Wall Street Journal

Scaramucci is Out: The First Thing Trump Got Right

Even at a time when breaking news from the White House happens almost hourly around the clock, the firing of now former communication director Anthony Scaramucci happened at breakneck speed. Hired on July 21, he’s already packing his bags as the incoming Chief of Staff retired General John Kelly gets “…a clean slate and the ability to build his own team,” according to current press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Firing Scaramucci and hiring Kelly are the first things Donald Trump has gotten right during his presidency.

I can only speculate that the twin embarrassments of the defeat of the healthcare bill, and the blunt statement by the Pentagon that they don’t take policy orders from a tweet, compounded by the heat he’s taking from the Republicans and the Wall Street Journal, must have spurred this change. Why Kelly? It may seem counterintuitive, but bullies like authority figures and Trump, who attended military academy and had a dictatorial father, seems to worship military generals.

Kelly would be well advised to put his energy into managing the White House staff, an excellent piece of advice from the man who was considered one of the finest in his former profession—James Baker. Baker gives clear advice in this New York Times piece: “Sage Advice From the ‘Gold Standard’ of White House Chiefs of Staff.”

If Kelly listens to Baker and Trump allows him to do his job, I predict that Steve Bannon will find his wings clipped in fairly short order. It will give everyone in the White House much-needed parameters and allow Robert Mueller to do his job. We can only hope and wait and see.

Andrew Faas is the author of From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire

Photo credit: CNN

Know the Difference Between a Demanding and an Unreasonable Boss

More and more employees have to deal with intrusions on their personal time every day. The coping mechanisms cited in this Wall Street Journal article are naive (such as offering to work 12-hour days instead of giving up your Saturdays) and don't usually have the desired impact. I have found in my research that one must distinguish between a demanding boss and a unreasonable boss. A demanding boss expects results and is usually open to being challenged on reasonableness and will negotiate expectations of subordinates. An unreasonable boss is usually a bully whose motivation is to make the subordinate fail. So before adapting a coping mechanism, make sure you understand what you are dealing with. My new book From Bully to Bull's Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire (RCJ Press; January 10, 2017) will help you make this distinctio.


What Happens When Journalists Rationalize Lying in the Age of Trump

This article, “Trump, ‘Lies’ and Honest Journalism,” by the editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal, is one of the most disturbing articles I have ever seen. Where I come from a lie is a lie and the only true currency one has is credibility where your word is your bond. To rationalize lying is to normalize it. If the media dilutes the significance of lies coming from the most powerful person on the planet, it gives license to everyone to deflect by lying. Honest journalism is fact based. Period! 


The Philosopher Who Cracked the Code and Predicted the Rise of Trump

All of America’s ad agencies, with all their years of creating focus groups and analyzing trends, are waking up to the fact that they have little idea of how their consumers really feel. This piece in the Wall Street Journal, “Trump’s Win Has Ad Agencies Rethink How They Collect Data, Recruit Staff,” is reminiscent of the millions of dollars spent on how voters, customers and employees feel and behave—are still clueless. And yet, in 1998 law professor Richard Rorty broke the code—and predicted the rise of Trump. Jennifer Senior’s excellent New York Times column reveals the factors that Rorty saw even before the administration of our first African-American president. The enormous level of discontent he observed was the primary driver in the Faas Foundation’s Emotion Revolution in the Workplace initiative. We realized that business, government and media needed to gain a real understanding on how workers feel and why they feel the way they do, and to promote positive change to reduce the unnecessary stress workers feel. We must not allow the ranting of extremists to dominate the issue. Indisputable evidence and practical solutions must trump Trump, his henchmen and the neo-Nazis.



Using an Untapped Work Force to Solve the Manufacturing Industry's Crisis

Encountering this story about the USA’s large pool of unemployed young men almost adds insult to injury after a story I read earlier, about how manufacturing corporations are desperate for skilled workers. I agree with Nicholas Eberstadt that this issue is largely invisible from the public eye, and that it’s a growing economic crisis. It’s a huge problem, but one that carries a gigantic opportunity. Is it too simple to think that this large pool of unemployed young men can be turned into the skilled workers USA’s manufacturing industry sorely needs? I think not. While there may be social or governmental solutions to this issue, I see it from the perspective of the industry itself – if manufacturing companies opened their arms to these men, and invested in them the time and education needed to become a skilled technician, their problems would be solved. I know it is easier said than done, but when employees are truly valued and invested in by their companies, the results are almost always positive. For an industry that has turned its back on young workers for a long time, embracing them now seems like the only step they can take towards saving their businesses. Read Eberstadt's full piece at The Wall Street Journal

Art credit: Getty Images via WSJ

Yes, You Should Be Angry: The Manufacturing Jobs Slump

Stories like this frustrate me. Manufacturing companies in the US are having difficulty filling key positions because there seems to be a lack of skilled employees to fill them. The excuse that education systems don’t emphasize the value of trade and manufacturing jobs, or that schools are “not evolving alongside industry needs” doesn’t hold too much water. In my view, the industry as a whole should have been able to anticipate this problem, and should have invested in their employees rather than letting them go. Teaching employees the skills they need to operate more technologically complex machinery is a far more sustainable method of maintaining a healthy workforce, as opposed to assuming that new generations would provide an unlimited pool of fresher and cheaper workers. Workers who have been affected by this situation are totally justified to be angry with an industry that has failed them. Read more in-depth at The Wall Street Journal

Photo: Employees install panels on airplane wings at the Boeing Co. manufacturing facility in Renton, Wash., last year. PHOTO: DAVID RYDER/BLOOMBERG NEWS


Kimberly-Clark: How a Company Lost Its Soul

More and more companies seem to be instituting management software and scrapping their existing performance management systems, like Kimberly-Clark, under the premise that these new management systems are actually good for their employees. In principle, having more regular “check-ins” rather than yearly reviews sounds like an improvement for workplace culture. Having a digital system track employees’ feelings sounds like a substantive attempt at measuring workplace culture. All of these things “sound good.”

