many companies will attempt to dilute allegations of racism.”

The Pitfalls, and Potential, of Corporate Social Networks - Baseline Magazine
“[E]mployees may be reluctant to expend the time and effort in keeping up a blog or community profile when they would be prevented from accessing the information if they leave the company… [K]nowledge workers that understand the value of social networking may be loath to use corporate social technologies, particularly when Internet-based services provide the same benefits without the loss of what they perceive to be their personal intellectual property.” (via Work-related Blogs and News)

Writing effective job postings - One Louder
Eight tips from the folks at TheLadders.com. Equally as useful for job seekers as for recruiters.

8 New Weapons to Fight the Talent Wars in ‘08 - Employment Digest
Another list aimed at recruiters with implications for job seekers.

Keep Job Desperation Under Control - Anita Bruzzese’s 45 Things
“The key to putting a positive spin on either being fired or laid off is to tell an interviewer that you used the time to pursue additional education, or that you used it as family time to reassess your life and carefully plan your future. By expressing these actions as real acts of courage — that it’s often difficult to look ahead but you did it — then you give the interviewer an impression of strength.”

The Career Investment of a Professional Association - Career Hub
“Don’t be afraid to think creatively about joining an association. There are some exceptional niche associations that address specialty areas within professions. And if you’re considering making a career leap, think about taking a small step in that direction by joining an association for that particular career. Associations have member resources such as listserves, newsletters, and networks which are great ways to learn about the possibilities and challenges facing you as you think about that potential new career choice.”

Obama’s victory in Iowa sheds light on today’s workplace - Brazen Careerist by Penelope Trunk
[I]n Iowa City… the students sat victorious at the Obama camp with 70% of the votes, while the caucuses for Edwards and Clinton were shouting over to the Kucinich supporters to abandon camp and come to them. This is a metaphor for the workplace. The young people have, effectively, shifted the balance of power to themselves, and the older people squabble between each other, as if their power structures still matter… The Clinton campaign assumed women would vote for women. But young people did not make this election about gender, they made it about age. They want change. They want a chance to do things differently, within the established structures of power.”

A Reader’s Open Letter to the EEOC - The Black Factor
“Employment discrimination is offensive, it is insulting, it is meant to categorize, to separate, to exclude. Discrimination makes it too easy for others to take symbolisms, words, and/or beliefs and make them conform to the biases of those in positions of power to discriminate. It is designed to make us all uncomfortable with each other.”

Maternal Profiling . . . - Workplace Prof Blog
Richard Bales rounds up some references on “employment discrimination against a woman who has, is believed to have now, or is expected to have in the future, children.”

what to do when you make a mistake at work - Ask a Manager
“This formula works because when someone makes a mistake, what a boss needs to do is make sure that the person understands the seriousness of it and knows how to avoid it in the future. If you take the initiative to cover those things yourself, then your boss doesn’t need to do it herself (and having your boss impress upon you how serious a mistake was tends to be much less pleasant than saying it yourself).”

Recommended Reading is a weekly feature where we link to some of our favorite workplace-related blog posts and articles. If you would like to suggest a link to Erica, please email tips@raceintheworkplace.com

The Corporate Divide Between Black and White Women

by guest contributor Latoya Peterson

“Are white women doing their part to support their black sisters in the fight for gender parity in corporate America?”

Damn, I thought to myself after turning the page, Pink isn’t playing.

Pink Magazine focuses on perspectives and resources for women in business. While I was underwhelmed with their offerings when the publication launched, they have won me back over the last few months with interesting features, timely articles, and an increased commitment to diversity in their pages.

But even I wasn’t expecting something of this caliber.

In their January/February 2008 issue, Carolyn M. Brown weighs in on the sticky subject of race relations in the workplace. Brown, the editor at large for Black Enterprise pulls no punches with her piece:

One look at the statistics (see “A Story in Numbers”) and the question emerges: Why haven’t black women made the same strides as white women if the issue is purely gender?

The harsh reality is that white women are afforded many of the same privileges as white males by being part of the majority class in the corporate arena, say high-ranking women of color. And many white women are shirking their responsibilities as sisters in the gender movement.


Michelle Johnson, director of supplier diversity for The Home Depot, agrees that white women, just as much as white men, are often in denial of race as a significant deciding factor at work. “White women don’t have parity with white men but they’re a rung above women of color on the ladder,” she says. “White men in corporate America look at white women and see their wives, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, daughters, nieces, and granddaughters.” In contrast, she says, many of the same men still see women of color as clerks. And even some of the white women secretly view black women as their support - “the hired help” - not equal partners striving for common ground with the men.

“White Lies” goes on to describe the rise of subtle race based discrimination and the assumptions that are made about the abilities of women of color - particularly the assumptions that are made when staffing a high profile or high visibility position.

