Diversity & Inclusion – Cart before the horse?

Is it just an alphabetical anomaly or does it have more to do with social justice warrior types along with  identity politics and intersectional victimhood pushers who seem to be more interested in trying to right historical wrongs at all costs and without thought to what they may unleash in a population that on the whole have done nothing wrong and who in the main will have nothing to do with people who do.

In their rush to be able to tag themselves as being committed to diversity most organisations completely and utterly ignore inclusion.  While they are writing policies and procedures to ensure they meet the requirements of diversity they ignore the people within their own organisations and the impact that they will have on them.  They are no longer talking about recruitment and promotion based on merit, only to recruitment and promotion based on group identity and under-representation.  Anyone who thinks that companys will only look at group identity and under-representation when they have equality qualified and experienced candidates are deluding themselves.  Diversity is now the king; those targets must be met and organisations will do anything to see that they do.  Failure is not an option in todays politically charged setting.

Organisations aren’t helped with this by the professionals they employ to help them understand what is required of them.  Part of this is down to the professionals and professional associations who are promoting Diversity and Inclusion or by the government who keep moving goal posts in knee jerk reactions to the latest bit of research produced by one lobbying group or another.  The professions and their professional bodies are too invested in it both professionally and financially to look at the research coming out that undermines their position.

A recent report commissioned by CIPD Diversity Management That Works reads like the conclusions and recommendations were written first and then the researchers went out and found the evidence that supports them.  The methodology used is far too subjective for it to really have any real validity or veracity.

“We decided to investigate workforce diversity practices applying the principles of evidence-based practice and bringing together the different forms of D&I evidence. At the heart of this study is the concept of co-creation with real practitioners. By working closely with people professionals, we bring a new level to our analysis to build recommendations that are not only research-based, but also relevant to practice. The result of this collaboration and knowledge exchange is a rich and powerful collection of insights that illuminate the scope of the challenge and plot a path forward for practitioners working today.”

In effect they were asking those who have both professional and financial investment in diversity as to how they believed it was working in practice.

I also note that the Inclusion side of it was to a point completely ignored.  The foreword notes that “there might be a lack of available inclusion expertise. Often the nature of the inclusion problem itself just isn’t well understood, and without enough information about the problem, it’s almost impossible to implement an effective solution.”

That admission in of itself should tell us that the whole Diversity and Inclusion agenda isn’t really about Inclusion at all, because it seems there has been no emphasis or will to go down that path.  I would suggest the reason that there is lack of expertise in the inclusion side of D & I is because everything has been driven by those in the diversity bubble.

The report and the article in People Management that launched it Unconscious bias training ‘has no sustained impact’ on behaviour by Siobhan Palmer, almost immediately goes to unconscious bias being the need for Diversity and Inclusion.  It is and it isn’t.  The article does go on to point out that unconscious bias training has little or no effect on changing culture or behaviours.  I and others have been saying this for a number of years.   Some, myself included, have also been stating that far too often the way this training is designed and implemented is more likely to have a negative effect on those receiving the training whether they be in management or not.  Diversity and unconscious bias training more than any other training is mandatory.  The reasons given are far too often slanted “Your unconscious bias makes you potentially a discriminator in one way or another so to get rid of that you need to go on this training.”

There is a big problem with this approach and that is you have already accused your managers and workforce of being some sort of discriminator, whether or not they know it or whether or not those unknown biases manifest themselves in behaviour.  Most of the discriminatory behaviour I have come across during my working life hasn’t been as a result of unconscious bias, but out right discriminatory views held by a very few, in various levels of management.  It can be observed in lower level employees but this in my experience has been less and the manifestation in actual behaviour has been extremely low and quickly dealt with.   This type of behaviour isn’t going to be altered by UB training or D & I policies and procedures, all that will happen is that those who have those biases will keep quiet about holding them.

If anything the results of unconscious bias training suggest that if anything such training is negative in that some of the participants that have gone through such training are more likely to have overt bias against other groups because they have been forced to sit through training being told that unconsciously they were already slightly racist, slightly sexist etc.  Unconscious bias training is in of itself divisive and the more often people have to sit through it because of some box ticking requirement brought about by some D & I policy and procedure the more likely the resentment will grow.

The report in section six talks about Diversity training and it is at this point that the report lost any value to me as a HR practitioner.  It states:

“Unconscious bias training (or UBT) involves teaching people about the psychological processes behind prejudice and why we are all biased, and techniques that can be used to reduce it. Assessments of people’s prejudice, for example the implicit association test (IAT), are also sometimes used as a way of highlighting bias.”

The Implicit Association Test (IAT) has been well and truly debunked to the point that one of the three psychologists Anthony Greenwald PhD; Brian Nosek PhD and Mahzarin Banaji PhD, of Harvard whose work produced the most commonly used  IAT test has disassociated themselves from the group and the others are now saying that it is unreliable as a single test.  In fact, it is unreliable as a diagnostic test.

There is a rule for diagnostic tests and that is the test re-test reliability has to exceed 0.8 the IAT comes back at being approximately 0.5.  Nowhere near reliable enough to be considered valid.  It doesn’t matter when the test is taken, the subjects results are likely to be skewed by what is happening in their life and society as a whole at the time the test is undertaken.  If they were to undertake the test again, knowing what the results of the first test, subjects themselves are likely to change their answers to change the original results.  What is most damming of all is that there is no evidence that it actually predicts behaviour.

