Death by HR: The Hiring Game is Rigged! How a Racial Spoils System Replaced Merit

Game Is Rigged - Fallout 3, New Vegas, Bethesda Softworks

Game Is Rigged – Fallout 3, New Vegas, Bethesda Softworks

Today’s news has more evidence that the diversity mantra is driving corporate decisions past the point of illegal discrimination. NRO has “General Mills’s New Product: Quota-O’s,” by Roger Clegg:

The Star Tribune reports that General Mills “is pressuring ad agencies to hire more women and people of color by imposing a diversity benchmark,” so that “the creative departments in agencies bidding for its business [will] be staffed at least half by women and 20 percent by people of color.” General Mills executives said, according to the report, that “they want the people who create its advertising to be more reflective of the people who consume their products.” A General Mills spokeswoman was quoted: “We’ll get to stronger creative work that resonates with our consumers by partnering with creative teams who understand firsthand the diverse perspectives of the people we serve.”

Translation: To figure out how best to sell a box of Cheerios to a black woman, you really have to be a black woman. That’s nonsense, and the real motive here is just the pressure to be politically correct. The resulting discrimination cannot be justified. It’s certainly not moral to treat people differently because of skin color; there’s no empirical or historical evidence that, say, the Phoenicians would have been better traders if only they had had greater ethnic diversity; and it’s not logical to suppose that women cannot imagine what might appeal to men or vice versa….

But I’m a civil-rights lawyer so let me also point out the legal problems. Certainly it will violate the law for ad agencies to accede to General Mills’s pressure. As always, it’s helpful to put the shoe on the other foot: Could an employer refuse to hire black sales clerks on the grounds that its customers hated to deal with black people? Of course not, and it wouldn’t matter how stubborn or wealthy the customer was, and of course no judge would care about exploring the reasons for the customer’s desire for discrimination. There’s no “bona fide occupational qualification” for racial preferences under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination.

Is General Mills itself violating the law? Putting aside Title VII for a moment, there certainly seems to be a problem under 42 U.S.C. 1981, which makes it illegal to engage in racial discrimination in entering into contracts. And I don’t know if one can be held liable for conspiring to violate Title VII or pressuring someone to do so, but that’s exactly what General Mills is doing.

But this is only the latest example of diversity requirements crossing the line of illegal discrimination. Let’s go back and look at how merit-based hiring programs were gradually subverted to create a race- and sex-conscious spoils system.

Systems designed to screen a group of applicants by objective measures of merit were a focus of civil service reforms. Standardized tests, certification and degree requirements, experience records, and proof of language proficiency and residence are often part of this process, and many private employers also try to make their consideration of new hires and promotions more objective using such evaluation systems.

In trying to remove inappropriate biases (racism, sexism, nepotism, and cronyism) in hiring by establishing objective screening criteria, organizations lost control of factors which they now find politically necessary to satisfy, like diversity goals. It is now common for objective merit criteria to be discounted or ignored as needed to achieve more minority or female representation. But since it is also technically illegal to use race or sex as a factor in hiring, organizations watched closely by the public and the courts find themselves surreptitiously subverting their previous commitment to merit — instead of openly declaring diversity to be a goal so important that merit becomes a secondary factor, underhanded deck-stacking methods are used to get the desired politically-acceptable hiring mix.

There is nothing improper about diversity goals in certain situations. For example, many big-city police forces were overwhelmingly white and sometimes mostly Irish around 1950, and the lack of representation of minorities in the force increased tensions with poor largely black neighborhoods. City policies to require new hires to be city residents and the removal of exam requirements which favored the more cognitively-adept applicants allowed enough minority hiring to redress this imbalance for good political reasons, though little thought was given to instead modifying the tests to measure policing skillsets and only policing skillsets. Organizations like police and fire departments struggled mightily to comply since they had been run as patronage havens for friends, family, and ethnic groups influential in the cities’ political machines.

The wave of affirmative action programs starting in the 1970s weakened civil service exam requirements. Courts found many exams discriminated against minorities, especially when it was clear the exams included cognitive skills not required for lower-level jobs. Some affirmative action programs race-normed the passing grades, which allowed more minorities to qualify with scores that would otherwise have failed. Many positions were entirely removed from examination requirements. Where the qualifying standard had been “top 3” or “best,” it became “good enough” or “adequate.”

