Category Archives: Diversity at Work

The Google Boogle: Diversity without Difference

Google is back in the headlines for botching its diversity initiatives. I expect that they will be there for a long time. That’s because their thinking is all “boogled” up.

In August, James Damore’s screed on Google’s botched diversity efforts went viral. Soon thereafter, he was fired for violating an unspecified company policy. Seeking to clarify their action, Google said that Damore was “spreading false assumptions about genders.”

Now Mr. Damore is suing Google for discriminating against people who are “perceived to have conservative political beliefs.” At the same time, Google is facing two lawsuits for paying women less than men. It seems that the US Department of Labor found evidence of an “extreme” gender pay gap. How ironic!

Diversity is a sensitive and complicated issue. So it’s not surprising to learn that Google “presumably” pays women less while aggressively enforcing norms against politically incorrect speech. It seems to me, however, that Google’s woes are due as much to “boogled” thinking as to the complexity of the issue.

James Damore points out a number of well-documented differences between men and women in areas such as openness to feelings, neuroticism, and math scores. Despite the body of research supporting Damore’s observations, Google labeled Damore’s observations: “false assumptions.” Meanwhile, Google has affirmative action goals for women, but pays them less when they get there. So, Google denies differences between men and women, promotes women as “diverse,” and pays them less. Perhaps this is as crazy as it sounds-or maybe Google is just interested in anatomical diversity.

Instead of dealing with the plain truth, Google exercises convoluted thinking that can only lead to failure. How can they reconcile policies that give favor to women on the basis of their differences while denying that they are different than men? We can neither honor people nor capitalize on our diversity by acting like we are all the same. James Damore is right. Google is oblivious to their biases. Their irrational attachment to liberal orthodoxy is bound to frustrate them from attaining an otherwise noble pursuit. They are all “boogled”-up.

It’s a shame. Mr. Damore handed Google a chance to practice what it preaches. He gave them an opportunity to demonstrate openness to different ways of thinking and to learn from people who disagree with them. By firing him rather than engaging him, Google made Damore an outcast and invited their people to label him ignorant, backwards, and sexist.

They didn’t just miss an opportunity, they contradicted an espoused value and failed to address the real flaws in Damore’s arguments.

Because of their greater warmth, openness to feelings, and concern for relationships, women make highly desirable Google team members. Programming and engineering are stereotypically introverted activities, but they are also creative endeavors. Since creativity thrives in collaborative teams, women can be strong candidates for leading greater creativity and innovation in Google. While it is true that there once was a large gap in math test scores between the sexes, women have all but closed that gap. At the end of things, Mr. Damore had his facts right, but his analysis was flawed as was his judgment. That is the picture Google should have seen, but they didn’t. Instead, they saw a sexist who threatened their diversity canon.

Google is a diversity mess; it’s a ball of contradictions protected by liberal dogma. They would do well to break from the pack and face reality. If not with the pack, where should they be?

Diversity matters when and because people are different. Men and women think and behave differently due to variances in their genetic code and their life experiences. So, awareness of the systematic differences among people in personality, abilities, perspectives, culture, assumptions, communication styles, etc. is fundamental to any diversity initiative. It is also necessary to equip people with effective communication and relational skills so they can build real relationships and address differences person to person. Forums and procedures for relational reconciliation without the threat of punishment are also important. People behave defensively when they fear punitive action, so why not create reconciliation offices rather than grievance offices?

Each of these things: acceptance of truth, knowledge of differences, interpersonal savvy, and a concern for reconciliation are vital to realizing the hopeful vision of a diverse workforce. Still, they are not enough. Without love for your teammates, it all fails. No knowledge or skill imbues compassion, let alone the desire to honor others. Only love does that, and that is the truth.

I’d like to see how Google handles that!

Millennials Are Bums, So What?

144618-20140729If you are paying attention, or even if you aren’t, you’ve probably heard the workplace chatter about the millennial generation. They are:

  • lazy
  • incompetent
  • glued to their “phones,” and
  • need constant stroking.

