Thursday, June 11, 2015

Defying the Diversity Police

Watch any ensemble television show and you will discover that the characters seem to have been chosen for their diversity. It’s almost as though the show has chosen the cast in order to show how well people with a variety of racial or ethnic backgrounds, not to mention sexual proclivities and propensities can work together.

Since a disparate group of individuals can work together as a team in a fictional world, then clearly diversity works. Right?

Of course, if said ensemble does not contain sufficient diversity the long knives will come out, the producers will be excoriated in the media, advertisers will threatened to decamp and the show will be shut down.

Defy the diversity police at your own peril.

It’s not just television dramas. Business schools have produced a mountain of research studies showing that a diverse workplace is a happier, healthier and more efficient workplace.

I will not burden you with these studies. You know that they exist.

Unfortunately, real experience in the corporate world belies the results of the research. The high tech firms in Silicon Valley, all of whom are led by liberal bosses, tend not to be very diverse. They are a bastion of white and Asian male privilege, with a few women thrown in, but often not in the most responsible of managerial positions. As for minorities, they barely register.

Apparently, these firms did not read the studies. Or else, they ignored them. They always express extreme anguish over their inability to find qualified job candidates who fulfill the right diversity criteria... and continue their undiverse ways.

Of course, we all believe in diversity. We have laws and regulations that strictly forbid anyone from discriminating against a new employee on any basis other than qualification. 

Moreover, we also have affirmative action. Many colleges and companies have affirmative action policies that give a special advantage to members of certain minority groups.

Whether you like or do not like these policies, they produce candidates who look equally qualified on paper but are anything but. Worse yet, when the candidates are equally qualified, the fact of affirmative action leads prospective employers to downgrade the qualifications of someone who did not but might have profited from affirmative action.

Recently, the Supreme Court decided that Abercrombie and Fitch was wrong to discriminate against a job applicant on the basis of her Muslim headscarf.

No one was very surprised by the verdict. A lot of people were very surprised that the company had not been smart enough to invent a better reason for not hiring the woman in question. It serves them right for not understanding the need to placate the diversity police.

Human psychology being what it is, a business that is oppressed by excessive government regulations will not simply bend over and take it. It will find ways to get around the regulations. If you cannot discriminate against a job candidate for certain reasons, you can always find other reasons to favor the candidates you prefer.

A company that seeks out candidates with degrees in computer engineering will easily screen out a very large number of women and minority candidates, without running the risk of being accused of bigotry.

Lauren Rivera explains in a New York Times article that companies have now started judging job candidates on the basis of how well they "fit" the corporate culture.

She calls this another form of bigotry. One can only wonder how long it will take for zealous legislators and bureaucrats to outlaw “fit.”

Rivera identifies what she sees as a problem:

ACROSS cultures and industries, managers strongly prize “cultural fit” — the idea that the best employees are like-minded. One recent survey found that more than 80 percent of employers worldwide named cultural fit as a top hiring priority.

When done carefully, selecting new workers this way can make organizations more productive and profitable. But cultural fit has morphed into a far more nebulous and potentially dangerous concept. It has shifted from systematic analysis of who will thrive in a given workplace to snap judgments by managers about who they’d rather hang out with. In the process, fit has become a catchall used to justify hiring people who are similar to decision makers and rejecting people who are not….

But in many organizations, fit has gone rogue. I saw this firsthand while researching the hiring practices of the country’s top investment banks, management consultancies and law firms. I interviewed 120 decision makers and spent nine months observing the recruiting practices of one firm in particular. The professionals I spoke with, who were charged with reviewing applications and conducting interviews, consistently underscored the importance of cultural fit in hiring. While résumés (and connections) influenced which applicants made it into the interview room, interviewers’ perceptions of fit strongly shaped who walked out with job offers.

One notes, as an aside, that newspapers like the New York Times have often been called out for their lack of diversity.

One must also mention that companies and universities that do not value cultural fit do value ideological fit. They demand that everyone think the same way and will not hire anyone whose thinking deviates from the ideological norm.

You will notice that definitions of cultural fit are nebulous.

Rivera explains:

Crucially, though, for these gatekeepers, fit was not about a match with organizational values. It was about personal fit. In these time- and team-intensive jobs, professionals at all levels of seniority reported wanting to hire people with whom they enjoyed hanging out and could foresee developing close relationships with. Fit was different from the ability to get along with clients. Fundamentally, it was about interviewers’ personal enjoyment and fun. Many, like one manager at a consulting firm, believed that “when it’s done right, work is play.”

To judge fit, interviewers commonly relied on chemistry. “The best way I could describe it,” one member of a law firm’s hiring committee told me, “is like if you were on a date. You kind of know when there’s a match.” Many used the “airport test.” As a managing director at an investment bank put it, “Would I want to be stuck in an airport in Minneapolis in a snowstorm with them?”