The two sidebars included in the text are also packed full of useful information and shocking statistics. In the first sidebar, “A Story in Numbers,” it is revealed that of the top 500 corporations, there are only thirteen women CEOs. Of that number, two are Asian-American. The rest are white.

The second side bar (written by Denise Beckles, diversity education manager at Johnson and Johnson) provides actual steps to take to build diversity and inclusion in our workplaces. Beckles advises white women that “Inclusion requires interaction and connection. Tolerance does not. Go out of your way to be a mentor for a woman of color.” There is also advice provided for women of color: “Never assume white women are all alike; they, too, are unique individuals. Gain an understanding of why we need each other to survive.”

I really have to applaud Pink for using such direct language to tackle a divisive subject. (And I will be very interested to see next month’s reader mail.)

Perhaps other magazines would do well to follow the advice of Lillian Dukes, vice president of technical services for American Eagle Airlines:

An honest dialogue between white and black women may not always be rosy, Dukes suggests, but only by discussing and reshaping women’s deeply seated notions about one another can women of all races move forward. “This is not a recrimination,” Finley says, “but an opportunity for us all.”

Join the Anti-Racism Action Group today - just 12 spots!

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Do you read Race in the Workplace religiously, but want to take your understanding of race and racism to the next level?

Then join New Demographic’s Anti-Racism Action Group! There are just 12 spots so if you’re interested, click here to register as soon as possible. Below is more information.

Anti-Racism Action Group

What is it?

The Anti-Racism Action Group is a 9-week-long course that takes an in-depth look at race, racism, privilege, and stereotypes. You can participate no matter where you are located geographically. In order to provide you with personal attention, we limit each group to just 12 participants. The next one starts on Monday, January 28, 2008 and will take place on 9 consecutive Mondays at 7 pm Pacific / 10 pm Eastern.

What’s unique about the course?

You will engage in an in-depth study of race and racism. Taking a single workshop — even if it’s a day-long workshop — only allows you to scratch the surface. The Anti-Racism Action Group, on the other hand, gives you time to thoroughly explore and process new ideas.

You will actively engage with the material and think about how it applies in your life. It’s easy to space out while listening to an audio seminar or a diversity speaker. The Anti-Racism Action Group’s action-oriented format, on the other hand, ensures that you don’t fall into the trap of passive learning.

You will get to know your fellow group members, learn from each other and develop personal bonds. In a typical diversity training setting, the speaker drones on and on to an anonymous mass of people. The Anti-Racism Action Group’s discussions, on the other hand, are driven by your stories, experiences, and analyses.

How does it work?

1. Phone sessions
At the heart of the program are 9 weekly 90-minute group discussions that New Demographic’s co-founder and president Carmen Van Kerckhove facilitates by phone. She’ll use a telephone bridge line that you can access from anywhere in the world. During 5 of the 9 phone sessions, you will discuss the reading and writing assignments. The other phone sessions will be more free-form. You can ask the group for advice with real-life situations, discuss current events, just chat and get to know one another, etc. You will receive audio recordings of each phone session so that you can review what was covered.

2. Reading and writing assignments
Every other week, you will receive a reading and writing assignment on a specific topic. You will read the material assigned (up to 50 pages) and write a few paragraphs in response to questions that Carmen poses to you. You will share this writing assignment with the other members of your group and discuss them on that week’s call. The writing assignments are designed to make you engage with the material and reflect on how it relates to your personal experiences. So don’t worry about being judged on your writing ability!

3. Small group
The Anti-Racism Action Group is deliberately limited to just 12 participants. Not only will this ensure that you receive the personal attention and support you need, but you will also be able to build relationships with the other members of the group. You will all learn from each other in this small, intimate setting. Continue Reading »

Recommended Reading

by Race in the Workplace special correspondent Erica Mauter

Diversity Thoughts - Evil HR Lady
Evil HR Lady’s diversity training in a nutshell. Basically, be polite and be professional.

Does a Southern Alma Mater Limit Opportunities? - DiversityInc.com
The White Guy’s answer: “Even though it’s been some time since you graduated with your bachelor’s degree, you’re seeking a position in a field where your education résumé is critical: Your degree is hyper-regional and that is an issue in today’s environment. You may wish to pursue an executive degree at a Northeast-based college, but I would not suggest anything but a first-tier school regardless of its geography.” Readers respond to his answer and also chime in regarding HBCUs and all-women’s schools.

Lack of Delegation Can be Short-Sighted - Anita Bruzzese’s 45 Things
“[D]elegating is really on-the-job training, providing those in an organization a chance to stretch and grow. And if someone can’t delegate, then they’re actually hurting the business because it undermines trust and motivation among employees.”

Who cares about your job title - tell me what you DO! - Chief Happiness Officer
“[Y]our job title is never going to make you happy at work, but knowing what you do, may. Knowing your contribution, how you add value, how you make a difference - THAT can make you happy at work.”