However, the truth is a lot more complicated than that, and a lot more troubling. Firstly, as documented in this article from The Wall Street Journal, the celebration of a high rate of turnover is a definite red-flag. Going from a family-type organization where employees didn’t have to worry about layoffs, to an organization focused on weeding out “dead wood” is not something to be celebrated. The turnover at Kimberly-Clark is approximately 10% annually, and that’s something they’re telling their employees is a good thing: “Among the employees whose work was rated ‘unacceptable’ or ‘inconsistent,’ 44% left the company voluntarily or were let go. [Chief HR Officer] Ms. Gottung said she is ‘pretty pleased’ that low-performer turnover has been rising.” Being proud of a high rate of turnover is a problem, and there’s no ifs, ands or buts about it.

Additionally, according to the article, only 25% of the comments received by Kimberly-Clark on their management software, Workforce, were considered “constructive,” with the rest being seen as “neutral” or mostly positive with no further breakdown. I would interpret the word “constructive” as “negative” in this context, and I would go even further to say that this is typical of the way most engagement surveys are seen by their companies. Most companies that use these types of surveys tend to emphasize the positives, rather than using the “constructive” criticism to actually improve their organization. The focus is placed on eliminating low-producing or unfulfilled employees, rather than trying to improve their productivity by making sure that the right people do the right tasks in the right way at the right time – or, as the rest of us call it, basic management. The goal becomes to lose what management sees as “dead weight,” without regard for these employees as people – relying exclusively on cold management systems to do most of the dirty work.

The argument for these kinds of management systems is that they can help managers weed out poor performers, which can cut down on costs. While Kimberly-Clark’s stock prices have risen since they started implementing their own management software, these HR changes aren’t really seen as the instigators of that change. As the WSJ article states, “Behind-the-scenes changes to human-resources practices are largely invisible to analysts… [who] attribute Kimberly-Clark’s rising stock price to declining commodity prices, aggressive cost-cutting, growth in emerging markets and a generous dividend payout.” If costs were such an issue for the company, and if excess employees are seen as the source of those excess costs, it begs the question – what have the managers been doing for all of these years? Long-term shareholders should have challenged Kimberly-Clark for not managing performance, if it was viewed as a problem serious enough to completely shift their HR outlook.

Fundamentally, what it comes down to is that these types of computerized management systems take the human element out of the way people are managed and assessed. They enable management structures to turn their backs on their employees without looking them in the eyes. At their base level, these systems are tools for deflection rather than tools for progress. Placing a low-performing employee on a “performance improvement plan” is the kiss of death. One bad review can cost you your job. These systems enable workplace bullying and mismanagement more then they truly help, even if they appear on the surface to be more regular than yearly reviews.

Here’s a suggestion: how about, instead of only speaking to employees once a year, or only receiving digital “check ins” from them somewhat regularly, managers try the radically advanced strategy of actually speaking to their employees? Far more can be learned about an employee’s work load, performance and perspective by just stopping by his or her desk and asking how they’re doing. It’s simple, but it can make a huge difference, both for workplace culture itself and for evaluating workers.

Photo: Liz Gottung, chief human resources officer, and Scott Boston, vice president of human resources, at Kimberly-Clark’s Roswell, Ga., campus. PHOTO: DUSTIN CHAMBERS FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL


Why Hasn't USA's VA Been Fixed Yet?

I agree with the sentiment of this article, that the laws surrounding the management of the US Department of Veterans Affairs should be reconsidered to make effective regulation a reality. However, I’m still wondering why employees who have clearly attempted to take advantage of the system aren’t fired outright. Why are the judges deciding these cases siding with clearly corrupt employees, who are out to help themselves more than veterans? It’s shameful, and I’m frankly surprised more Americans aren’t up in arms about what’s going on at the VA. Continue reading at The Wall Street Journal

Image: Bloomberg News via WSJ

Millennial Employees and the Financial Industry



This article clearly displays the disconnect between upper managers in the financial industry and their employees. Millennial employees are leaving in droves, feeling underutilized and unengaged, and large banks are struggling to keep them happy in the face of mass layoffs of older employees to cut costs. When managers show a fundamental lack of understanding about how their workers think and feel, there’s no question that something will have to give. More data about how employees feel, like the study I’m working on with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, The Emotion Revolution in the Workplace, will help employers better understand their employees’ perspectives, and hopefully motivate businesses to solve their employment problems. You can read more about this at The Wall Street Journal.

Picture Info: Steve Wu, a millennial who left his banking job for greener pastures. 

Whistleblower Retaliation at Korn Ferry

Gary Burnison, CEO of Korn/Ferry -  Photo by Jennifer Weiss for WSJ

Gary Burnison, CEO of Korn/Ferry - Photo by Jennifer Weiss for WSJ

I can relate to what Robert Damon, formerly of Korn/Ferry, is going through. He was a high-level executive who was fired for whistleblowing against Korn/Ferry’s Chief Executive, Gary Burnison, who was allegedly mistreating several female colleagues. This parallels what I went through when I blew the whistle on a senior executive in a former position I held, because I went through some of the same experiences. Additionally, Mr. Damon was smeared by Korn/Ferry in an attempt to discredit him, which is typical tactic used against whistleblowers who sue for wrongful termination – something I had to fight through for 18 months in my past. While the allegations against Mr. Burnison have not been proven in court, but my sources in the organization have expressed total dismay with what has gone on and is still going on within the company. Read more on the case and the settlement at The Wall Street Journal.