Assuming Good Intent Can Have Bad Effects

Assuming Good Intent Can Have Bad Effects

We know that maintaining civility in the workplace is important for employee engagement and productivity, and that many employees won’t abide feeling disrespected at work. In an effort to foster a civil atmosphere, some organizations include in their codes of conduct a rule that employees “assume good intent” on the part of their colleagues in any interpersonal conflicts, but Annalee Flower Horne, co-editor of the Bias, argues that these rules actually undermine diversity and inclusion by making victims of uncivil behavior into perpetrators:

The harm is that telling people to “assume good intent” is a sign that if they come to you with a concern, you will minimize their feelings, police their reactions, and question their perceptions. It tells marginalized people that you don’t see codes of conduct as tools to address systemic discrimination, but as tools to manage personal conflicts without taking power differences into account. Telling people to “assume good intent” sends a message about whose feelings you plan to center when an issue arises in your community.

To illustrate her point, Horne uses the classic example of an employee who has her foot stepped on by her co-worker as an analogy for the microaggressions women and minorities experience regularly in white- and male-dominated workplaces. In Horne’s example, “Alicia” has her foot stepped on by “Fred” and reacts by cursing at him. Fred goes to their manager and complains that because he didn’t mean to step on her foot, Alicia violated the code of conduct in not assuming good intent on his part and owes him an apology.

A code of conduct that treats Fred’s actions and Alicia’s as equally transgressive, or even holds Alicia to be more at fault, is badly misguided, Horne argues:

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Google Cancels Town Hall Meeting on Diversity Memo Following Online Harassment of Employees

Google Cancels Town Hall Meeting on Diversity Memo Following Online Harassment of Employees

Google CEO Sundar Pichai canceled a town hall meeting he had scheduled for Thursday to discuss the issues raised by an employee’s controversial memo questioning the company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, and the subsequent termination of the author of that memo, engineer James Damore. Pichai said he opted to cancel the meeting after questions intended for the meeting were leaked to the media and some Google employees’ names ended up on “alt-right” websites, resulting in them becoming targets of online harassment, Recode’s Kara Swisher reports:

“We had hoped to have a frank, open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and move forward. But our [internally submitted] questions appeared externally this afternoon, and on some websites Googlers are now being named personally,” wrote Pichai to employees. “Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be ‘outed’ publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall.” …

Sources inside Google said some employees had begun to experience “doxxing” — online harassment that can take various forms and is defined as “searching for and publishing private or identifying information about [a particular individual] on the internet, typically with malicious intent.” Several sites … have been publishing internal discussion posts and giving out information on those employees.

“In recognition of Googlers’ concerns,” Pichai wrote in his announcement that the meeting was canceled, “we need to step back and create a better set of conditions for us to have the discussion. So in the coming days we will find several forums to gather and engage with Googlers, where people can feel comfortable to speak freely.”

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Uber Fires 20 Employees, Including Executives, After Misconduct Investigation

Uber Fires 20 Employees, Including Executives, After Misconduct Investigation

In an unprecedented move, Uber has fired 20 employees and issued warnings or mandatory training to dozens more based on the results of an internal investigation into widespread allegations of discrimination, harassment, bullying, and other misconduct among its 12,000-person workforce. Bloomberg’s Eric Newcomer broke the news on Tuesday:

Law firm Perkins Coie LLP led the investigation, reviewing 215 human-resources claims; while it took no action in 100 instances, it’s still probing 57 others. There’s also a separate investigation commissioned by Uber that’s being led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. That group shared detailed findings with a subcommittee of Uber’s board of directors, but a summary isn’t expected to be made public until next week, a person familiar with the matter said. Uber also plans to take action on some of the report’s findings next week, the person said. …

Some of the people fired were senior executives, according to the person, who asked not to be identified discussing personnel matters. The company didn’t name the employees who were let go.

Perkins Coie’s investigations are not over, Bobbie Wilson, the attorney leading the effort, tells Recode’s Kara Swisher, and more employees may yet be disciplined. Wilson says that Uber gave the firm “unfettered access to current and former employees” as well as some 600,000 internal documents:

“We were very dogged about the investigation,” said [Wilson], who did not break out the categories of corporate misbehavior. “We were a very neutral fact-finder and let chips fall where they may.” But those chips are still falling, she added, noting that the investigation continues to root out bad behavior at Uber. … That means there are likely to be more firings, as well as disciplinary actions, at the company. …

The process included interviews with those who complained and those who were accused, as well as any relevant witnesses. After that, said Wilson, “we made recommendations to the company and they abided by them.” Among the 20 fired were senior execs, sources said, although Wilson did not disclose specific names.