That being the case, what use is it at all in assessing the level of unconscious bias we all have and what use is it in developing both diversity and unconscious bias training?

My own thoughts are that if you prioritise Inclusion and make that the driving force for change then diversity will follow quickly behind it.  Not only that, it will stop dead in its tracks the tribalism that is starting to gain momentum.  The narrative peddled by the promotors of identity politics and intersectional victimhood is that if you don’t agree with what we say, what we want etc then you are against us and should be vilified, lose your job, never be able to work again etc.  Labelled as misogynists, racists, homophobes and an ever-growing number of labels these groups want to pin on people for purely questioning their views and actions both violent and non-violent.

We cannot increase diversity and inclusion by alienating majority groups.  We will not increase purely by introducing quotas, targets whatever you want to call them.  #MeToo was a great movement to highlight the sexual abuse of women in the entertainment industry in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelations.  However, it has overstepped the mark.  Those who headed the organisation went from highlighting actual cases with plenty of evidence to going after any man in a position of power regardless of whether or not there was evidence to back those allegations.  “The victim must be believed” mentality that the case of Brett Kavanaugh highlights all to well.   This is what happens when a group opposed to another group uses and used uncorroborated accusations against a person, not so much because they actually believed the accusation but because the “victim must be believed” narrative allowed them to redirect their political hatred of one man on to another.

I have said it before the present focus on Diversity is decisive and exclusionary in its methodology and action.  It is following the same path as that sort by the pushers of identity politics and intersectional victimhood in that it is not just looking to change the future, which of course it should, but constantly tries to justify other actions it wants taken and are being taken because in the distant past one group treated another group badly.

We need to shift the focus.  We need to develop inclusion expertise and experts so that the changes that are necessary in our organisations and society as a whole benefits.  There are already experts in inclusion within the education system who are driving inclusive practices within all our schools however I see little evidence that any one or any organisation has taken it to the next step and that is to bring it into the world of work.  What happens when our children who have come through our education system knowing and living in an inclusive environment enter the world of work where none of it actually happens.  What is going to happen to those children who have benefited from such inclusive practice find that because organisations have been too engrossed with diversity, they don’t know how to be inclusive and wouldn’t know where to start.  What you have is an inclusive educational system and an exclusionary work system.

Yes we have all these rules that organisations must provide x, y, z to help those who have protected characteristics and these organisations will do just that, only what is required by law.

Organisations and society need to move on from diversity and put money, time and effort into research and development of inclusion as a subject.  We need to develop people who will undertake this research.  Let’s be honest, it’s going to have to start in academia, businesses already dealing with new laws and societal pressure around increasing diversity are unlikely at this time, to have either the time, money or inclination to do this.  Diversity is the easier subject to research, the data is readily available or easy to produce, the questions are easy to formulate and the answers are easy to calculate.  It will not be easy to do this in respect of inclusion because inclusion and feeling included is more to do with feelings than facts, emotions than statistics and perceptions.  Do I feel included?  Do I feel valued?  Does my belonging to this or that minority group hold me back?  Does not belonging to a specific minority group hold me back?

There is now anecdotal evidence that these pushes towards increasing diversity are starting to cause resentment within the different groups of those possessing protected characteristics themselves as well as those who aren’t.  It is starting to increase fractures within these groups and where they fall on the intersectional victimhood scale.

Now more than ever we need to look to inclusion and developing it as far as we possibly can.  Even then it won’t be perfect, but then again no system ever is.  That said, if we don’t start now, the tribalism that is growing as competing minority groups scream and shout at each other that they are more of a victim than the others are.   That only our views matter and if you do not agree you are x, y or z label will have serious implications for our organisations and society as a whole.  A prime example of this is the growing tension between Womens groups and Trans groups.  At the moment this is being played out in society but it will hit our organisations if or when new employment laws are framed around menstruation, menopause and self defining of gender identity, to name but three.

Even if we achieve a fully diverse workplace, it won’t matter if the Inclusion element hasn’t moved on from where it currently is.  Inclusion/belonging is what we as humans long for, want more than anything else.  If we don’t feel included then what’s the point of achieving diversity?

 

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Diversity – What’s in it for Straight white, men?

Anyone who thinks I must have been brave to write and publish this needs to think again.  What I have written and my views on the equality, diversity and inclusion debate are nothing less than absolute career suicide, not that my HR Career was going anywhere due to being a straight white male over 50, a comment I made the other day on a post on this topic.

The HR Profession, one that prides itself on championing Equality, Diversity and Inclusion is the last place anyone should look for advice, it is full of biases both conscious and unconscious when it comes to the people working within it.  Talk about recruiting in its own image, people like themselves, all the things that it has been discussing, saying is wrong and directing organisations to develop recruitment strategies to eliminate.  HR ignores all that.  So if HR starts telling, sorry, no, preaching to you that your department or organisation etc needs to be more diverse, my advice to you is look them straight in the eye and tell them, first put your own house in order and come back when that’s done.  But I digress.

