Archive for September, 2014

You Don’t Always Get What You Pay For! [Part I]

Posted on September 29, 2014 by Leave a comment

HHC Diverse group of people nationalorigingroupRecently, there have been a plethora of scandals concerning domestic violence, discrimination, and sexual harassment in the news.  Each of these disturbing events seem to elicit responses by self-proclaimed ‘experts’ purporting to know how to solve problems of inequity and discrimination. This has led me to ask the question:  If you have a tooth ache, do you tie a string around that tooth and tie the other end to a door knob and slam the door?  NO! Do you go to a chiropractor or a cardiologist to have the tooth removed? NO! You go to someone who you are sure is an expert. You go to a licensed dentist. When it comes to EEO or diversity or inclusion (D&I), knowing who is really an expert is not as simple as going to and looking up a dentist’s education and licenses before getting that tooth pulled.

D&I/EEO is a multidisciplinary field with a few distinct points of entry such as employment law, human resources, and organizational psychology. The recent trend, however, is that people with degrees and experience in sales, marketing, communication, etc. are jumping on the D&I band wagon as the demand for diversity training increases. This is a perturbing development. In some cases, people are asked to become an organization’s diversity officer based on their being a member of a protected class: they may be people of color or women or members of the LGBT community or be differently-abled. They may be highly competent in the field in which they have spent their careers, but that does not make them experts in the complex field of diversity and inclusion.

Bona Fides

My professional experience in Equal Employment Opportunity began in 1988. In addition to my undergraduate and graduate education, I received formal training at Cornell’s School of International Labor Relations and in courses provided by the City of New York’s Department of Personnel in:

  • conducting investigations of discrimination
  • compiling and interpreting demographic statistics
  • preparing affirmative action reports
  • conflict resolution and mediation
  • developing strategies to overcome historic perpetuation of discriminatory practices
  • developing and facilitating adult education in EEO, Sexual Harassment Prevention, D&I, etc.

It took years of on-the-job experience augmented by this training before I was qualified to call myself an expert in my field.

Fake it ‘til You Make It!

Unfortunately, there are individuals who are willing to ‘stretch the truth’ and claim to have the requisite competencies and skills to create D&I strategies, education and initiatives.  They may even believe that they have those competencies or that their area of expertise is so similar to D&I that they can ‘fake it ‘til they make it.’ Some of this is due to ‘coaches’ and self-help ‘gurus’ who are telling people that faking it is o-k even admirable, as it will advance their careers.  I vehemently disagree!

When Passion Meets Purpose

I have been passionate about creating inclusion for as long as I can remember.  As both a woman and   person of mixed culture (my father was Puerto Rican and my mother was of Northern European descent), I have personally experienced discrimination and sexual harassment.  I have also been defending those unable to defend themselves since the 1960s in the schoolyard of my elementary school in Astoria, NYC.  Individuals with a true passion to end discrimination and increase diversity and inclusion in the workplace should get the specific education and experience that will qualify them as experts in this field. Those who do not bother to get their credentials can cause real damage to the employees who are in need of help and organizations that strive to become inclusive.  I have been asked to repair some of this damage by more than one of my clients, and it is the most challenging work that I do.

To be continued…

Most people do not know what questions to ask potential consultants or employees for D&I engagements. I will address this in Part II.

Have you been asking what makes a D&I expert an expert? If not, isn’t it a great time to begin doing so?


~ Wendy

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Survey Says…

Posted on September 15, 2014 by Leave a comment

Years ago I worked for an employer who would not approve of administering an employee survey because the president was afraid of what the employees would say – especially about discrimination – and did not believe that the organization could commit to responding effectively to employee concerns, criticisms, or recommendations.  Do you know what your employees are thinking and saying about you and your organization?

You may not be asking them what they think, but your employees are sharing their thoughts and experiences on internet sites such as facebook’s Rate My Employer: and Glassdoor

Scrooge and Crachitt credit-Mary-Evans

Scrooge and Crachit
Illustration, Mary Evans

Here is a small sampling of anonymous comments on the internet about employers who allow bullying by supervisors:

“My manager is out of control, employees fear him and no one feels that the company or HR would do anything.”

“HR is not there for the employee, but rather to shelter abusive managers.”

“My supervisor uses intimidation and bullying to try and meet his objectives. I have been subjected to sexism, racism…”

In earlier blog posts I have discussed the importance of asking people about themselves, their cultures and preferences. I also urge employers to conduct surveys.  Surveys are amazing tools that employers can use to determine how engaged and included employees feel, when used effectively! Here are some critical questions that need to be asked and honestly addressed before implementing an employee survey:

  • Are employees assured that their responses are really anonymous?
  • Are employees really protected from repercussions by supervisors?
  • Will the survey results be shared with all employees?
  • Will employee recommendations be considered or implemented? If so, will employees get credit for those recommendations?

