The Blurred Lines Coming to HR

Blurred Lines - AmericaIn 2013, Robin Thicke, T.I., and Pharrell Williams brought us a song called “Blurred Lines” that  reached #1 on the charts for 12 consecutive weeks and sold 14.8 million copies. If you aren’t familiar with the song itself, you probably are familiar with the stir it caused when Thicke performed it at an awards show and Miley Cyrus came out and started twerking.

As I look at the happenings around us, whether it be economic, political, personal, professional – there seems to be a blurring of the lines that is beginning to take place that I believe will dramatically impact the way companies recruit and retain employees over the next 2-3 years. In most cases, forecasting changes on the landscape excites me, but what I see coming actually disturbs me and causes great concern. I am seeing, and I bet you are too, that an individual’s point of view on social or political matters can now put them at great risk of losing their current employment and making it very difficult for them to find new employment.

In recent months, news broke of the CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich, having to step down from his position because of the outcry of those who were offended that 6 years prior, he donated $1000 to a California Proposition 8 cause aimed to defeat those who wanted to legalize gay marriage. The effort to make Eich pay for his financial support was led by OKCupid – a dating website. They instructed their subscribers to make Mozilla aware of their outrage at promoting him to be CEO. Keep in mind here, Eich has never been accused of any type of discrimination of gay employees or anything along those lines, he just wrote a check 6 years earlier to support a cause that another group was opposed to. Now he’s unemployed after 13 years of employment with Mozilla.

We are rapidly losing our sense of civility, kindness, and tolerance. We no longer debate, persuade, or influence. Instead, we target, attack, mock and label. I’m curious, if we are only allowed to have a single opinion on the various issues of our lives – who gets to decide what is acceptable? If there can be no debate, if you cannot express altering opinions, then how will the best course of action for a group collectively or for an individual singularly be decided? What if there could be no debate or dissenting opinions in our past? We would still have slavery. Women wouldn’t be allowed to vote. Schools would still be segregated. Abortion would be illegal. Alcohol would be illegal. Prayer would still be allowed in schools.

Where are we headed? I’m afraid that if things continue as they are, our government, lobbyist,  and those with a platform will begin to dictate to us all what is acceptable and anything beyond that will be a crime. You may think that’s a good thing, but you likely won’t when they tell you that you must believe, support and verbally praise something that you vehemently oppose internally or risk losing your job.

Yes, the blurring of the lines has started. Will laws need to be altered so companies can now ask about financial contributions to causes or charities that each applicant has made? Will recruiters start coming up with clever ways to find out which political side of the aisle someone is on under the banner of “cultural fit?” Will this cause further divisions in our society as all left leaning people work at companies A, B and C, and all right leaning people work at companies D, E, and F? Oh, and if you work at or do business with one of those sets of companies and the political party in power at the moment disagrees with your stance, get ready to be audited, regulations to increase on your business, and other ways to make it impossible for you to survive.

You may think all of this is far-fetched and ludicrous. You may be right – quite honestly, I hope you’re right and things don’t continue to move in that direction. But go ask Brendan Eich if it seems far-fetched to him. Ask Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty. Ask the people from Hobby Lobby. Ask the people at Chik-fil-A. Ask those who claim to have been targeted by the IRS in the last election. I hope I’m wrong, but I would love to hear your civil and respectable opinions on this topic.

 

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Political Stance Screening Questions?

American Politics ConceptRecently the big news story was Brendan Eich and his stepping down as the CEO of Mozilla under pressure from his board due to the calls for his firing by OKCupid and their followers. Six years earlier, Mr. Eich wrote a personal check to a cause that he supported aimed at defeating a gay marriage law in California. According to everything I have read, he had never been accused of discrimination or any unlawful act in his professional responsibilities. At issue was what cause he chose to support as a private citizen…the same stance, by the way, that Barack Obama held at the same time. OKCupid believed that his own personal beliefs and contributions from 6 year prior were grounds for him to lose his employment at Mozilla, where he had been employed for 13 years.

As someone in the recruiting industry, I’ve begun to ask myself how this scenario will impact how recruiters will do their job, and how they will need to respond to hiring managers or clients who may want to know more about their potential candidates. Although I haven’t been asked to yet, what if a client asks me to lead a search for them and they only want people who support gay marriage? Or what if I have a client who says they only want to see candidates who are against gun control? Or pro-life? Or pro-choice? What if they want financial records for the past 10 years to make sure they haven’t donated to a charity or a cause that the hiring manager doesn’t personally support?

Obviously, I cannot legally ask these questions. Or at least I can’t yet. But is that where we are headed? Will recruiting take on more of a private investigator persona so we can only have people working alongside us who think identically to the way we think?

It is troublesome to consider these scenarios. Individuals should be able to form and hold their own personal opinions, beliefs, and convictions. They should be able to support a cause if they feel it appropriate and lawful. If they can maintain those opinions, beliefs, and convictions without unlawful issue in their professional lives, then so be it. Mr Eich’s story is something all of us should consider. It isn’t about what side of the gay marriage argument you support. The next time, it could be another hot button topic that you adamantly oppose, and someone just like you could be fired because the boss doesn’t see things exactly as you do.