One of the major ET decisions of the year so far was handed down quite recently with the ET deciding that the claimant was discriminated against on the grounds of Gender, Race and Sexual Orientation.  We will not know about the remedies until later in the year and I am sure that there will be a lot more legal manovering before it is finally settled.  What hasn’t surprised me however is the seemingly absolute silence in the HR Community and HR Publications.  I will go so far to say that the likelihood will be that they will not cover it because unlike every other case they cover with a similar decision this one Mr M Furlong v The Chief Constable of Cheshire Police it doesn’t fit the narrative that has been and continues to be peddled, which states “Straight White Men cannot be victims, only perpetrators.”  This is demonstrated by the coverage of the Female economist denied promotion wins sex discrimination case. The case was rightly found in her favour, there is absolutely no doubt that she was discriminated against and that needed to be addressed and put right.  The magazine People Management were right to publish it to bring it out into the open.  My only question is why did it not publish an article on the Furlong case?

There doesn’t seem to be a day goes by without a couple of articles being published on diversity.  The need for it, the benefits to both business and society of increasing it.  How businesses and government are working to increase it, targets, programs, etc.  I understand all that, to a point I agree that businesses, government departments, even the government itself should be more diverse.  I can see the logic in it, I agree that there will be benefits from it, but I for one have had enough.

The reason being that what is being proposed and implemented is nothing more than discriminatory.

“You cannot fix the discrimination of the past by discriminating in the present and future.”

In other words, you cannot visit the sins of the father on the sons and not expect some backlash.  Todays young men are the least discriminatory there has ever been.  Surely they are not nor can they be held responsible for the discrimination of the past?  That said however, they are the ones that are going to be discriminated against.  The backlash won’t come in the next few years, more likely in about 3 – 5 years when these policies really do bite.  When this group really feels the effects, career plans blocked, opportunities to train and develop blocked, not because they aren’t good enough, not because they haven’t worked hard enough, but because of what they are.  Sound familiar?

At the present time, unless they are at boardroom level this group doesn’t have a voice in the debate and the voice from the boardroom is only interested in meeting the quotas and targets set them by government because of societal pressure.  I have only read one article that briefly alludes to this group having no voice, no stake in and absolutely no engagement in the diversity debate.

All the focus of D&I programs is on women and minorities, and straight white men are being unfairly discriminated against.”

Avivah Wittenberg-Cox

All the other articles are about improving the situation for women and other minorities.  Developing programs and training to ensure that these targets and quotas are met.  The only training that this group is down to have, is targeted with beating their conscious and unconscious bias out of them.  The very fact that this training has been proven not to work to the point that is now recognised as having the opposite effect should have sent warning signals to stop.  It hasn’t stopped of course, there are too many people making a lot of money providing and running these courses.  Add to that they are seen by employers as a way of demonstrating they have done so to appease government, employment tribunals and of course the groups who have been targeting companys who do not show favouritism to their courses. Not one of these articles has even considered the possibility of the negative impacts these strategies are going to have or if the authors did have them, they didn’t reach the page.

The biggest mistake is believing there is one right way to listen, to talk, to have a conversation — or a relationship.

Deborah Tannen

I remember reading an article in which the employer stated that over 65% of its workforce was female and that it had in its diversity targets to increase the number of women in leadership roles from 25 – 30% in two years and the same for the boardroom and that was just the start.  No mention of increasing the number of men working for them to balance up their workforce to better reflect society.  It is no more diverse in its leadership and boardroom than it is in its general workforce.

At 65% female representation is 15% over that in the general population.  There’s no mention of special programs to attract males into the business at any level.  Put it another way, for the next few years this group aren’t going to be trained or developed into leadership or boardroom roles and that is going to have an impact on the ability of organisations not only retain talent from this group, they will also find it very difficult to attract it in the first place.

This will go for every company and public sector employer who are working on filling diversity quotas/targets.  What member from this group is going to want to join an organisation which for the next few years and beyond is going to be concentrating on meeting diversity targets?  Which of them is going to stick around in one of these organisations that is going to deny them the opportunity to train and develop, to achieve promotions and therefore a better pay package?

No doubt that won’t be mentioned on careers pages, but what will, will be the companys commitment to increasing diversity, training programs for under-represented groups to achieve leadership roles etc.

As for my own profession, Human Resources, back in 2017, the CIPD stated that roughly 80% of its members were women and still increasing.  What I don’t see is the CIPD and the HR profession doing anything to change that.  We talk about increasing diversity and inclusion but as a profession and a professional organisation we don’t even talk about the lack of diversity in our own area and what can be done about it.  Well we do if it is to talk about women being under-represented at Senior/Board level.  This article by Emily Burt HR’s gender challenge in People Management from September 2017 about sums up the CIPDs stance “Yes it is female dominated but men still occupy 6% more senior roles than women.”  If Emilys views are those of the CIPD then they are not interested in the overall imbalance in the profession, only that Men occupy 6% more of the top jobs.

Time for the HR Community to put its own house in order?

Yes we need to increase diversity in our businesses, our public services and government but it cannot and will not be achieved by excluding the hopes, wants and needs of 45.5% of the population from the discussion.