Bad career advice: Do what you love - Brazen Careerist by Penelope Trunk
“[I]t’s preposterous that we need to get paid to do what we love because we do that stuff anyway… I am a writer, but I love sex more than I love writing. And I am not getting paid for sex. But I don’t sit up at night thinking, should I do writing or sex? Because career decisions are not decisions about ‘what do I love most?’ Career decisions are about what kind of life do I want to set up for myself?”

Danger signs when you’re interviewing for a job - Ask a Manager
Most revolve around poor communication from the potential new employer. Also, too much or too little turnover.

Will Your Accent Keep You From Getting Ahead? - DiversityInc.com
“[A]n employer may fire an employee or not hire a person because of an accent if effective oral communication in English is required to perform the job duties and the person’s accent interferes with their ability to communicate in English, including teaching, customer service and telemarketing.” … “‘I believe if we substitute ‘accent’ for ‘pronunciation,’ it wouldn’t be an emotionally charged topic.”‘

Recommended Reading is a weekly feature where we link to some of our favorite workplace-related blog posts and articles. If you would like to suggest a link to Erica, please email tips@raceintheworkplace.com

Recommended Reading

by Race in the Workplace special correspondent Erica Mauter

Party Liabilities - Portfolio.com
“While there are no statistics that measure how many lawsuits and complaints arise from holiday parties, lawyers say the numbers are increasing, along with the number of workplace-harassment and discrimination suits in general.”

Apparently religion doesn’t mean ethics - Leadership Turn
Reflecting on the 2007 National Business Ethics Survey, Miki Saxon concludes, “[T]he same people who identify themselves as Christians/religious and the ones who take the Bible literally are the same people who are either violating the ethical standards or not reporting the violators.”

Lovaglia’s Law and Open Office Plans - Bob Sutton
“Lovaglia’s Law: The more important the outcome of a decision, the more people will resist using evidence to make it…. [P]eople in open settings are found to be less satisfied, less productive, and experience more stress than people who work in closed offices… Yet, as Lovaglia’s Law predicts, many administrators and building designers seem to be have a hard time “hearing” such evidence and keep pushing for open office designs – they prefer to talk about selected anecdotes instead.”

Developing Your Adversity Muscle - On the Job
“Whether or not you caused a problem doesn’t matter as much as whether you’re willing to step up to the plate and try to deal with it. Making yourself a victim won’t help, but taking ownership and finding a solution will develop your ability to deal with adversity — and that’s something that bosses value.”

Changing the way we see disability - Workers Comp Insider
“[W]ithout an active recovery, depression and disability syndrome can often occur. For most people, income, identity and feelings of self-worth are tied to work and productivity. Today, most employers understand that helping injured workers get back to their normal lives, including work, is an important part of recovery.”

How to Resign Your Job - MarketingHeadhunter.com
“[Y]ou can expect the reference checking questions to be a regular kiss and tell. Therefore, it’s absolutely essential that you maintain the highest level of professionalism before, during, and after your resignation — because you will ALWAYS be expected to use your current employer as a reference.”

how to get hired if you’re under-qualified - Ask a Manager
“In your cover letter, acknowledge that you don’t have every qualification they’re looking for, and explain how you’ll make up for it… Acknowledging it is good because (a) it shows you paid attention to the ad — something most people don’t do — and indicates an attention to detail that hiring managers love to see and (b) it shows that you’re not one of those insanely overconfident candidates with no humility or sense of your own weaknesses.”

Dilbert Has a Tattoo: The Rise of Individuality at Work - Businesspundit
“[I]n exchange for the devotion to work, employees want their jobs and their workplace to match their sense of self… With choice, personal expression, and individual fulfillment at all-time high, companies are doing everything from revisiting their ban on tattoos… to adding the “expression of gender identity” - one’s inner sense of being male or female - to the list of things they won’t discriminate against…”

Recommended Reading is a weekly feature where we link to some of our favorite workplace-related blog posts and articles. If you would like to suggest a link to Erica, please email tips@raceintheworkplace.com

Recommended Reading

by Race in the Workplace special correspondent Erica Mauter

Fact Sheet on Employment Tests and Selection Procedures - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
“The fact sheet describes common types of employer administered tests and selection procedures used in the 21st century workplace, including cognitive tests, personality tests, medical examinations, credit checks, and criminal background checks. The document also focuses on ‘best practices’ for employers to follow when using employment tests and other screening devices, and cites recent EEOC enforcement actions. Discriminatory employment tests and selection procedures are prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act — which are all enforced by the EEOC.” (via DCI Consulting’s OFCCP Blog)

Racial or Business Decision? - Evil HR Lady
“If you believe that their decisions involving race are having a detrimental effect on office morale or business results, then you need to be able to show that. Not through, ‘it’s not fair and it makes me angry,’ but through facts and figures.”