The needs of a bureaucracy may not always favor hiring the most intelligent or skilled candidate. As in private industry, some managers would prefer to hire people who are bright enough and skilled enough, but not too much more than that, lest they be unhappy in the job or liable to be hired away by others — the brilliant scientist who wants to work as a police officer while writing papers on theoretical physics in her spare time is out of luck. In Connecticut, a Federal judge ruled the state was not discriminating unlawfully when it denied an applicant the opportunity to interview for the police force because his intelligence test score was too high.[1] Not rocking the boat is valued over ability in many hierarchies.

But these are just entry-level positions. What happens when promotion from within is favored, while entry-level employees are screened to ensure the very bright or overqualified are kept out in favor of desired race, sex, or residency? Entry-level positions in organizations are often open to all in theory, while in practice networks and connections of family, ethnicity, neighborhood, and religion can assist in placing people at the bottom rungs. If higher-level positions are filled from within this can result in entire organizations dominated by a single affiliate group, for example the Irish-dominated police forces of early 20th century US cities.

Large companies also had set up screening systems, often using aptitude testing for initial hires. This gave bright but inexperienced young people a chance to prove themselves on the job. But the court rulings against testing and any other screening which might disfavor minorities led to most of these screening systems being modified in favor of degree and certification requirements. Today many entry-level jobs require a college degree, which has delayed entry into the workforce for many and shut others out completely.

In an interesting paper, “Gerrymandering in Personnel Selection: A Review of Practice” by Michael A. McDaniel of Virginia Commonwealth University,[2] the term “gerrymandering” is used to mean any rigging of a system of merit selection designed to subvert it to allow the less-qualified to be hired. Such rigging of the system is accomplished by insiders, either with or without organizational approval, to favor candidates by race (for affirmative action purposes), sex, membership in a political machine, ethnicity, or simply to allow managers to hire the people they want instead of the people who come out on top in a systematic, objective evaluation process. While these insiders keep the appearance of merit selection, they achieve their own goals by subtly adjusting parameters they do control to favor their desired hires. This can be done by tweaking the system itself or by inserting personal judgment components that can be “adjusted” to overcome more objective factors like test scores.

I’ve adopted “rigging” instead of McDaniel’s “gerrymandering,” which has a specific meaning in electoral districting. He begins:

Although [rigging] can be used to benefit a specific individual (e.g., manipulating the system to get one’s cousin hired), [it] is often designed to benefit a group of applicants. For example, a group of applicants might be defined with reference to race (e.g., minorities), sex (e.g., females), political affiliation (e.g., Democrats), family associations (e.g., children or spouses of current employees) or type of applicant (e.g., applicants who currently work for the organization versus external applicants).

[Rigging] is typically in conflict with the goals of a merit-based personnel selection system which seeks to hire the most qualified applicant for a job… efforts focused on groups are typically an attempt to subvert merit-based personnel selection in favor of some other goal such as racial or gender diversity. The author knows of no example where [rigging] efforts focused on groups were consistent with the goal of a merit-based personnel selection practice…. usually in conflict with merit-based goals, it is consistent with other goals, such as increasing the demographic diversity of organizations or promoting the growth and stability of political organizations…. Because some [of these] practices in personnel selection are illegal and because most of these practices are seldom transparently applied or openly discussed, it is difficult for the author to estimate how frequently a given practice is used.

Increasing the representation of minorities and women in a workforce based on standardized testing screenings is difficult when those groups on average underperform white males on certain cognitive measures. Males tend to have more extreme results on aptitude and intelligence tests, with more males scoring either very high or very low than females. This implies (if such tests are valid indicators of ability, and they are) that males will tend to be overrepresented in positions requiring extremely high cognitive skills, like STEM professorships and Nobel prizes, quite aside from the cultural factors that encourage more males to concentrate on work and avoid familial care obligations. Physical job requirements, too, can favor some groups over others; upper body strength tests for firefighters and combat soldiers will pass far more males, while black males dominate basketball teams partly for genetically-determined reasons of height and coordination[3] as well as cultural factors.

Ignoring the cumulative evidence to the contrary, United States employment regulations and some case law are based on the false assumption that minority-white differences in personnel selection tests are uncommon. Specifically, when the use of a personnel selection test results in a lower percentage of minorities hired than whites, the disparity in hiring rates is termed “adverse impact” under the Uniform Guidelines for Employee Selection Procedures (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Civil Service Commission, Department of Labor, & Department of Justice, 1978). When adverse impact is present (and it typically is), it becomes the responsibility of the employer to defend the job-relatedness of the personnel selection system. Defending job-relatedness in an adversarial setting is a time consuming and expensive process. Thus, employers seeking to avoid validation and litigation expenses have substantial motive to gerrymander their selection process to hire more minorities.