Diversity was once coupled with inclusion.  Now, because of the introduction of targets, quotas etc the inclusion part has been dropped, the only thing that matters is meeting those quotas/targets and that is the only driver and the methods being applied are exclusionary to say the least and as detailed in the Furlong case sometimes actually discriminatory.

The narrative being peddled around diversity and inclusion isn’t a nice one, well in my mind at least, because it isn’t about making the world of work more diverse and inclusive.  The narrative is more about being divisive and excluding.  Everything that betters Women and minority groups is good, straight white men, well you better just shut up because you are nothing more than racist, misogynist, homophobes etc if you don’t.

As I said in the title, this approach to achieving diversity has absolutely nothing to offer straight, white, men.  In fact, it is detrimental to them and that has to change.

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Are we putting too much on our Line Managers?

Line Manager

You can delegate authority but not responsibility that remains with the delegator.  Well that was what I was taught back in the late 80’s when I was on my ISM course.  However it would seem that we have stopped doing that.  We have continually moved not only the authority, but also the responsibility down to the lowest level of management, Line Manager & Team Leaders.  The two articles from People Management last week only go to show that to be true.

In an article by Karen Warren for People Management last week titled Stop making excuses for bad line managers she outlined this stating, “Line Managers and team leaders are responsible for many things: recognising and rewarding great work, ensuring their staff are performing well and holding them to account if they’re not, and supporting their development – either to improve their performance and wellbeing or to help them develop and progress into other roles if they want to.”

Emily Burt also wrote about Line Manager responsibility in the same publication titled Line managers ‘first port of call’ for employees with mental ill-health talking about the CIPD and Mind guidelines for improving work place mental health.  The article states “The role of line managers in employee wellbeing is vital,” said Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD. “They are often the first port of call for someone needing help, and are most likely to see warning signs of poor mental health among employees.”

I have to wonder how much of the work of Senior Managers, HR and Occupational Health Experts is now being abdicated, yes abdicated, further down the management structure to the lowest management levels.  Could this be down, in the case of HR at least, to the fact that CIPD has been driving the profession further and further towards what it sees as the good stuff, the sexy stuff, Strategy, the thinking part, while it continues to neglect the operational side of the profession and those working within it?

Yes Line Managers/Team Leaders are the first people who are likely to spot problems, but they have not been suitably trained and developed (in a lot of cases), to actually do their main job, let alone have the training required to apportion a causal effect to a change in a team members behaviour. They definitely haven’t had the training to actually deal effectively with it and nor have the vast majority of HR, Health & Safety and other more senior managers. Add to that they are for the most not recognised or suitably remunerated for taking on these types of responsibilities.

Yes irritability and other mood changes in individuals in a managers team is usually spotted quite quickly by them.  Attributing a causal effect is much harder, takes years of experience and asking them to effectively diagnose it is something they neither have the skills, training or experience to do, not to mention the time on top of all their other responsibilities.  It is hard enough for skilled, trained and experienced people to get those suffering from mental health issues to open up and talk.  It can take hours of gentle persuasion to do so.  Have Line Managers and Team Leaders the actual time on top of everything else to do this in a way that is beneficial to the team member?

Warren goes on to re-state that the majority of our Line Managers were given their jobs and just expected to get with it.  Most are actually given the role because they are great at the job they were doing, with no training before taking on the role and scant training thereafter.  How is this still possible?

How long has CIPD and other professional bodies been championing the need to better train existing Line Managers and to encourage organisations to develop people who have the attributes to become effective ones, before they are actually needed to fill those roles, in effect developing talent pipelines.  My observations so far are that we have moved on very little since the time this issue was first raised.

During that time we have expected them to take on addition responsibilities including first line HR, Health & Safety, Training & Development, Reward & Recognition and now we want to add Wellbeing including Mental Health.  Warren says “Stop making excuses for bad line managers.”  I actually think the vast majority of them are doing the best that they can and getting scant thanks for it.

How often have we heard that stress is one of the main causes of ill-health at work?

I don’t think a week goes by without an article somewhere being published on the subject.  As we keep abdicating these authorities and responsibilities down the management levels we are actually increasing the stress levels of Line Managers.  They are now the ones senior managers expect to deal with it from not only their managers perspective but also from their team members as more senior managers within our organisations make it obvious to them that they don’t deal with that, speak to your line manager they will help you.

Personally I think it is time to review the function of Line Managers, their roles and responsibilities.  It is time that organisations reassess the training and development that line managers require to carry out the roles they are being asked to do.  It is also time for senior managers and directors to stop abdicating and take some responsibility back.  Take on the burden of some of the additional stress we have been putting on them and realise our part in getting to this situation in the first place.

Who is responsible for ensuring the wellbeing of our line managers, or are we saying they are responsible for that themselves?

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Bullying & Harassment – Who is responsible for tackling it in our organisations?

bullying

This question has been going round the HR profession for years.  Most seem to believe that it comes under HR, some believe it is Management and in particular Directors.  There has also been talk about it coming under Health and Safety.  They are all right and they are all wrong.  There is only one real answer to that question.  We all are, every single person working in, suppliers of, and customers of our organisations have a responsibility to call it out and stop it in its tracks as soon as it is seen or heard.  We can have all the policies and procedures we want, we can give out corporate statements by the dozen stating our commitment to preventing and dealing with it.  We can make specific departments or individuals responsibility for dealing with it day to day but we will never achieve the sort of reductions that are not only necessary but imperative to ensure our organisational culture eradicates all forms of bullying and harassment.

