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    « PODCAST: #HRHappyHour 292 - Shaping and Improving Company Culture | Main | A quick reminder that your employer probably won't help you stay employable »
    Tuesday
    Aug082017

    The fine line between unpopular and unemployable

    Apologies for the not fully formed thoughts to follow as I am putting this down in the Delta Sky Club in MSP, (a pretty nice airport to make the East Coast - West Coast stopover in I think).

    Like you probably have as well, I spent a little time the last few days following the news about the Google employee's (now former employee's) saga from the leak and subsequent publishing of his paper? article? manifesto? regarding diversity and inclusion at Google, the subsequent internet and internal to Google reactions, the Google leadership reactions, and which has culminated, (for the time being), in said Google employees firing from the company. I am not linking to pieces about these developments, there are now 19025 pieces out there on this, and I am pretty sure you know the story as it sits.

    You might also be familiar with the ongoing saga of another famous unemployed person, aspiring NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who despite seemingly possessing all the requisite experience and physical ability to be a valuable player on several NFL teams, (including my beloved New York Jets who plan on using at quarterback a couple of guys only slightly more qualified than me), remains an unsigned free agent with only about one month to go before the NFL regular season is set to begin. 

    Kaepernick, as I am pretty sure you know, made headlines last season by demonstrating, (apologies if this is not the best word), his advocacy for a number of social issues by 'taking a knee' during the playing of the national anthem prior to his NFL games last season. This form of demonstration later was joined by numerous other players in the league, expanded to some other sports, and generally created tons of news and awareness beyond the sports world. Chances are, unless you are at the stadium, you never cared about the pre-game national anthem, (in fact for 'normal' games the anthem is rarely televised), until Kaepernick began taking a knee.

    What connects these two unemployed but talented people, the former Google engineer and Kaepernick, together today seems to me to be two things. One, they are both currently out of work. And two, the primary, (arguable) reason that they are both out of work has little to do with their ability, skills, experience to do the job that they would like to do, but has more to do with things that they think and beliefs they hold that for wildly different reasons, are seen as pretty unpopular with various constituencies that are important to their professions.

    I am not going to dig in to the merits or validity or appropriateness of either person's statements and actions. As I said there are thousands of places you can get that if you care to. But what I am interested in is what these cases say or suggest about the kinds of things can can get you fired, (or keep you from getting hired). We've known for a decade or so now, since the advent of the social media age, that posting or saying terrible, racist, discriminatory, even pornographic things online can and does get people fired. 

    But both of these cases, again, this is certainly debatable, don't seem to fall into that kind of territory. At least to me, they might both be controversial, might go against the majority of thinking in their respective fields, but don't seem to, on their surface, rise to the level of 'Fire this person immediately' or 'Hire other, less qualified people instead of this person' territory. Debatable for sure, I admit. Clearly the CEO of Google and about 30 NFL owners have a different take.

    Two more quick thoughts then I have to catch a plane.

    One, the kinds of people that tend to agree with/support the Google engineer and the ones who support Kaepernick are probably, (many of them anyway), on complete opposite ideological poles on lots and lots of issues. Said differently, the kinds of views that get you run out of one employer and would be embraced at another are almost entirely situational and pretty subjective.

    And two, the line between unpopular and unemployable is thin, keeps moving all the time, and is set (usually) by folks who never, ever, ever, want to deal with this kind of stuff. Once something, anything, consumes energy and resources that are supposed to used generating revenue/income, that line moves to 'unemployable' really quickly.

    I am still thinking about this, I hope you are too. Maybe we can do a HR Happy Hour Show on this and get some feedback from listeners and readers.

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