So what?

Remember Who You Were?

If you are a Baby Boomer – a hippie, turned me generation, turned soccer mom, your generation ushered in free-love, drugs, the broken family, and Wall Street excess. You also integrated the workforce – giving women and minorities a step on the corporate ladder. If you are a Gen X – a latchkey kid, turned MTV fan, turned slacker, turned free agent, your generation gave the word “cynical” a whole new face, established the grunge culture, and wore the mullet. You also introduced work-life balance, turned our focus to business results rather than time and tenure, and renewed the country’s entrepreneurial spirit. Who you were isn’t who you turned out to be. In fact, you were never fully who others thought you were. So let’s give our successors a break. What do you say? Maybe they aren’t exactly like us – nor are they entirely who people say they are. Instead, let’s have a productive conversation about engaging them in the important work of our organizations. After all, that’s exactly what we all want.

Millennials are GemsGem stone

Do you believe that you are a gemstone? What about everyone around you – do you believe that they are also gems? No matter what generation you belong to, you are a brilliant jewel. You were formed and cut by mighty forces: the events and pressures of your era – war, prosperity, depression, family structure, layoffs, technological booms, terrorism, etc. A gem is a precious stone no matter when, where, or how it was created. All rubies share the same essential characteristics. The same is true of people. Generations tend to be driven by a common set of values and needs. Chief among them are:

♦ Autonomy/Choice ♦ Learning/Growth ♦ Challenge
♦ Meaningful Work ♦ Relationships ♦ Accomplishment

These drivers are like the facets of a gem: they reflect the light brilliantly or dully depending on where the light hits the stone. Each generation tends to value some work conditions more than other generations and will shine brightly when the light hits their best facets. Millennials tend to place a relatively higher value on relationships, personal growth, and meaningful work than their predecessors. As a result, they sparkle brightly when they:

  • work socially – on cohesive teams that are focused on important work
  • have the freedom to work wherever they choose
  • have access to leaders so they can engage, learn, and get feedback
  • see real opportunity to grow and progress.

So What?

So what if they need more feedback than their predecessors? That’s how people learn. The dearth of feedback from leaders is the main reason why employees and results stagnate. If prior generations sought and gave less of it, perhaps it was because they were less savvy learners and more fearful about looking stupid than their younger counterparts. So what if Millennials think it is crazy to be tied to a cubicle to get work done or to put in face time just to appear committed? It’s crazy! People are more productive when they have the freedom to complete work in a way that suits them. Besides, they have been working from “wherever” their whole lives. So what if Millennials want to see a future for themselves and refuse to put the company in the driver seat of their careers? They learned well from their parents who, through layoffs and pay freezes, discovered that you can’t tie your future to the company. Instead, you have to make it yourself.

So, what is the Gen X or Boomer manager to do? In this light, the answer is apparent. Shine the light on what makes Millennials sparkle brilliantly. This generation will comprise 50% of the workforce in six short years (2020) and you will need to know how to work with them – as your employee, or as your boss.

Sparkling Light

As it turns out, the practices you need to help Millennials shine work well for your whole team:

  • Invite them into conversations about business challenges, and give honest feedback on their ideas about those challenges.
  • Build automated and personal feedback loops into work processes so they always know how well they are doing.
  • Learn the language of mentoring.
  • Restructure work processes to make them more team-oriented. Include experienced people on the team as role models for the less experienced folks.
  • Call a meeting to talk with your team about a flexible work schedule. Explain that you want to give them all the flexibility they want, as long as all of your business needs continue to be met. Then, define your business needs as team, and ask them to come up with scheduling guidelines or a team schedule.
  • Invite them to offer technology solutions for making the work environment more flexible and efficient.

Any jeweler will tell you to shine the light on a gem’s best facets. The same is true for people. Shine the light on what makes them sparkle rather than what makes you sparkle.