In a recent article on Don’t go numb over damning new workplace sexual harassment report in HRM the news site of the Australian HR Institute (AHRI) it sites some shocking figures for not only the instances of this particular form of harassment but the under reporting of it.  It also states that “forty per cent of workplace cases of sexual harassment are witnessed by at least one other person, 69 per cent of which did not intervene.”   For me that is the biggest reason that we don’t see these figures dropping.  It’s not just in cases of Sexual Harassment that this happens, it happens in every form of bullying and harassment.  It’s witnessed and those witnessing it do or say nothing.

There is one thing I would like to point out at this time and that is the vast majority of all forms of harassment & bullying is committed by people in the victims own peer group, only a small faction is committed by managers on subordinates.

As I say in my comments on this article, “I’m glad to see the SIA, AHRI and IRSQ getting together to discuss this in an effort (I hope) to design a joined up approach to this aspect of our work places and work relationships. I agree that we should stop deferring responsibility and actually assign responsibility, but not to one group or another, it is not any group or any group of groups that need to take responsibility. Responsibility to significantly reduce Sexual and any other form of bullying and harassment should be instilled in every individual who works in our organisations from the small companys to the multinationals.

The work needed to address this part of our work culture is vast and won’t be combated by just improving the capabilities and behaviour of those in our profession. It needs a fundamental change in our organisations culture and attitudes to this and other behaviours, We are seeing changes due to pressures outside our organisation, but I will at this point air a note of caution, that all changes have to be balanced, well thought through and implemented fairly. Too many of these interventions start from a point of apportioning blame to one group, though there is enough evidence to suggest that all groups can be seen to contain people within them that exhibit these types of unwanted behaviours and attitudes.

Yes HR Professionals have a major part to play in this drive to change culture, practice and attitudes. Increasing capabilities, competence and practice in our profession is needed as pointed out by Dr Rebecca Michalak (below). Though this alone will not drive the desperately needed changes. Other bodies such as employers groups, directors and managers groups also need to increase the competence and capabilities within their members so they can support and be supported by HR, SIA and IRSQ members. It needs a whole organisation culture change to be effective,

Some might say that the time for talking is past, it is time for action, to a point they are right but this can’t be dealt with piecemeal, to gain real traction towards zero instances of this behaviour it is going to need everyone to get onboard and it starts with making everyone responsible for their action and inaction in regards to unwanted and unwarranted behaviours regardless of their standing within our organisations.”

Before you start thinking that there will need to be changes in or new laws put in place, There isn’t any need for new laws to deal with bullying and harassment, they are already in place.  Though bullying isn’t covered under the Equality Act 2010, harassment is, based on specified criteria.  However the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 actually makes both bullying and harassment an offence under Section 7.

Section 7

General duties of employees at work.

It shall be the duty of every employee while at work—

(a)to take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work; and

(b)as regards any duty or requirement imposed on his employer or any other person by or under any of the relevant statutory provisions, to co-operate with him so far as is necessary to enable that duty or requirement to be performed or complied with.

As both bullying and harassment may result in both physical and or psychological harm to an employee, this section actually covers more than the Equality Act 2010.  It also puts a duty on employees to actually step in and were possible prevent such behaviours as well as report them.

Want to change it?

Then it’s time that every single one of us steps up, steps in and speak out.

Responsibility does not only lie with HR, Managers and Directors.  Responsibility lies with each and every one of us and only if we take on that responsibility will we see the changes necessary to significantly reduce all forms of bullying and harassment.

It starts and ends with us.  Are you going to step up, step in and speak out today?

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Unconscious Bias training, a waste of time, money and resources which can be better utilised elsewhere in the organisation.

Unconscious Bias.

What is it?

Why do we have them?

Why don’t we know we have them?

What can we do about it?

The first part is easy, just look it up online somewhere and you will get a definition something like this.

“Unconscious bias refers to a bias that we are unaware of, and which happens outside of our control. It is a bias that happens automatically and is triggered by our brain making quick judgments and assessments of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences.”1

The definition actually answer the second and third parts without any need for further explanation in this article.

The tricky part is answering the last part, “What can we do about it?”  A lot of people far better qualified and experienced than I at researching this have tried and fallen short on their answers.  They have designed, developed, sold training packages and materials, (as well as making a lot of money from doing so) to try and answer the question but even so there is no quick fix to the problem (if there is an actual measurable problem) and of course there never will be.  Unconscious bias is by definition unknown to the person having them and differ from person to person as they all have different backgrounds, cultural environments and personal experiences.  The thing is every psychology student, professor and commentator on the subject agrees that we cannot actually function properly without these biases.

Tests have been devised to examine peoples unconscious biases, one of the best known being the Harvard Implicit Association Test (IAT), however could the unconscious biases of the person or persons devising the tests to examine such, actually be included in or influenced the tests?  The bigger question is who gets to decide what those biases are and how they should be dealt with?  The regression equations and the co-variants used within them can actually determine the outcome of the equation, in that the equations are actually set up in such a way to deliver the results that the person or persons who devised them expected or wanted in the first place.