So the pressure to increase diversity could only be satisfied by quietly rolling back an organization’s previous commitment to hiring the best person for the job. Since discrimination against white or male applicants on the basis or race or sex is also technically illegal, if rarely litigated, organizations and HR departments use a variety of techniques to rig their systems to preserve the hollowed-out façade of previously merit-based hiring systems, obscuring the reality of racial spoils systems.[4]

These disguised methods for stacking the deck or putting a thumb on the scale of hiring are hypocritical at best, but now so ingrained in HR and civil service procedures that aside from continuing jokes about “diversity hires” (which can themselves be cause for an EEOC complaint as contributing to a hostile work environment) there is little awareness of just how much the focus has changed from merit and accountability to politically-based hiring and retention of mediocre and less productive employees, especially in highly-regulated businesses and government.

Reasons for rigging the hiring process:

• For the benefit of one group and the detriment of another. This includes: increasing numbers of minorities or women, for affirmative action/diversity goals; aiming to give preference to members of a political machine or party to continue patronage practices; and preferring members of a tribe, ethnic origin, or extended family group that controls the workplace.

• For the benefit of a single preferred candidate which hiring managers or team members prefer, or the reverse when a particular candidate is to be rejected.

Methods of rigging the hiring process:

• Tailoring personnel selection tools like tests and requirement lists more closely to the position. This can be a positive step toward merit selection when general aptitude tests are replaced by specific job knowledge tests; for example, instead of eliminating use of testing entirely as has happened for many Federal civil service jobs, California’s state government adopted dozens of job-specific knowledge tests. This allows those applicants who aren’t as good at general aptitude tests and abstract reasoning to demonstrate real job-related knowledge. But it is far more common for tests to be removed entirely from the process so that it can be manipulated to achieve the politically-desired outcome.

• Remove cognitively-loaded (either general aptitude or area knowledge) tests from selection systems. Even tests tailored to the job expertise required will tend to filter out more minority applicants and make reaching diversity goals difficult. McDaniel observed that “a county government stopped using a job knowledge test to screen librarians due to the poor test performance of minority applicants. A measure of training and experience was substituted based on the assumption that minorities would obtain higher scores.” Since college degrees and other certifications requiring lengthy programs and cognitive skills challenges also tend to screen out minorities, substitution of on-site training programs advertised only to minority candidates and experience measures also assist in getting minority hires and promotions up.

Companies and agencies under pressure to increase minority numbers faced immediate penalties if they failed, but the longer-term negative effect on performance and morale was beyond the effective time horizon of individual executives in upper management. By 2016, of course, the HR departments and government managers who implemented the dumbing-down of their workers have long since retired, replaced by a generation who have been trained in the diversity mantra and have less concern for productivity or performance.

• Add apparently job-related requirements or tests that the desired candidates can do better on, which dilutes the pure subject matter knowledge or cognitive skill component. These might be personality tests, which can be helpful in weeding out candidates who lack emotional intelligence or demonstrate problematic syndromes, or additional screening factors like residence or previous work experience which favor the desired outcome. McDaniel cites one example where a city wanted to keep a workforce stuffed with patronage employees:

In a large city, Democratic ward committeemen were charged with getting out the Democratic vote on election day. These ward committeeman were often hired as city building inspectors, in part, because the jobs paid well. In addition, building inspectors have been alleged to enhance their income through accepting bribes. A civil service law was passed that required that the incumbent building inspectors pass a civil service examination to be eligible to retain their jobs. The employer was concerned that the external job applicants had substantially better job knowledge than the internal job applicants which would result in the Democratic ward committeemen losing their jobs (this concern proved justified because most of the external applicants scored higher than the internal applicants). The employer supplemented the job knowledge test with a single biodata item. This item asked whether the applicant had job experience as a building inspector in the city government. To be placed in the highest selection band, the applicants had to have experience as a city building inspector in the jurisdiction where the employment screening was taking place. The passing point of the job knowledge test was set below the lowest scoring incumbent. The addition of the one item biodata test coupled with a low cut-off score, permitted the city to retain all the incumbent building inspectors…[5]

• Add requirements that aren’t directly job-related and which appear neutral, yet discriminate against the undesired categories of applicants. Local governments often require residency in their jurisdiction, for example, which seems like a good idea (residents are more likely to understand and want to assist their similar neighbors), but can be used to keep the city’s work force racially disparate in a regional sense (either a largely minority city can keep out suburban white and Asian workers, or a lily-white suburb can block minority workers from the city.) Requiring certain language proficiencies: fluent English requirements for garbage disposal workers, for example, would bar many immigrants from the job unnecessarily, and the Canadian federal government’s requirements for bilingual proficiency (French and English) even in single-language areas like Alberta and rural Quebec is a politically-motivated effort to glue together disparate regions by creating an elite Federal bureaucracy detached from regional loyalties.