Beware the Professional Hispanic - Advertising Age’s The Big Tent
“Professional Hispanics are folks who are Hispanic and have chosen their ethnicity as their profession. They have no specific expertise in Hispanic Marketing (or even marketing per se, for that matter) but rather ride the ethnicity of their name to define and build their career… [W]hile Professional Hispanics ride their culture and ethnicity to career advancement, Hispanic Professionals leverage their efforts, experience and expertise.”

Workplace Prof Blog - The Impact on Employers and Employees of Taxation on Domestic Partner Benefits
“The lack of recognition for same-sex marriages is not only in violation of basic principles of equal protection, but it also leads to these absurd consequences for companies and citizens of this country in which ‘the taxation of domestic partner health care benefits sets up a two-tiered tax policy that costs many American families and their employers millions of dollars each year.’ The study above estimates that this system costs employers some $57 million per year in additional payroll taxes and costs unmarried couples some $178 million dollars in additional taxes per year.” [Williams Institute Study (pdf)]

Ethical Decisions and Business Gifts - On the Job
“Once you start to fudge on your ethics, once you put your personal integrity up for sale for season tickets to the Knicks or some other gift, then some day you’re going to realize that you’ve gone down an ethical abyss that may be hard to climb out of.”

How to Find More Black, Latino, Native American Executives - DiversityInc.com
“Providing a support network for blacks, Latinos and Native Americans pursuing business doctoral programs, The PhD Project puts them in front of the classroom at some of the nation’s top B-schools… It has slashed the average dropout rate for doctoral students from these groups from 35 percent to 7 percent.”

Five things people say about Christmas that drive me nuts - Brazen Careerist
“People want tolerance and diversity but they are not sure how to encourage it. There is a history of tolerance starting first in business, where the change makes economic sense: Think policies against discrimination toward women, and health insurance that includes gay partners. Tolerance and awareness in the workplace reliably trickle down to other areas of society. So do what you can at work, where you can argue that tolerance and diversity improve the bottom line, and you will affect change in society, where tolerance and diversity give deeper meaning to our lives.”

Creating Masculine Identities: Harassment and Bullying ‘Because of Sex’ by Ann McGinley - Social Science Research Network
From the article: “Workplaces are sites of construction of male gender identity. While there may be nothing wrong with constructing gender identity at work, masculinities research and the new bullying research demonstrate that men’s proving of masculinity in the workplace can be destructive to many men and to women. Title VII’s hostile work environment law provides a vehicle that, when interpreted properly, permits courts to conclude that severe or repeated harassing or bullying behavior, especially when performed by groups in sex segregated workplaces, discriminates against the target because of sex. Only if this behavior is eliminated from work will Title VII reach its promise of affording equal employment opportunity to both men and women.” (via Workplace Prof Blog)

Recommended Reading is a weekly feature where we link to some of our favorite workplace-related blog posts and articles. If you would like to suggest a link to Erica, please email tips@raceintheworkplace.com

Recommended Reading

by Race in the Workplace special correspondent Erica Mauter

What Do Aks and Wiff Say About You? - DiversityInc.com
“When I’m interviewing professional candidates for organization-critical, high-visibility positions, I expect those interactions to be dynamic and of the highest caliber (and that includes articulation and enunciation). Why, then, am I no longer surprised when an applicant I can tell to be black (by name, alma mater, associations listed on the résumé, or–believe it or not–voice/use-of-voice) says the dreaded ‘aks’ instead of ‘ask’? Or ‘wiff’ instead of ‘with’? … I usually find myself wanting to give these candidates some constructive feedback, to turn them on to the consequences of this foolish behavior of slaughtering the English language. These behaviors perpetuate stereotypes and fuel the undying flames of racism in ‘corporate America.’ I feel privileged holding open a door of opportunity for so many people, and I’m saddened when I have to block the entrance because so many people think it’s ‘cool’ or acceptable to sound stupid.” Also, reader feedback.

Learning From a Demotion - On the Job
“Let the boss know that you’re interested in focusing on the problems and fixing them. It could be the boss will tell you that it’s merely industry restructuring, and it’s happening throughout the company. In that case, you need to consider your future job security not only with your current employer, but within the industry.”

male and female bosses judged differently? - Ask a Manager
“If I have to be seen as either the bitch who gets things done or the pushover who doesn’t, I’ll take ‘bitch who gets things done.’ It’s infuriating that it has to be a choice, of course; I doubt many men are out there worrying that they’re seen as insufficiently sweet.”

Why don’t they fire her? - The Career Encouragement Blog
In response to “10 Reasons Bad Employees Don’t Get Fired”: “Managers cannot address every single problem at once. Their primary focus is always to grow the business in order to project the jobs of the majority. They will deal with problem employees as they have the impetus and time. Therefore there have ALWAYS been problem employees in every workplace, and there always will be in the future.”