There is however a problem in that the testing for such is being challenged and being challenged by one of the people who brought forth the idea in the first place, Brian Norsek.  The Implicit Association Test (IAT) devised and developed by Anthony Greenwald2, Mahzarin R Banaji3 and Brian Norsek4  to measure bias does not meet the test/retest reliability measure required for a diagnosis test which is 0.8/0.9.  the IAT at best reaches 0.5.  Tom Barrlett in his Chronical article Can We Really Measure Implicit Bias? Maybe Not suggests we cannot.  It has been stated by Jordan B Peterson5 “That you can give the same person the same test two weeks apart and get different results.”

There is also no evidence to suggest a positive impact of unconscious bias training, in actuality there is more evidence to suggest that there is a negative impact associated with such training.  In addition to that there is little or no evidence that unconscious bias manifesting itself in measurable behaviour.

Requiring people in organisations to undergo such training is a like to the re-education camps of Communist Russia and China.  That said, it is believed and there is evidence, that such training cannot deliver the changes that it was designed to deliver.  The requirement for unconscious bias to be tested and training delivered is, I may suggest, more politically motivated than a requirement for organisations to be better at delivering on their goals.  The people driving this narrative are those who are pushing intersectionality, especially intersectional victimhood.

My limited experience of such training is such that I question the process.  Requiring employees to under take such training (mandatory) is counterproductive.  Who gave organisations or the state the right to test, let alone re-educate people on biases they don’t know they have and which have no measurable effect on actual behaviour?  In effect by making such training mandatory organisations are saying to people you have an ism you don’t know you have, and this training is being provided to get rid of it and that is a slippery slope we certainly do not want to go down.

Such blanket training without testing certainly wont work and even with testing, has been shown not to work, so why go about actually undertaking it in the first place.  I wonder how much it cost Starbucks to shut down its operations to deliver training.

Anthony Greenwald and Brian Nosek, when referring to the Starbucks training seem to agree that such training is not effective, with Greenwald saying, 6

 “Starbucks would be wise to check out the scientific evidence on implicit bias training.  It appears to be the right thing to do, but this training has not been shown to be effective, and it can be counterproductive.”  He went on to say “The Implicit Association Test is a valuable educational devise to allow people to discover their own implicit biases.  However taking the IAT to discover one’s own implicit biases does nothing to remove or reduce those biases.  Desire to act free of implicit bias is not sufficient to enable action free of implicit bias.”

In fact social scientists and psychologist are increasingly questioning the effectiveness not only of the tests themselves but the training being delivered from the use of or not of those tests.  The biggest problem being that the tests are being used by groups with vested interests, which include most importantly, the very people making vast amounts of money in devising and administrating the tests themselves and those delivering the training.

So in answering the last question “What can we do about it?”  The answer it would seem from all the research to date, is nothing, especially as it relates to individuals, and it matters not how much or how little unconscious bias training an individual receives.

In conclusion, organisations which engage in the activities of unconscious/implicit bias testing and training are in effect wasting, time, money and resources that they could better use elsewhere.  The evidence suggests that you cannot reliably test for unconscious bias and even if you could, training is more likely to be counterproductive.

References

1                      ECU: 2013 Unconscious bias in higher education p1

2                      Anthony Greenwald (Professor of Psychology at University of Washington)

3                      Mahzarin R Banaji (Professor and Harvard Chair, department of Psychology)

4                      Brian Norsek (Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia)

5                      Jordan B Peterson (Professor of Psychology University Toronto)

6                      Extract from tweet regarding Starbucks Implicit bias training day

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Farewell to HR

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“The heart wants what the heart wants.”

“Maybe it shouldn’t.”

Why am I quoting two lines from one of my favourite tv shows?

I have finally decided that all though in my heart I want to stay working in the field of HR I have to stop.  After two hard years trying everything to stay in this field of work I have come to the realisation that it doesn’t want me in it and nothing I do is going to change that.  I finally realised that I couldn’t go on like this, it is having a detrimental effect on my physical and mental health and wellbeing.

So I am finally giving up on it.

I have tried other things but I always came back to HR, it was always were I wanted to be and what I enjoyed doing the most.  You’re supposed to enjoy your work and working in HR certainly did that for me, but no more.  I am fed up with bashing my head against the brick wall with big letters spelling out

MALE, PALE, STALE

I started writing this blog back in January, I stopped, not because what I am about to say isn’t valid, reasonable or truthful, I stopped because I feared that it would prevent me from ever working in this field again.  Well I fear no more, because I have come to the realisation that I probably won’t work in this field again.  It is a sad indictment that a profession that prides itself on being the champion of equality, diversity and inclusion is just as outright bias as any other and I am not talking about unconscious bias.

I recently posted this paragraph on LinkedIn

“Before you start discussing the need for other parts of your business to become more diverse and inclusive may I suggest you take a look at your own department and address your own deficiencies first. What better way to show commitment to the goal than to put your own house in order.”