Share your thoughts with me…is this where we are headed?

America: Unfree?

tape on mouth

Gay marriage. Abortion. Equal pay for women. Display the 10 Commandments. ObamaCare. Keystone pipeline. Gun control. Global warming.

Where do I stand on these issues? I’m not sure I should tell you. As it turns out, we have gotten to a point in America where no one can share an opinion or donate to a cause they believe in without another individual or group crying foul, labeling you with a harsh term, and asking people to fire you or stop doing business with you. Freedom of Speech is one of the foundational elements that this country was built on. We have always held to the idea that any of us can say whatever we want and the listener can take it or leave it. Of course, there are some rare exceptions to this – yelling “fire” in a movie theater, etc.

The news recently broke of the CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich, having to step down from his position because of the outcry of those who were offended that 6 years prior, he donated $1000 to a California Proposition 8 cause aimed to defeat those who wanted to legalize gay marriage. By the way, Barack Obama held the same point of view as Eich in 2008, so I’m sure he will be resigning soon as well, right? The effort to make Eich pay for his financial support was led by OKCupid – a dating website. They instructed their subscribers to make Mozilla aware of their outrage at making him the CEO. Keep in mind here, Eich has never been accused of any type of discrimination of gay employees or anything along those lines, he just wrote a check 6 years earlier to support a cause that another group was opposed to. Now he’s unemployed after 13 years of employment with Mozilla.

Is this a one time thing? No. We just recently heard endless reporting about Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty. He was asked for his opinion of homosexuality during a magazine interview, and he answered with a deeply held and honest answer. I don’t for a second think that the interviewer was surprised by his answer…he likely asked him knowing what type of answer he would get and also knowing that the fire storm around it would generate lots of interest in the article and the magazine. He was right. Organizations were immediately calling for his firing because he dared to share his own personal beliefs and opinions.

Crystal Dixon, a former employee at the University of Toledo, was fired because she wrote a letter to the editor of her local newspaper disagreeing with the characterization of homosexuality being the same as a race issue.

Juan Williams, formerly with NPR, was fired because he gave a personal opinion that seeing people in “Muslim garb” made him feel uneasy on airplanes.

Johnny Cook, a school bus driver in Georgia, heard one of the students talking about how hungry he was because he was denied lunch at school because he owed 40 cents to his lunch account. Mr. Cook posted a comment on Facebook about it and was fired. He stated, ““This child is already on reduced lunch [program] and we can’t let him eat. Are you kidding me? I’m certain there was leftover food thrown away today. But kids were turned away because they don’t have .40 on there account. As a tax payer, I would much rather feed a child than throw it away. I would rather feed a child than to give food stamps to a crackhead.” The reason he was dismissed is that he openly criticized (to his personal Facebook friends and family members) the school district’s policy on these matters.

While losing your job is of great concern, more troublesome is the labeling of people with whom you disagree. We have seen routinely over the past few years that if anyone on the right disagrees with President Obama, it is often labeled as being racist. It couldn’t be that they just disagree about policy or the direction of leadership. Those on the right are quick to say that anyone who agrees with Obama is a Socialist, Communist, or a Nazi. President Bush was often portrayed at rallies with an Adolf Hitler moustache, a noose around his neck, or with gun sights targeting a shot to his head. Both political parties cry that there should be respect for the office of the President, but political leaders are often the ones who begin the labeling process.

If someone disagrees with gay marriage, then they are immediately labeled as a bigot. If someone takes issue with abortion, then they are sexist and perpetrating a war on women. Nevermind that for some, opposition to gay marriage and abortion are deeply held religious convictions. For some, these are non-negotiable beliefs and they simply cannot change based on popular opinions or polls. From the other side, these are very personal issues and likely reflect acts of hate that have been demonstrated towards them over many years.

America….we are rapidly losing our sense of civility, kindness, and tolerance. We no longer debate, persuade, or influence. Instead, we target, attack, mock and label. I’m curious, if we are only allowed to have a single opinion on the various issues of our lives – who gets to decide what acceptable is? If there can be no debate, if you cannot express altering opinions, then how will the best course of action for a group collectively or for an individual singularly be decided? What if there could be no debate or dissenting opinions in our past? We would still have slavery. Women wouldn’t be allowed to vote. Schools would still be segregated. Abortion would be illegal. Alcohol would be illegal. Prayer would still be allowed in schools. Times certainly change – but does right and wrong, good and evil?

Where are we headed? I’m afraid that if things continue as they are, our government will begin to dictate to us all what is acceptable and anything beyond that will be a crime. You may think that’s a good thing, but you likely won’t when they tell you that you must believe, support and verbally praise something that you vehemently oppose internally. This is what the leadership of Hobby Lobby are fighting right now at the Supreme Court. This is not progress. This is tyranny. America used to fight to defend countries that had this type of leadership in place…now we are becoming it.

Employees are cautious about sharing opinions in the workplace already. Now, they must also be afraid to have an opinion period, or to support any cause with which they agree. Is this really how we want to live? Are we really a free society?