• Add subjective human judgments to the screening. If application evaluations are done by a small group of people who understand they are supposed to favor one person or group over others—as is the case with college admissions decisions—these biased evaluations can be used to make up for the favored group’s failings in more objective measures (like grades and test scores.) McDaniel cites one personal experience of this technique:

The author observed a possible example of [this technique] using an interview that took place in a large city jurisdiction that had been unable to promote anyone into vacant Fire Battalion Chief positions due to a court order stemming from a U.S Department of Justice lawsuit. The employer convened an oral interview panel that rated minority candidates somewhat higher than majority candidates, on average. Because the minority candidates obtained substantially lower scores than whites on the objectively-scored job knowledge test, one might infer that the interview raters evaluated candidates in a race-conscious manner that resulted in higher mean minority scores. When a composite of the interview and the knowledge test was formed, the interview was given sufficient weight such that the composite score showed near-equal means between minority and White applicants. The court overseeing the hiring permitted the city to hire Fire Battalion Chiefs using the composite test score.[6]

• Changes in relative weights of scoring criteria. Adjusting the weighting of some test scores or requirements relative to others allows manipulation of the resulting composite scores. The scoring calculations can also be fudged directly as needed to obtain the desired composite result, since only a few people are involved and their work is generally not examined to detect cheating.

• Collapse scoring into bands. This is a very common technique to achieve affirmative action goals — most frequently a low cutoff score allows a large pool of candidates to be declared qualified for the job, then the desired class can all be offered jobs despite scoring lower in the evaluation than others. This “good enough” style of mediocrity-supporting score-rigging was discussed in Death by HR: Good-Enough Cogs vs Best Employees. Applicants above the cutoff point are passed to the hiring manager, often stripped of the actual scores, ensuring that no clue to the relative merits of candidates will be allowed to affect the hiring manager’s decision. As McDaniel says:

Often large companies belong to industry-specific consortiums that offer consortium-developed employment tests conditional upon the company following the rules of the consortium with respect to how test scores are used. The author is aware of one such consortium that requires the setting of a cut-off score, albeit not necessarily a low cut-off score, and then forbids the test scores of the passing applicants to be shared with the hiring manager. This requirement most likely reflects an attempt to promote the hiring of minorities by hiding the score differences between the minority and majority applicants… In banding, applicants are rationally or statistically segmented into groups and all members of a group are asserted to be of equivalent eligibility for hire. Because employment tests are linearly related to job performance, the assumption is clearly false and the low cut off scores can substantially compromise the merit selection process. The problem is not solely one of hiring less-qualified minority candidates, but also one of not hiring the most qualified non-minorities. When scores are withheld from the hiring manager, it also impairs the ability of the hiring manager to differentiate among the non-minority applicants. In race or gender-conscious banding, the bands are set to ensure that there is at least one minority (or female) in the band. For example, the author observed that a county government would set the cut score for the highest band immediately below the highest scoring minority and then pressured hiring managers with vacancies to consider the minority applicant….

For those looking for clever ways to equalize scoring schemes to make poor-scoring group members look better, the academic article “The diversity–validity dilemma: strategies for reducing racioethnic and sex subgroup differences and adverse impact in selection,” by Ployhart, R. E., and Holtz, B. C., in The Journal of Personnel Psychology, 6 Feb. 2008 is a comprehensive survey.[7]

• Give favored applicants the answers to exam questions in advance. These cases often involve public agencies like police and fire departments trying to wire in their preferred “good old boy” candidates:

…fifty-five police officers in Nassau County, New York, including many who started their police career in a minority police cadet program, were investigated for giving false statements on autobiographical test items. It was alleged that the answer key for the test was obtained and used to coach applicants[8]. [T]he coaching program [was]conducted by a police sergeant involved in the test validation.[9] The sergeant would offer hypothetical questions and preferred answers. Example questions and answers:

Q: How many of your relatives work in law enforcement? A: Three.
Q: Which hobbies do you engage in at least once a year? A: Hunting.