It drew 770 views, but only one comment, which basically agreed.  It saddened me, I would have thought out of all those who viewed it there would be some defense, but there wasn’t.  That of course might be because it wasn’t worth commenting on, there is that possibility.  The other possibility is that there can be no defense because it is true.  Who knows maybe this blog will draw out some comments in defense of the profession.

No I am not saying that all the women in this profession are that way, I have met some really great women who work in HR, OD, L & D etc  I have worked with and for women, some at the start of their careers in HR and half my age and it has bothered me not one iota.  At the end of the day, I wanted to work in a Profession I loved, doing work that I enjoyed and that was for the most different every day.  Operational HR as a generalist can’t, in my eyes at least, be beaten for shear variety.  New challenges, new problems that need solutions and an ever changing landscape in terms of law, rules and regulations.  Where a ruling/decision in an ET, EAT or Court of Appeal can mean changes in how we operate be that strategically or operationally.

But that is all by the by now.  It doesn’t matter, my head’s numb.

“Career Death by a Three Thousand Rejections?”

Ok I may be exaggerating a little, but I’m sure that during this last period of unemployment I’m not far off a three thousand.  I know that in my jobs folder on my email that it certainly runs to over three hundred for this year alone and April has only just finished, oh and that’s just from those company’s & agencies that have been good enough to respond.

The thing is, that the more of these that I receive, the more, I rightly believe my career or potential career is being damaged.  I’m sure that my personal brand has been damaged for the longer you are looking for work, the less likely you are going to be considered for a role.  Recruiters are going to look at this gap in my employment status and think to themselves, “What’s wrong with this guy that they haven’t been offered a role for so long?”

The answer to that question is as long as it is wide but for the vast majority of the feedback I have received the overwhelming answer has been “FIT.”

As I mentioned in an earlier blog on being a Job Search Manager I hate the poor excuse for feedback and along with it the word itself.

Cultural Fit = Conscious Bias towards those who look, sound and act like those already working within the organisation.  In other words cultural fit equates to discrimination.

Here’s my views on Culture Fit

Use of the word “Fit” has so many connotations that it destroys any good will that will have been generated during the process up until that point. If you are referring to fit in terms of culture, then you may seriously want to look at your culture. The culture of an organisation or a department within it shouldn’t be so ridged and oppressive as to make it impossible for someone after a short time to adapt to it and fit within it. Humans have been doing it for millennia, moving from town to town, city to city and country to country. It’s how we have evolved, adapted, survived and developed. If it is about the department being filled with one group or another and the candidate doesn’t fit into that group then you have bigger problems and the candidate is probably better off having escaped.

Hiring based on likeness (same) as what we already have is detrimental to our teams and our organisations. Change they say isn’t always a good thing, but I would suggest that no change is detrimental in both the short, medium and long term. Yes bringing in someone who is different to your existing team members is likely to shake things up a little or even a lot depending on the significance of the differences but some short-term pain may be to the benefit of everyone involved over the longer term.

So where do I go from here.  I don’t know, a holiday to recharge the batteries, clear my head and figure that out would be great, but isn’t going to happen anytime soon.  For the moment I’m going to be reflecting, asking questions, and probably regretting all those years of studying, of gaining knowledge, skills and experience.  Once that is done it will be time to refocus on what I need to do in the immediate and short-term.

Farewell HR for the most it’s been great to be apart of the profession but no longer.

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In Defence of Men.

men bashing

The Equality, Diversity & Inclusion paradigm

We will not solve the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion paradigm by constantly attacking, marginalising  and ignoring men and mens issues.

The Men blaming, men hating has to stop!

Yes they may proportionately have more responsibility for discrimination and sexual harassment, but they too can be subject to the same from women and men.  The narratives coming out in recent months are going beyond highlighting this to putting the entire blame on men alone.  This isn’t just wrong, it’s dangerous, not just for business, but society as a whole and very few are picking up on it.

The #MeToo movement completely ignores the young men & boys who were also sexually abused by same said group of Film, TV & Music people, but we see little or no notice of this in the press or by the group itself.  Before the #MeToo and other feminist groups start, take a moment to read Just a bit of banter, a flawed report and by that I mean read it all, not just the first few lines or paragraphs and then tell me that I have no right to talk or write about this subject.

I realise that according to some I would be at the bottom of the pile in terms of intersectional victimhood, in that I am a member of the group who are characterised as the great oppressors, discriminators, sexual harassers etc simply because I am a straight, white male over the age of 50.

“I for one, am none of those things!”

This is identity politics and group identity assumptions at their very worst.  The vast majority of men in general and those at work aren’t responsible for discrimination or sexual harassment.  Just because the management levels of organisations are heavily dominated by men it does not make all of those men discriminatory or sexual harassers.  In fact most sexual harassment is committed by colleagues at the same level.  Most men like every other worker be they management or not want to come to work, do their work and go home at the end of the day to spend time with their families, but you wouldn’t think so based on the media output being generated.

A recent article by Miriam Kenner Government urged to change law on sexual harassment to protect workers highlights that they are not talking about changing the law on sexual harassment to protect all workers, but just female workers.  The second line of the article quotes “The current law on sexual harassment must be bolstered to better protect women in the workplace, experts have urged the government.”

For me this is the wrong starting point.  It suggests that men and boys in employment aren’t also subject to sexual harassment at work which is far from the case.  34% of people subject to sexual harassment at work are men.

