I worked in Human Resources for 15 years. You may think this is the group that processes payroll and plans the company picnic. However, when I entered the profession, it was becoming a differentiating factor. The performance management model at General Electric had become a strategic advantage. The focus of my graduate program was measuring and maximizing human capital.
Saying human capital is a dirty word now. However, at that time, it was viewed as the ability to measure the knowledge, skill, productivity, skill, and potential of individuals in the workforce. Then the goal was to translate that information into plans for hiring, training, promotion, performance management, compensation, and development to meet the current and future needs of the organization.
I was lucky enough to study under professors who were pioneers in trying to build models that could measure these items with the same rigor as finance and marketing. Throughout my career, I took data-driven approaches to all of these functions. I made decisions and recommendations based on models, assessment outcomes, and measurement systems. Where these were lacking, I built them.
At times someone in my human resources department planned the company holiday party. At least when those were allowed. I did frontline union relations and employee relations when my job required it and sometimes had to write policies and procedures. But these were not the core elements of my role in human resources.
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In 2015, I was forced to leave the profession due to a personal injury. At that time, even a desk job was out of the question. As I transitioned into other roles, I started noting strange things were happening in my former profession. The most memorable shift in the landscape was when Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion for Apple, Denise Young Smith was forced to resign for saying the following at a conference:
“Diversity is the human experience. I get a little bit frustrated when diversity or the term diversity is tagged to the people of color, or the women, or the LGBT.” Her answer was met with a round of applause at the session. Young Smith went on to add that “there can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blonde men in a room and they’re going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.”?
Meet Denise Young Smith:
A black woman with 20 years of employment with Apple was forced to resign because she said something other than skin color constituted diversity. She said something that is objectively true to anyone who has ever measured human resources. That was in 2017.
Fast forward to today. In the last several weeks, I have been forwarded corporate communications from friends and former colleagues that are cringeworthy. What they sent to employees during the nationwide riots was every bit as bizarre and off-putting, and a pre-emptive move to fend off criticism as what major corporations sent customers. The difference is I know HR, not PR crafted internal communications. I was blown away and not in a good way.
Then this morning, I saw the future. This thread from an FOIA request posted to Twitter. It is horrific.
This rhetoric is the gobbledygook of White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. Psychobabble that increases division, makes co-workers afraid to talk to one another, and robs the minority employees of any agency without their consent or buy-in. It is given to avoid public shaming by radical groups. Human Resources is allowing itself to become the fifth column in corporate America if it enables this to move to the private sector. They will be the ones undermining the very fabric of the workplace to avoid scrutiny.
I would like to congratulate the City of Seattle for violating Title IV of the Civil rights Act of 1964. It is illegal to discriminate in the workplace in regards to hiring, training, promotion, and compensation. A violation would include requiring training based on race for one group and not another. Especially when that training is discriminatory on its face attributing characteristics or motives to individuals based on their skin color.
I hope an employee in Seattle does more than expose, mock, criticize, or reject it. I hope they take the City of Seattle to court and put an end to this abomination now before the grievance studies industry cripples American companies. I would have quit before I delivered this training. I hope some in the profession now dare to do so.