Social workers, teachers and nurses: the new “it” careers for women? - Employee Evolution
“People are pursuing them because they are meaningful jobs, because they have a passion for helping people, and because they are rewarding. And honestly, what else can you ask for from a job? My questions now are, why are an overwhelmingly large percentage of women pursuing these paths? Are we going back to a society where men are expected to bring in the money, not because women are staying home, but because women are pursuing the truly rewarding and important careers? Or is my town just an anomaly?”

Subtle Ways to Help Avoid the Mommy-Track - The Juggle
The Juggle’s writers suggest keeping the baby talk and child-related discussions over the phone to a minimum and generally avoiding any indication of actually having children at home. Heated discussion in the comments.

Careers Give India’s Women New Independence - New York Times
“The changes are sharpest in the lives of women who have found a footing in the new economy and who are for the most part middle-class, college-educated professionals exploring jobs that simply did not exist a generation ago. High-technology workers and fashion designers, aerobics instructors and radio D.J.’s, these women in their 20s are living independently for the first time, far from their families. Many are deferring marriage for a year or two, maybe more, while they make money and live lives that most of their mothers could not have dreamed of. ” (via Workplace Prof Blog)

Surviving the First Week in a New Job - Employment Digest
“Your first week in a new job is prone to be the only time during which you can observe the working environment with true clarity and objectivity. Use this period before you’re fully integrated into the culture to observe your colleagues and the culture without emotional involvement or subjectivity.”

30 Interview Questions You Can’t Ask and 30 Sneaky, Legal Alternatives to Get the Same Info - HR World
This is about protecting yourself from a lawsuit. Many questions are easily re-worded. The suggested ways to ask these questions pointedly focus on a candidate’s ability to perform the job. It’s been my experience that interviewers will still infer and assume quite a bit. (via Gautam Ghosh)

Recommended Reading is a weekly feature where we link to some of our favorite workplace-related blog posts and articles. If you would like to suggest a link to Erica, please email tips@raceintheworkplace.com

Here it is: Carnival of Human Resources #21

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Hi everyone, I’m happy to host the Carnival of HR for the second time here at Race in the Workplace. If you’re new to the blog, we’re all about exploring how race and racism influence our working lives. To catch you up, here are some of our most popular posts from 2007:

How to respond to a racist joke
Why you shouldn’t be colorblind
Diversity training doesn’t work. Here’s why.
If diversity training doesn’t work, why do companies do it?
What to do if you’re experiencing racial discrimination at work

The Carnival of Human Resources, published twice a month, is a collection of blog posts on topics related to human resources, business and training. This brainchild of Evil HR Lady aims to get more people blogging and/or reading about these topics, but it’s also a great way to get new readers for your blog.

The December 12th Carnival will be hosted by Wayne Turmel at The Cranky Middle Manager.

Without further ado, here we go!

Please, Lord, not another trademarked leadership concept
Blog: Wally Bock’s Three Star Leadership Blog
“I don’t like that everybody’s got to have some hook of a brand-like name for what they do. It seems to me that Peter Drucker managed to do a successful job of teaching us a few things without needing a fancy name for what he did.”

The “built environment” discrimination theory
Blog: WorkplaceHorizons.com
“The Randy Newman song “Short People” has found an echo in a new gender discrimination theory that has come into vogue in certain articles and in academic circles. Although the Newman song was considered to be satire, these theories are quite serious in claiming that gender discrimination can result from the physical work environment, frequently in the form of work environments designed for taller, and thus more-likely-male employees.”

Orthopedic Shoes Optional…
Blog: The Best Recruiters Have a Sense of Humor…
“An interesting topic was brought to my attention a few days ago by one of my readers…what agencies are out there recruiting for older candidates? I had to admit that I was stumped. ARE there any agencies out there for an older demographic? I wasn’t sure…and I said as much. I guess the upside of not having an answer is that it got me thinking about my approach to candidates in the “older demographic.”"

Are you a British Library or an “access all areas” leader?
Blog: The Engaging Brand
“Do we as leaders put blocks in the way to people learning…people developing? Do we give access to learning materials or is there a bureaucratic process that makes it difficult? Do we control the development process too much, after all many want to seek the development themselves…..we just need to give them the ability to do it”

Don’t Forget the Quiet Talent
Blog: MabelandHarry
“So often the people who get recognised are the ones who are louder, better at self promoting but often there is some real talent hidden away. Your role is to search for that talent and to let that talent shine. Learn from Emperor Claudius!”

Layoffs and Reductions in Force: Five Things every HR Generalist should know. Blog: Pennsylvania Employment Law Blog
“As credit related losses ripple through the financial and construction sectors, many organizations will be forced to consider job cuts. Selecting employees for lay off must be collaboration between managers and human resources. HR must be able to influence the process to reduce legal risks and assuage the anxiety of remaining employees”

Will You Please Sign Off on This?
Blog: Evil HR Lady
“Now, the HRBPs knew that there was someone like me to save their little rear ends, but they should have acted as if I wasn’t going to pay attention. They should have read carefully and asked questions before approving anything.”