All of the police cadets passed.

Because releasing an answer key to applicants might be considered fraud, employers who use this strategy need to know the applicants well enough to trust that one or more applicants will not publicize the release of the answer key. Therefore, this strategy is likely to be primarily used in promotional settings.[10]

Coaching a favored candidate allows staff to get someone on board despite a supposedly neutral process. McDaniel shares anecdotes:

The author is aware of a jeweler whose employees interviewed applicants prior to the applicants taking a standardized integrity test. The employees did not like it when their preferred applicant was not hired due to the applicant’s performance on the integrity test. Although the employees did not have the answer key to the test, they had enough information to coach preferred applicants (e.g., never admit to theft or knowing anyone who steals; endorse strong punishment of those who steal) such that all coached respondents passed the test.

Concerning completing a test for an applicant, the author is aware of an insurance office that was required to administer an insurance consortium biodata test to applicants. As with the jeweler example above, the employees did not like it when their preferred applicants failed the test and could not be hired. To gerrymander the selection process, the employees kept a copy of the answer sheet from a past applicant who did well on the test. The office employees then used the answers from the successful past applicant to serve as the answers for all future applicants they wanted to hire. Finally, the sharing of the answer key sometimes has a financial motive. The author worked in the same organization as a personnel analyst who allegedly charged $2,000 per applicant to alter the scores on a physical abilities test for firefighters. The analyst was eventually imprisoned….[11]

• A strategy now outlawed: simply add points to the scores of all affirmative action candidates as necessary to equalize their average scores with non-minority candidates. This method was recommended and used for affirmative action by the US Dept. Of Labor using the general Aptitude Test Battery (GATB) for civil service positions until it was outlawed by passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.[12]

• Influence hiring managers to choose the desired candidate or choose from preferred candidates. This happens through unofficial channels, by verbal discussion or constant HR and upper management emphasis on getting diversity numbers up and the neglect of emphasis on job performance or fit. Since the hiring manager is often also rewarded or punished based on team performance, this requires the manager to balance short-term pain from defying clear HR and upper management directives to increase diversity with the longer-term pain of adding likely less productive people to the manager’s team.


Death by HR

Death by HR

This is an excerpt from the upcoming book Death by HR: The Great Slackening, to be published in October, 2016. Sign up using the button on the right sidebar if you’d like an email notifying you when it becomes available.


[1] “METRO NEWS BRIEFS: CONNECTICUT; Judge Rules That Police Can Bar High I.Q. Scores,” New York Times, Sept. 9, 1999

[2] “Gerrymandering in personnel selection: A review of practice,” by Michael A. McDaniel, Human Resource Management Review 19(3):263-270 · September 2009.
[3] Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We Are Afraid to Talk About It, by Jon Entine. PublicAffairs – Hachette Book Group, 2008. “In virtually every sport in which they are given opportunity to compete, people of African descent dominate. East Africans own every distance running record. Professional sports in the Americas are dominated by men and women of West African descent. Why have blacks come to dominate sports? Are they somehow physically better? And why are we so uncomfortable when we discuss this? Drawing on the latest scientific research, journalist Jon Entine makes an irrefutable case for black athletic superiority.”
[4] “Racial spoils systems must involve incessant mischief because they require a rhetorical fog of euphemisms and blurry categories (e.g., ‘race-conscious’ measures that somehow do not constitute racial discrimination) to obscure stark facts, such as: If Ricci and half a dozen others who earned high scores were not white, the city would have proceeded with the promotions.” From the op-ed piece “The Wreck of the Racial Spoils System” by George Will, Washington Post, Sunday, April 26, 2009.
[5] McDaniel.
[6] McDaniel.
[7] “The diversity–validity dilemma: strategies for reducing racioethnic and sex subgroup differences and adverse impact inselection.” By Ployhart, R. E., and Holtz, B. C. J. Personnel Psychology, 61, Feb 2008.
[8] “55 Suffolk County Officers Accused of Lying About Qualifications on Exams,” by Duayne Draffen, New York Times, February 27, 1998.
[9] “The Coachability and Fakability of Personality-Based Selection Tests Used for Police Selection,” by Miller, C.E. and Barret, G.V., in J. Public Personnel Management, Fall 2008, Vol 37 No. 3 pp 339-351.
[10] McDaniel.
[11] McDaniel.