“The aim of any such law should be to reduce to zero sexual harassment at work.”

The starting point should be that the law on sexual harassment must be bolstered to protect all workers.  If there needs to be additional provisions to enhance the protection to women then by all means do so, but it has to be within that legislation and not the focus of it.  That said, a well drafted and enforced law will in effect achieve that aim without any specific provisions for one sex or the other.  For me it is at enforcement that the law falls down.  It is for the individual who has been subject to the behaviour to prosecute the case.  How many of those who are subject to this behaviour are actually in a position to do so?  Sexual Harassment is a criminal offence outside the work place, a complaint is made, the police investigate and the Crown Prosecution Service takes it to court.  In the workplace however that isn’t the case.  Those subjected to this behaviour are forced to go through a lengthy process to receive justice, that’s if they actually receive it, at a significant cost to themselves and I am not just talking about monetary costs.

In the article “Women ‘impacted more than men by age discrimination’ in the workplace” again the subject is about discrimination, this time age discrimination, but only from the view point of women.  Are older men not really impacted by age discrimination?  Of course they are, but for this article that was by the by.  The only thing that was important is that women are more disadvantaged. This is because 0.4% more women were disadvantaged.  Age discrimination against men or the impact on them isn’t mentioned, it doesn’t fit the narrative. 1

These are just two articles, there are many more out there and many more to come which put all men in the dock.  Are we at a point where we are saying?

“Most sexual harassers at work are men, therefore all men at work are sexual harassers.”

Or that.

“Most sexual discrimination is carried out by men, therefore all men are sexual discriminators.”

Neither description is true but you wouldn’t think so from the coverage of these issues.

There is now anecdotal evidence that male managers and leaders will not take women under their wing to coach and mentor them which is going to be needed if they are to attain their 50% target of managers and board members.  Why? Simply put, they consider it too much of a risk.  A lot of this work requires one to one working and men are less and less willing to do that. I have heard unsubstantiated reports that they wont even travel alone for business with a female, especially if that includes an overnight stay.

Yet another recent article “One in seven bosses wouldn’t hire a woman who might have kids”  said that 18% of male managers would not hire a woman in her 20s or 30s because they would likely go off on maternity at some point.  I will be honest I thought the figure would be higher.  But what really shocked me in the article was that 10% of female mangers would do the same, women discriminating against women!  Why is this the case?  Shouldn’t women managers be doing all they can to stop discrimination against other women in the work place or which prevents women actually getting a job because of their gender?

I remember introducing flexible working at one company, the male managers accepted it, didn’t object in any way what so ever, they even went as far as looking how their departments worked so it was possible for their female staff to take advantage of flexible working.  The female managers not only objected to the policy being put in place but did everything in their power to obstruct women in their teams from asking for flexible working in the first place as well as refusing to grant flexible working requests.  It was only pressure placed on them by me, that any request was granted.  Their reasoning. “I didn’t have that available to me so why should they have it.”

“I brought up two children without getting flexible working.”

I just couldn’t understand the rational, I still can’t and never will.

For over a decade now the education of boys and white boys in particular has been put to the back burner while millions have been spent on the education of girls and minorities especially in STEM. White boys from working class backgrounds have gone backwards in attainment. They are now less likely to go to university and young white men are going to find it extremely difficult to move into management positions while companys do what’s being asked of them to ensure that women in particular and other minorities take their percentage shares in those positions.   This may take a decade or more to happen and in that time young white men will be required to sit back and take it.

You can’t put 48% +  of the populations down like that without a backlash, and it won’t be pretty not for our oganisations, or for society in general.  This is nothing more than reverse race and sexism and has nothing to do with equality and everything to do with retaliation and retribution unfortunately it is being aimed at and will do damage to, what I and others believe to be the least sexist, least racist generation we have ever had.  The repercussions of this are most like to be not a reduction in sexism and racism, but an increase and that spells danger for everyone.

I am not saying that there aren’t problems, there undoubtably are and they need to be eliminated.  However the amount of bias in the reporting of issues around gender isn’t helping.  I would go so far to say that it is creating more harm than good.  That it has the possibility of turning a progressive drive to eliminate all forms of discrimination and harassment, not only from our work places but from society on it’s head.  If we don’t acknowledge the effects of bad behaviour on ALL our people, then we are in danger of creating a situation that will be just as bad, if not worse than what we already have.  If we don’t also acknowledge that men too can be detrimentally effected by this behaviour the battle will continue.  Men will increasingly disengage from these sorts of issues if the only thing they hear is that it is all mens fault, which of course is the current narrative.

If we want to work towards a more equal workplace and society the blaming of todays men for historical actions has to stop.

Some Interesting Statistics

4 in 5 suicides are men – 84 men die each week. – The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)

Work Place Deaths 97% Men – HSE Statistics

Prostate Cancer has now taken over Breast Cancer in terms of diagnosis & deaths. – Nursing Times

Domestic Violence 1.2 million women 760,000 male victims 39% of domestic violence victims are male. – Office for National Statistics

Sexual Harassment at work 66% women 34% men.

1 Women ‘impacted more than men by age discrimination’ in the workplace

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