Age discrimination lawsuits and plaintiffs’ victories continue to rise
Blog: Ohio Employer’s Law Blog
“All legal issues aside, the golden rule is the best risk management practice — employers should treat employees as they would want to be treated if in their shoes. Juries are comprised of many more employees than employers, and if those jurors feel that the plaintiff was treated the same way the jurors would want to be treated, the jury will be much less likely to punish the employer, and the dollars needed to resolve the case will be much lower, if needed at all.”

Munchausen at Work: HBR
Blog: KnowHR
“I’ve seen plenty of Munchausen at Work in my career. I think Professor Bennett is being conservative when he says it’s infrequent. After all, isn’t that what half of all meetings are about — some problem created so that someone can swoop down and fix it? It’d be interesting to call people on their Munchausen at Work-iness. It could be the new “Can I give you some feedback?”, only this time it would be, “Is this a real problem or is this Munchausen at Work?” That would stop the disrupters in their tracks.”

11/29 Additions:

Emotional Intelligence and Faces
Blog: SharpBrains
“…according to his research, feelings and facial expressions influence each other. This is, not only a sad person will naturally look sad, but a person who intentionally smiles will feel more content than a person who doesn’t.”

Incompetent people may have no idea
Blog: Ask a Manager
“A fascinating Cornell University study a few years ago found that people who are incompetent tend to dramatically overestimate their own competence, and people who truly are quite competent tend to underestimate their own performance.”

Reminder: One more day till the Carnival of HR

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Race in the Workplace will be hosting the next Carnival on Wednesday, November 28th. Please email your submissions to team@raceintheworkplace.com and put “Carnival” in the subject line. One submission per blogger please. I look forward to hearing from all of you! :)

Please get your posts in by 5 p.m. Eastern time on tomorrow, Tuesday, November 27th.

The Carnival, published twice a month, is a collection of blog posts on topics related to human resources, business and training. The idea is to get more people blogging and/or reading about these topics, but it’s also a great way to get new readers for your blog.

Recommended Reading

by Race in the Workplace special correspondent Erica Mauter

Discomfort at Work: Workplace Assimilation Demands, Social Equality, and the Contact Hypothesis - Social Science Research Network
From the abstract: “To date, scholars and courts have framed the workplace assimilation debate largely in terms of individual interests: on one side sits the employer’s interest in easing customer or co-worker discomfort with difference, and on the other side sits the employee’s interest in being saved the identity, time, and economic costs involved in complying with behavior requirements that are drawn along a white, male norm. This Article reframes the debate by considering how workplace assimilation demands impact the end-goal of antidiscrimination law - social equality.” (via Workplace Prof Blog)

Incompetent people may have no idea - Ask a Manager
“[I]t reinforces the idea that you must be explicit with employees who aren’t meeting your expectations — particularly about the severity of the problem and what the possible consequences could be… So managers should commit to saying the words, ‘I must warn you that your job is in jeopardy if you don’t improve.’”

A misogynistic workplace is bad for male employees too - British Psychological Society Research Digest Blog
“Male and female employees who said they had witnessed either the sexual harassment of female staff, or uncivil, rude or condescending behaviour towards them, tended to report lower psychological well-being and job satisfaction. In turn, lower psychological well-being was associated with greater burn out and increased thoughts about quitting.” (via Bob Sutton)

Women Get Better At Forming Networks To Help Their Climb - WSJ.com
“A women’s network has emerged in the corporate world that is working to counter the old boy’s club. Its members, who include a fresh crop of female executives as well as corporate veterans, are helping one another advance and succeed — and on their own terms.” (via The Job Blog)

What To Do When The Recruiter Calls! - Employment Digest
“In any career it’s important to know what’s happening in your industry, who is hiring, who is expanding, and who is leaving. Job opportunities in the hidden job market could potentially leverage your career. So your first choice is not to limit your options. If your decision to say ‘no thanks’ to the recruiter you just limited your options. And in taking this action you denied yourself access to potentially important career information.”

There is no such thing as positive or negative feedback. - Slacker Manager
“The positive or negative impact of feedback is based less on what we say than on our reasons for saying it and how we say it. The person receiving feedback can always use the feedback in a constructive manner.”

Recommended Reading is a weekly feature where we link to some of our favorite workplace-related blog posts and articles. If you would like to suggest a link to Erica, please email tips@raceintheworkplace.com

Submit a post to the Carnival of HR

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Patrick Williams at Guerilla HR is currently hosting the 20th Carnival of Human Resources.

The Carnival, published twice a month, is a collection of blog posts on topics related to human resources, business and training. The idea is to get more people blogging and/or reading about these topics, but it’s also a great way to get new readers for your blog.