“Sometimes an allegation was not sustained or was resolved between the parties,” said Wilson, who noted that the goal was to help employees feel heard. “One of the reasons you bring in an outside investigator, no question, is that you want people to have faith in the process and, frankly, they are often more comfortable about being frank with us.”

Experts in employment law are astonished at the scale of Uber’s decision. “This is enormous,” one attorney told the Washington Post:

“For corporate allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct to lead to firing 20 people, I know of no comparable corporate action. It’s unprecedented,” said Debra Katz, a partner with Katz Marshall & Banks, a Washington-based firm specializing in representing employees who bring sexual harassing claims against companies. “This is a significant action by Uber to give a strong message to take these actions seriously.”

Katz said Uber’s decision cast doubt on earlier comments by board member Arianna Huffington, who is on a committee overseeing Uber’s workplace culture and who had said that Uber had “some bad apples” but that the company’s problems were not systemic. “This seems to suggest that they cannot simply say it’s only a few bad apples here.”

In addition, Uber executives are now being much more forthright about the troubling cultural roots behind these findings of widespread misconduct. The Wall Street Journal reports that Uber’s head of diversity, Bernard Coleman, said at a public event on Tuesday that the company’s culture issues are likely related the company focusing more on its product than its workplace as it grew. He likened the present effort to fix Uber’s culture to trying to “retrofit” a house “to make it the place you know it should be,” and acknowledged that the size of the company and widespread inexperience of its managers (63 percent have no prior management experience) have made that process more difficult. Diversity and inclusion training is on the way as well, explained Coleman, as is a team-by-team inclusion index for the company.

Bloomberg‘s Newcomer also notes that Bozoma Saint John, one of two executives recently hired to help Uber repair its reputation and reform its culture after a tumultuous and scandal-ridden six months, will serve as the ridesharing company’s chief brand officer, focusing on changing its image and crafting its brand story. She is now the highest ranking black executive at Uber.

What Employers Can Learn from the Largest Ever Survey of Transgender Americans

What Employers Can Learn from the Largest Ever Survey of Transgender Americans

Vox’s German Lopez takes note of a massive new survey conducted last summer and published on Thursday by the National Center for Transgender Equality, which asked 28,000 trans people living in every US state and territory about the details of their lives. “The general takeaway,” Lopez writes, “is that trans people as a whole suffer from vast disparities in all aspects of their lives.”

Some of the most sobering findings include that 47 percent of trans people have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime, 29 percent live in poverty, 39 percent experienced severe psychological distress within the month prior to taking the survey. When it comes to the workplace, 30 percent of respondents who had a job said they had been fired, denied a promotion, mistreated, harassed or assaulted at work within the year prior to completing the survey:

As NCTE concluded, “The findings reveal disturbing patterns of mistreatment and discrimination and startling disparities between transgender people in the survey and the U.S. population when it comes to the most basic elements of life, such as finding a job, having a place to live, accessing medical care, and enjoying the support of family and community. Survey respondents also experienced harassment and violence at alarmingly high rates.”

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Brexit Doldrums for British Workers

Brexit Doldrums for British Workers

A new survey from the CIPD shows that many UK employees are worried about their futures in the wake of June’s Brexit referendum:

In a CIPD survey of 1,045 UK workers, 44 per cent of respondents said they felt pessimistic about the future. This was particularly high among public sector workers (61 per cent), voluntary sector workers (58 per cent) and those aged 25-34 (63 per cent). Just 3 per cent felt more secure in their job since the Brexit vote was announced on 23 June. … A total of 22 per cent of employees said they felt less secure in their role as a result of the referendum (rising to 33 per cent in the public sector), while 21 per cent felt they needed to learn new skills. …

Job uncertainty has rippled through many sectors since Brexit. In announcements made late last week, Lloyds Banking Group said it planned to cut 3,000 jobs and close 200 branches despite doubling its pre-tax profits. But McDonald’s said it was creating 5,000 jobs, and dismissed concerns about the fallout from the Brexit vote.

There have also been signs of brain drain at the executive level. At TLNT, executive recruiter Dave Heilbron relays what he’s been hearing from high-level professionals exploring opportunities outside the UK:

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