Discovering shared experiences was one of the most powerful sources of chemistry, but interviewers were primarily interested in new hires whose hobbies, hometowns and biographies matched their own. Bonding over rowing college crew, getting certified in scuba, sipping single-malt Scotches in the Highlands or dining at Michelin-starred restaurants was evidence of fit; sharing a love of teamwork or a passion for pleasing clients was not. Some (former) athletes fit exclusively with other athletes; others fit only with those who played the same sport. At one hiring committee meeting I attended, I watched a partner who was an avid Red Sox fan argue for rejecting a Yankees supporter on the grounds of misfit.

Selecting new employees based on personal similarities is by no means unique to banking, consulting or law; it has become a common feature of American corporate culture. Employers routinely ask job applicants about their hobbies and what they like to do for fun, while a complementary self-help industry informs white-collar job seekers that chemistry, not qualifications, will win them an offer.

Rivera assumes that all candidates are equally qualified. And yet, in a world where affirmative action reigns, how confident can a hiring officer be that candidates with the same qualifications are equally qualified.

Besides, if companies are systematically refusing to hire equally qualified or even better candidates then other companies can outcompete them by hiring said individuals.

Moreover, what if “cultural fit” is really a euphemism for group loyalty and trustworthiness? Does a company really want to hire someone who is more likely to complain about white privilege, sexism or even Asian privilege?

Rivera understands that similar people, people who share basic values of cultures are better at working together. They tend to understand each other’s cues and offer fewer opportunities for misinterpretation. When different people come from different cultures and practice different customs the changes for misunderstanding and even friction multiply.

In a culture where your reputation can be destroyed for telling the wrong joke, it matters that you surround yourself with people who are like-minded and not likely to take offense.

And yet:

Some may wonder, “Don’t similar people work better together?” Yes and no. For jobs involving complex decisions and creativity, more diverse teams outperform less diverse ones. Too much similarity can lead to teams that are overconfident, ignore vital information and make poor (or even unethical) decisions.

If this is true, the market will eventually punish those firms that lack diversity. Except that those who believe in diversity do not believe in markets. They believe in solutions imposed by government.

The Moonbattery blog (via Maggie’s Farm) quotes a Fox Business investigation into the government’s new use of affirmative action criteria in hiring air traffic controllers.

FBN reported:

After the FAA changed its screening process in 2014, thousands of applicants who were already in the pipeline—people who had obtained an FAA-accredited degree, taken the AT-SAT exam and had been designated “well-qualified” to become air-traffic controllers—were told by the government that they would have to start the process again. “But this time, when they applied for a job, their college degrees and previous military experience would mean nothing,” reported Fox Business. “They would now compete with thousands of people the agency calls ‘off the street hires’; anyone who wants to, can walk in off the street without any previous training and apply for an air traffic control job.”

In other words, the current policy is to deliberately favor less-qualified applicants over more qualified applicants in the name of obtaining the “right” racial and gender mix among air-traffic controllers.

As long as it's diverse, performance does not seem to matter. 


Sam L. said...

Regarding air traffic controllers, it makes a real difference to the pilots and passengers. If one of those controllers makes a mistake and people get killed as a result...well, that's the cost of diversity.

RonF said...

Re: the comments on culture, fit and what happens if you tell the wrong joke - how likely would you be to hire someone who has a degree in "Gender/Ethnic/Racial/Oppression/< whatever > Studies"? Doesn't someone with a degree like that sound like a lawsuit waiting to happen? And then they wonder why they end up either slaving away for pennies in academia or asking far "less educated" people "Do you want fries with that?" for a living. It's obviously discrimination - and on the basis of the fact that the word in and of itself means "making a choice based on a set of criteria", they're quite right.

Ares Olympus said...
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Ares Olympus said...
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Ares Olympus said...

At least on the gender diversity front, I find it interesting than ALL four female engineers that work in my office are not from America, although come to think of it, the Chinese and Indian male engineers also are also not born here either, although many went to grad school here.

I guess if you need diversity, you have to search the entire world for employees. It looks like a good time to be an Civil Engineer. I remember asking my CEO a decade ago why our benefits are so good, and he says is what's required to pull in the best into a small company, even if our salaries were a bit below average.

But while we have a 2 WEEKS of paid parental leave, and more unpaid can be requested, we're not quite up to Sir Richard Branson's standards:
Most companies offer new Dads a grudging couple of weeks – but new fathers who work at Virgin will soon get up to a year on full pay.

The pay is service-related, from 25% for those with less than two years’ service, to 100% for those with more than 4 years’ service. It also applies to adoptive parents.

Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder, said: ‘I believe if you take care of your employees they will take care of your business.

Imagine having 3 kids, and getting paid say $100k/year for staying home with of them for 3 years, after 4 years of employment. Life is good apparently if you're in the right field.