Race in the Workplace will be hosting the next Carnival on Wednesday, November 28th. Please email your submissions to team@raceintheworkplace.com and put “Carnival” in the subject line. One submission per blogger please. I look forward to hearing from all of you! :)

Recommended Reading

by Race in the Workplace special correspondent Erica Mauter

conducting strong performance evaluations - Ask a Manager
Going beyond rating systems and filling out forms. Training from a manager for other managers.

Avoiding the gender gap - CNN.com
“The study by the London Business School concluded that teams of employees where the gender balance is equal tend to come up with more creative and innovative ideas than groups dominated by either men or women. The mixed gender groups were on average more likely to experiment, to pool knowledge and to complete their tasks as needed… This is the case regardless of whether the team leader happens to be male or female….” (via The Job Blog)

A Brand You World: Global Summit
To access all the audio from the “A Brand You World” personal branding summit, plug the feed into your podcast vehicle of choice [subscribe with iTunes] or directly download individual teleseminars.

A question for the Americans out there - Chief Happiness Officer
The CHO is visiting the United States. “Everywhere I go, I ask the same question, namely ‘what makes people happy at work here.’ And I’ve noticed that the answers are never about work itself. People talk about career opportunities, they talk about salary and benefits, they talk about getting free concert tickets.”

Mental Health Parity: Not in Workers Comp - Workers Comp Insider
“There is a bill pending in the US Congress to require parity between mental and physical health benefits… Full Parity for Mental Illnesses expands the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 (MHPA) to prohibit a group health plan from imposing treatment limitations or financial requirements on the coverage of mental health benefits unless comparable limitations are imposed on medical and surgical benefits.”

Do You Feel Dirty When You Google Candidates? - The HR Capitalist
The main question is of the legal risk associated with what you find out. (via Workplace Prof Blog)

The Building Blocks for a Promotion - The Black Factor
“If you are working in a job where you aren’t being provided with the basics that would lead to a promotion, you can legitimately raise serious concerns about the lack of opportunities and training at your job… If you are not given reasonable answers regarding obtaining these basic building blocks, you should consider speaking to another authority within your department or to an HR representation.”

Recommended Reading is a weekly feature where we link to some of our favorite workplace-related blog posts and articles. If you would like to suggest a link to Erica, please email tips@raceintheworkplace.com

Recommended Reading

by Race in the Workplace special correspondent Erica Mauter

House Approves Broad Protections for Gay Workers - New York Times
“The House on Wednesday approved a bill granting broad protections against discrimination in the workplace for gay men, lesbians and bisexuals, a measure that supporters praised as the most important civil rights legislation since the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 but that opponents said would result in unnecessary lawsuits.” Notably lacking is any protections for transgendered workers.

Does political correctness foster hypocrisy? - Leadership Turn
“What if [Mel] Gibson, [Isaiah] Washington and [Don] Imus had stayed politically correct—mouths shut and attitudes private—would that have been better?” I’m personally guilty of expressing dismay that people don’t know enough to not say certain things out loud, even if they really think that way.

Have you planned for a personnel disaster? - Ask a Manager
“In my office, we call it the ‘hit by a bus’ plan. The idea is to document enough key information that if someone gets hit by a bus tomorrow, their department would be able to continue functioning. (We’re a sensitive bunch.) This means that information related to the job is all written down in a formal manual, not just recorded in someone’s head.”

Late for Work: When Does It Really Matter? - Workers Comp Insider
Jon Coppelman sums up a case in which a disabled worker who was by all accounts an excellent employee was fired when a new company president instituted a zero-tolerance policy on tardiness. The worker was routinely delayed in punching in on time, usually only by a few minutes or less, due to having to maneuver his wheelchair through the workplace.

My Union: A facebook application for union members
My Union is a facebook application, developed by the Trades Union Congress… It lets you add a little badge to your facebook profile to show everyone which trade union you’re a member of. You can also see which unions your friends are members of. (via Work-related Blogs and News)

Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership - Portfolio.com
“Women’s leadership style—characterized by innovating, building trust and empowering followers—is ideally suited to today’s business challenges. Tackle the obstacles to women’s progress, and you’ll increase your firm’s competitive prowess.”

Baloney Meter: Antidiscrimination Bond Will NOT Prevent You From Being Sued - DiversityInc.com
“Employers would offer the ‘bond’ to prospective employees, who would pay an annual premium and earn interest the company would match on their investments. If the employees never sue the employer, they get the principal, interest and employer contributions back about six months after leaving the company to coincide with the period within which they could file suit. If they do sue, they forgo their investment. The bond is priced such that theoretically, job applicants with litigation in the back of their minds would opt not to purchase it, and the employer wouldn’t hire them.”

