Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Diversity Debate: Canned Answer (1)

Anytime the job situation gets tight, members of the privilage class start attacking affirmative action and lately, even diversity and employment anti-discrimination laws. The typical whine is that they want to hire the "best" person. Or they don't want someone (the government) tell them what to do.

So I have started to develop several standard answers to the question.

1) Best Employee

Just what does "best" really mean. Best for the job or best for the company. How do you know "Best" when you see it. Do you have a detailed and specific job description, role and educational background established. Do you have a checklist of of objective skills and attributes with weightings.

or do you know "Best" when you see it. How do then judge completely equal candidates such and entry level employees, business analyst or C programmers. How do you measure learning ability, creativity, focus and perseverance. How do you know the person won't leave.

2) Your an American Right. You believe in the constitution. You believe in what made this country great. Freedom, liberty, equality. That there are no kings. That no man is better than his fellow man. That everyone deserves and equal shot.

2a) Where did you ancestor come from ? Why did they leave ??
(no answer yet)

3) (This one is a little dangerous)
Does white privilage exist ?? What should we do about it ??

4) I made it myself, with out anyone's help, why can't they. Oh, really, you mean you had no help. You were born naked and worked ever since ?? Please.

5) Guilt

While most hiring managers try to be fair and objective, sometimes it can be very difficult between two equally qualified candidates. They may have different strengths, capacities and skills. They follow directions and complete their task on-time. I have only 30 minutes to decide. What do they do ?

Well, the answer is, the hiring manager will use subjective criteria. They try to fit the person into a personality "type". They try to compare them with people they know who have been successful in my organization. Or people they like. Or people they are comfortable with. The hiring manager brings their own history, feelings and personal biases into the interview room without even being aware.

So I would ask everyone to try to recall a situation in their lives when they were uncomfortable. Maybe when they excluded from a group or clique (high school, football team, lunch table at work) for no reason. Or when they were denied something through no fault of their own(someone cut the ticket line, a parking ticket with no sign). Or when they felt culturally out of place (foreign vacation, trip to NYC, wrong neighborhood). Try putting yourself in the other persons shoes. Try some empathy.

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