I don't know how such employees wouldn't feel continually guilty. Or maybe $100k in student loans helps offset that guilt?

But more to me this suggests a sign of a racket, if employers have such money to throw away for nonproductivity. There's some secret club, and a special minority get to play.

You'd think shareholders would object, but as long as share prices keep going up, and company debt can be kept properly hidden Enron-style, why not share the wealth while it lasts? Pyramid schemes need early payout to be attractive, right?

Nate Haugens has been saying "We're not facing a shortage of energy, but a longage of expectations."

I see cheap energy as the original source of our wealth, and now cheap debt, but it has to all end sooner than later. Collectively the future just can't possibly be big enough for all our promises and debt payments.

So diversity is a noble ideal when you're feeling generous, but survival threats are going to force other issues to lead us into whatever future we find.

Dennis said...

Before I retired I spent many years working for the Department of Defense with much of that in R&D developing and fielding Automated Information Systems for "the point of the spear" and those who would provide the requirements. I have seen the damage Affirmative Action has done to people. We hired a seemingly well qualified Black individual with a Computer Science degree. It did not take long to find out how much this person lacked in the basic knowledge needed to work and oversee the contractors that worked for and with us. Even though we spent time trying to upgrade this person's skills and abilities he finally left probably feeling he had been let down and cheated.
It has happen in far too many occasions in just my working knowledge to be a rare occurrence. It is very hard to watch someone who academe has done real damage by not expecting and ensuring the best from these people. One of the reasons I have little use for academe and many institution that cheat others through the "bigotry of low expectation." It is why I am so adamant about being tough on people so they have the wherewithal to meet the challenges that they will ultimately meet.
The sad part is that diversity has created real damage by pushing people into being tokens for Harvard and many ivy league institution that use and abuse them for the sake of that diversity. Had many of these young people started in an academic environment much better suited to meet their needs they would have learned more and come up to the standards required.
Instead of having people adapt to the needs of the organization we are trying to adapt the organization to the needs of the individual. A sure fire way to cheat everyone involved. A weak link is still a weak link no matter how one defines it. Much better to strengthen that link before one has to put stress on it and then find out it cannot do the job for which it was meant to accomplish. Fit, Form and Function is important to everything we do.

Dennis said...
This does not only apply to athletes.

sestamibi said...

The large electric utility where I once worked for twelve years now includes this caveat in all its online job postings:

"Candidate must foster an inclusive work environment and respect all aspects of diversity. Successful candidate must demonstrate and value differences in others' strengths, perspectives, approaches and personal choices."

Given my political orientation and history as a GOP activist and party county chairman, I have no doubt that such would immediately disqualify me from working there today, no matter how closely my work experience and prior performance matched the positions other requirements.

I am mercifully retired and pulling a pension from said company, so I can only express my gratitude for having my so-called career behind me and not having to put up with this kind of horseshit today.

My few job applications in the past five years were not only all rejected, but I was not even informed of the outcome (even in a couple of instances in which the hiring firm paid my travel expenses for the interview!). I suspect this is the result of the ever-growing influence of cunt-dominated HR departments. The cunts that run them bring the same attitude toward new hires that they do to their search for mates: no one is ever good enough, and the process reflects that.

Dennis said...


I can understand your comments because I have seen them myself in action.

1. Large military base in the Midwest has a black woman as a HR person who gets sued by a Black man because she threw away the resumes of both white, black and other minority males. This went unnoticed because Officers and GS managers got double credit for black females.

2. When contracting to have special equipment made it took a real battle to weed out all of the unqualified 8A contractors. Same reason as above

3. HR person chews out a Vietnam veteran because she does not like the VRA and tries to deny these veterans employment.

4. The program I went into had long denied veterans a chance despite having all the qualifications and experience requisite. It took Congress to put pressure on this program, and others as well to ensure these fields opened up to those who put their lives on the line for this country.

5. When I retired for the military I found that many places I tried to get a job would reject me because I was a disabled veteran. I cannot tell you the many times I heard I was qualified, but they were afraid I might claim unemployment compensation.

I could go on with a large number of examples of how those who did not serve their country did their best to deny those who did. While men were dying women were applying and taking over the parts of organizations that had a direct affect on the hiring. But I long ago accepted the vagaries of life and in the long run almost every thing worked out well for me. The best revenge is to live well and not let others control your destiny. Despite the feminists there are a large number of truly great women out there.

Dennis said...

Let me say in conclusion that I, like many Vietnam veterans, had a close affinity to "Rambo" because he reflected much of what was happening to us. The large number of homeless and people who wound up living of the grid should have been a clue. The said part is that many in the "Greatest Generation" did a lot of damage to these young men. It is why one sees Vietnam Veterans, et al, go after anyone who attempts to make light of the service of those who serve now,

n.n said...

Class diversity.