Recommended Reading is a weekly feature where we link to some of our favorite workplace-related blog posts and articles. If you would like to suggest a link to Erica, please email tips@raceintheworkplace.com

Watercooler: sandwiches for… diversity?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Watercooler is the section of the blog in which we share with you real-life horror stories from the frontlines of race in the workplace. :) This week, we have a story from Jeanette:

My company is really very diverse - it’s based in Japan, but global, and so there are a lot of people with different backgrounds at work. This isn’t really all that common in a small town in SC, but here we are. I’ve worked here almost two years, and my group, though small includes my Arabic [Muslim] boss, a black woman, black man, me: black and white, and two white guys and a white woman.

A few months ago, I learned that we have a “diversity committee” on site. How did I learn this? Every employee received a coupon to go to a local restaurant that serves … sandwiches. Basically, not very exciting American food. Along with the coupon came a paragraph explaining that this was courtesy of the “diversity committee” and that we would see more in the coming months. I don’t have that much against American food…I just couldn’t figure out how the coupons to an American restaurant were related to diversity.

After going to lunch there with some of my coworkers, I learned that the proprietor of the establishment is homosexual. And it struck me that this was an extremely tacky way to encourage diversity.. Considering several of my colleagues refused to go to the restaurant simply because of that reason.

Anyway, our diversity board’s latest offering is a multicultural cookbook [which every employee has been invited to contribute to] to be unveiled at the multi-culti food fair taking place next Friday. Why do I take issue with this? Because it just so happens to be Ramadan. My boss is fasting until sunset as is the custom - and she has done this for all six years she’s been with the company. There are people she sees [and talks to] on a regular basis [who know that she is a practicing Muslim] who are on the diversity committee. And yet, this is how things go down.

I went to my HR rep [Stacy] and told her I had an issue to discuss. I mentioned that I am not aware of how many Muslims are employed here, but I know of at least one. And that I found it incongruent to hold a “celebration of diversity food festival” during Ramadan. She told me that she knew of a few other Muslims on site, and that it certainly wasn’t appropriate to have planned the “festival” during Ramadan. She said that she would mention it to the diversity board.

Two days later, an email was sent to the entire site with a subject line reading “Cultural Food Festival Cancelled”. In the body of the email there was a reiteration of the subject line and a note that the festival would be rescheduled for a later date to be announced. That same day, signs that had been posted heralding the festival were marked with a large red ‘X’ and the word ‘Cancelled’ scribbled across them. This was exactly what I did NOT want, when I went to HR in the first place. I spoke with Stacy and she told me that the person who had marked through the posters was apparently [according to them] acting on orders. Thankfully, Stacy subsequently removed the posters from the walls.

For several days, I heard conversations discussing what the reasons might have been for canceling the festival. Some did mention the fact that it was during Ramadan. My boss actually went to Stacy and asked if it was any of us [her people] that said something, because she had told us that it was no big deal. It seemed to me that the actions taken to postpone the “festival” seemed to be borne out of some kind of resentment. How hard would it have been to entitle an email, “Festival Rescheduled”? Was it really necessary to attack the posters with what really looked like anger?

But I can’t say I’m surprised - this is where I live. Meanwhile, the festival has yet to be rescheduled.

Please email team@raceintheworkplace.com if you’d like to send in a story, put “watercooler” in the subject line, and let us know what name we should use for you. Pseudonyms and first names are totally fine. You can read more Watercooler stories here.

Why you shouldn’t be colorblind

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Chances are, you’ve heard a co-worker say something along the lines of:

“I didn’t even notice he was black. Everyone is the same to me. I don’t see color! He could be black, brown, purple, or polka-dotted, it wouldn’t make a difference to me!”

What’s wrong with the statement above?

Well, for one, it’s a big fat lie. All of us notice variations in skintone, facial features, hair texture, eye color, and the myriad of other phenotypic factors that cause us to draw conclusions as to what race a person is.

Then why do people insist on claiming that they don’t notice color? Often, it’s because they are scared to death of being labeled a racist.

But here’s the thing. Noticing a person’s race doesn’t make you racist. What does make you racist is if you make assumptions about that person’s intellectual, physical, or emotional characteristics based on the race you think the person is.

Yes, even if those assumptions you make are positive. Ideas about “strong black women” or “smart Asians” are still racist because they reduce human beings to two-dimensional caricatures and assume that race predetermines intellectual, physical, and emotional traits.

More importantly, when you proclaim that you’re colorblind, what you’re really implying is that race doesn’t matter in America. While it’s true that race is not a biological reality, it is a very real social construct that has a profound impact on our lives. Race still matters because racism is alive and well. Pretending otherwise negates the everyday experiences of millions of people of color in this country.

NAACP Chairman Julian Bond said it best when he stated that colorblindness means being “blind to the consequences of being the wrong color in America today.”

Also, when’s the last time you saw a purple person?

Here are posts from other blogs on the topic of colorblindness, if you’d like to do some more reading on the subject:

Race Relations 101 - Colorblindness
Colorblind Racism
Say what? Colorblind, Part II
Colorblind Racism vs. Old Fashioned Racism