6 min read

Potpourri: On Management #51

Good news, bad advice, and Big Mom Energy
Colorful, sunny, display of citrus, melons, cucumbers, and more; in red, yellow, white and green crates and containers.
Punta Gorda Farmers Market, Renée Johnson, CC BY-SA 2.0

Last week, a reader sent me a DEI-related question, about possible tactics in an organization where individuals – and the organization –  were taking positive action. Despite this reasonably good news, I fell into a cynical funk about what hasn’t changed over the course of my career.

Counterpoint, one of Ellen McGirt’s recent Race Forward newsletters bore the subject: “An ERG Success Story,” and went on to describe meaningful corporate efforts to support Muslim workers observing Ramadan.

In the past, I’ve expressed ambivalence here about companies asking Employee Resource Groups to supply labor for DEI efforts. And frankly, after decades of observing and participating in the push to bring more human variety to C-suites…and not seeing much movement, I’m tired. And still pushing.

Are you seeing successful in DEI efforts in your world? Is your company doing something awesome? Is it working? I’d love to hear from you, please do send me some (more) good news.

Bad advice

The job market is bumpy. People are being laid off, and experiencing longer periods of unemployment between jobs. Some startups are cutting/eliminating once-standard L&D stipends and other perk-like benefits.

Some large consulting firms are asking new hires to delay their start dates, indicating that consultants are unclear on their clients' 2024 consulting budgets.

Bain is trying to incentivize M.B.A.s to pursue new interests before joining the firm, though it is committed to putting these hires on the payroll eventually.

“Go on an African safari or take a painting class!!” reads one document for Bain’s new hires that was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. “Write a book or become a yoga instructor!!”

"McKinsey, Bain Delay Some M.B.A. Start Dates to 2024," Lindsay Ellis in The Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2023

Charitably (I guess?) I see these companies trying to not to rescind job offers, and maintain their employment brand with new hires. The consulting firms also likely wish to stay in the good graces of universities they're recruiting from.

But the career advice? Yikes. tbh, it's not a stretch to imagine some Bain partners and senior leaders judging a new hire, unkindly, based on how they spent time between graduation and start date.

And what happens if job offers are rescinded? How will candidates explain their yoga certification to other prospective employers? It's bad career advice all around.

If you're hiring at this moment in 2023, when you decide not to hire for an open role, how does your organization treat people you've interviewed?

The organization might be willing to absorb the hit from ghosting a candidate; yet the practice reflects on you, too. How would you wish to be treated; and, can you influence your company to treat candidates accordingly?

The Conversation

The first time I heard about making secret recordings in the workplace, I was co-teaching a class at the Manhattan JCC on workplace stress management; it was probably around 2013. A participant described a stressful workplace interaction with her manager; someone else in class urged her to record her next meeting with her phone. At the time, I was shocked.

I celebrate the exposure of McCurtain County, Oklahoma public officials, for threatening two journalists, and making horrible racist statements. This discussion was recorded, secretly, after a county commissioner's meeting, by Bruce Willingham of McCurtain Gazette-News. Willingham wanted to know if officials were violating open meeting laws, and left a recorder to hear what happened after the official meeting concluded.

I have a different sense about a viral recording of MillerKnoll's CEO, Andi Owen. Owen was dragged in the media after someone posted a recording from a company town hall, where she told people who were asking about their bonuses to "get out of Pity City."

We don't know what happened in the other 73+ minutes of that meeting. We don't know if Owen has a reputation for treating people poorly. We have no context. But in that 90 second clip, I don't hear any profanity, nor do I see anyone being belittled, abused, or threatened.

I see someone in a tough business situation who lost her composure. If a male-presenting CEO with the same demeanor had made same statements, would that clip have gone viral?

I have certainly lost my composure a few times in my management career. And I've learned to hang onto it in almost every (workplace) circumstance. But I'm so grateful that I didn't have to learn self-management at the other end of an iPhone.

Always assume a recording device is present. Even if you don't live in a two-party consent state. And learn to manage cognitive dissonance. "authenticity" may be prized in a leader; and if you're vexed, you can only take your Big Mom Energy so far.

What are you reading?

Last year, a bunch of you offered some great responses to my question, “What are you reading?”  Thank you. I had planned to share your recommendations in newsletter form; instead, my notes have been in a folder, as I’ve cared for someone with Covid, gotten Covid, and experienced a grindingly slow (but thankfully complete) recovery.

So, stay tuned for this topic in an upcoming newsletter issue. And do send me any suggestions that come to your mind.

Something I'd tweet, if I were still using Twitter

At this point, my Twitter account is like something an ex left in my house. It's in a drawer, mostly unseen. I don't know what to do with it, and haven't had the heart to toss it.

Thank you so much for reading On Management. This time, it was a bit of a Jeopardy potpourri of (some) things I've been thinking about. I do miss seeing people on Twitter, including many of you. I'd love to hear from you, whether we were friends on Twitter or not. Especially if there are things you'd like to see me address in the newsletter. In addition to Reader Recommendations, I'm planning an upcoming deep dive newsletter issue on Advice and its proliferation.

Thanks to everyone who has sent reading recommendations. I am grateful to the reader who shared their DEI question with me. And I appreciate Casey Gollan for bringing the notion of a “Bain certified yoga transformation instructor” into my awareness, lol.

Hopefully I've vanquished every broken link and typo. If not, as usual*, I will likely fix them out there on The Internet.

May you and your loved ones be safe, healthy, and free,

Anne Libby

*indeed, this post has been updated since it went out as an email.

I had forgotten that Harrison Ford was in The Conversation!