Similar to conducting 360-degree feedback of executives, employee surveys sometimes provide information that employers may not think they are ready to deal with.  Frequently this results from not having guidance on how to effectively interpret and respond to the employees comments.

The leadership team of one client was genuinely surprised to learn that the support staff almost unanimously felt that they did not have opportunities for advancement.  This particular group of employees was 90% female, 75% minority, and 40% LGBT. The information that was collected through the survey and interviews enabled my client to address this and other issues and to create an employee development plan.  We also provided leadership and communication training for the support staff as part of the plan. The result:  employee engagement and productivity increased dramatically!

There are many benefits to be gained by conducting employee surveys including determining how effective supervisors are.  Many employers focus on results – the ‘by any means necessary’ approach to supervision.  This is a risky tactic as the short-term results of a bullying supervisor may be impressive, but what is the long-term impact of a supervisor who may be bullying team members to get them to produce?

Some results of a bullying culture:

  • Low morale
  • High turn-over
  • Active disengagement
  • Sabotage

I have written about those who find it difficult to speak up and ask questions based on their cultural perspective in earlier blog posts. It is even harder for those individuals to stand up to a supervisor who is a bully.  An anonymous employee survey that is administered correctly: off-site, outside of the employer’s computer network, by an independent consultant (I know that this sounds like a sales pitch, but it is not), and includes a sampling of employee interviews, can save employers tremendous risk and exposure.  Employees who are empowered to contribute their diverse ideas and perspectives to an organization’s success do so in incredible ways!

Are you conducting all-employee surveys on a regular basis?  If not, isn’t this a great time to begin?


~ Wendy

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Back to School

Posted on September 10, 2014 by Leave a comment

Back to School

 The crisp days of late summer conjure up memories of heading back to school with brand new composition notebooks, protractors, and pencils!  In New York City we returned to school a few days after the Labor Day weekend.  During the first week of school thousands of children across the country have written essays about what they learned during their summer vacation.composition notebook

The More Things Change …

This summer marked the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights’ Movements’ March on Freedom and the 94th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in the United States.  And yet, what we apparently need to re-learn comes from the headlines which are rife with examples of inequality based on race and gender.

  • Institutional racism and violence have exploded from Staten Island, NY to Ferguson, MO to Los Angeles, CA
  • Professional sports news has focused on domestic violence and racism
  • Rape on college campuses has increased while the number of students from diverse backgrounds, both ethnically and economically has decreased

These disturbing events belie the fact that everyone who is reading this blog post was taught that hateful and violent behavior is wrong long before any of you entered kindergarten.


From United  to Divided

Tomorrow marks the 13th anniversary of the attacks by al-Qaeda on the United States.  Reflection of this sad occasion reminds me how the tragic events of that day initially brought Americans together – despite our differences. We have since experienced the gradual deterioration of that unity and increased polarization of our nation. Haters have successfully divided Americans by denying certain Americans equality, based on who they are or where they are from.



The Roman Catholic Pope Francis sent a Tweet on April 28 with the following message: “Inequality is the root of social evil.”

The International Museum of Women recently had an exhibition entitled “What Equality Means to me.” I think about the word equality on a daily basis.  I think about how, although we have made progress in many areas as a nation, true equality still does not exist.

I came up with the following:

Equality is: Access to a thriving life, regardless of who you are or where you are from. 

So … What Have We Learned This Summer?

1.    Haters will continue to use hateful language and to do hateful things until and unless they are held accountable, regardless of their job title, bank balance or role in society.
2.    People who are not part of a community should not be ‘in charge’ of a community, as this creates and reinforces an ‘us versus them’ culture.
3.    When enough people stand up and speak out against hate, the hateful behavior stops.
4.    More needs to be done.

What Now?

We can learn how to relate to one another through facilitated sessions that are not designed to make anyone feel guilty or privileged, but rather to help all participants to understand the things that keep us separated. We can create openings to real relationships by providing a safe space where people can share their stories, concerns, and fears.  Healing can begin and change can happen if we work strategically and intentionally.

I propose that we avoid buzz words and clichés and speak directly and clearly to one another.  I propose, that on this day of mourning and reflection we imagine a country where we can share our common denominators and band together to fight haters –  whether inside or outside of our borders.

Can you imagine this?  If not, isn’t it time to start the new school year by being ready to learn?


~ Wendy