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


More Reading:

Death by HR: Biased HR Degree Programs Create Biased HR Bureaucracies
Death by HR: Pink Collar Ghettos, Publishing and HR
Death by HR: Who Staffs HR Departments? Mostly Women…
Death by HR: The Great Enrichment to the Great Slackening
Death by HR: Good-Enough Cogs vs Best Employees
Death by HR: EEOC Incompetence and the Coming Idiocracy
The Justice is Too Damn High! – Gawker, the High Cost of Litigation, and the Weapon Shops of Isher
Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

More reading on the military:

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
US Military: The Desegration Experience
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy


  1. Your chapter “The Hiring Game is Rigged!” is as delightful a read to this 30 year practitioner of HR in a Fortune 500 company as were the prior chapters. I might add that my career spanned the period from the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 until after the passage of the Civl Rights Act of 1991 and included the period when Affirmative Action under Executive Order 11246 really began to impact the way we did our business (i.e., mainly the 70’s). So, I have an observation or two which I intend to be helpful and to encourage you to source your chapter a bit more broadly and perhaps to think outside your driving paradigm.

    The hiring game has always been “rigged” in the sense that one man’s “rig” or “gerrymander” is another man’s “design” to accomplish certain objectives. Your first main source appears to recognize this: “The needs of a bureaucracy may not always favor hiring the most intelligent or skilled candidate.” However, at the same time, he seems to assume that some sort of “merit based” hiring programs existed in the past (and were “better”): “Let’s go back and look at how merit-based hiring programs were gradually subverted to create a race- and sex-conscious spoils system.” Finally, he seems to conflate “diversity” with Affirmative Action requirements and with Civil Rights Law. (By the way, I hate the term “diversity” as I think the term disguises fuzzy thinking, unsound assumptions, etc., and I agree with him entirely about General Mills’ diversity program for ad agencies).

    Your other main source appears to me to assume that objective “standards” (e.g., validated test, degree requirements, etc.) are highly accurate in identifying candidates with the most “merit”. (in fact, I believe he claims a “linear” relationship). My experience is that no such precise relationship exists. At best, even validated tests provide an estimate of the probability of job success for each candidate (frequently resulting in the “banding” he mentions. Our company set the “cut off” quite high, the Feds (EEOC) argued it was too high because people in the protected class might succeed anyway since the probability of failure was not zero or, in the alternative, that we should develop a separate test for protected groups so more would qualify. We told them to go pound sand on both counts. Assoundingly, they demanded we cease testing altogether, and I remain convinced they would force it if they could.

    Interestingly, whether it was EEOC people (Civil Rights law) or Office of Federal Contract Compliance people (Affirmative Action), they extremely uncomfortable with any process involving human judgement on the basis that they simply could not understand how such judgements could be fair no matter how “structured” or restricted. In other words, the exact flip side of the arguments presented in the chapter. As we used supervisory judgements for merit pay/promotion, this rather baffled us. We didn’t change our procedures.

    I’m not trying to be exhaustive here, but maybe my comments will prove helpful.

    1. Thank you for the in-depth commentary. The feedback is very helpful. One section yet to come discusses what we mean by merit, which based on the idea of civil service exams and the like we tend to think of as all-around aptitude and skills for the post, disregarding the other people already on a team and the environment of work. It’s never been true that any workplace has been staffed solely by merit ratings — though in the context of the era of patronage, that looked like a great improvement over the spoils system. Merit really needs to be expanded to include all the factors making a person the most productive choice for a position, including abilities to work with current team members and particular skills the team may lack. I know how I as a hiring manager would do this — considering my team’s comments after interviewing the proposed new people, and all the other facts and intuitions I can muster, I’d weigh the probabilities. Taking away a manager and team’s intuitive and other subjective judgments is a huge mistake and increases the number of bad hires and broken teams.

      That said, most big firms and HR depts had procedures in place to at least try to objectively rate new hires and proposed promotions, modeled on civil service ideas much as their pay scales often were. I will be sure to insert commentary about these being subject to hiring manager preferences to a great extent, which is as it should be — there are always multiple parties manipulating rating systems. The new factor is a heavy-handed push to favor some classes of applicant over others, which is compromised with more or less depending on the organization’s culture (banking stopped fighting some time ago!) As the book goes through edits there will be more caveats and discussions. I’m really trying to warn against allowing this politicized selection process to go much further.

      One of my recent posts was about Seattle requiring landlords to take the first applying tenant who “qualifies,” to combat discrimination. We are not far from the day when pols will seriously propose requiring companies to hire the first applicant meeting a qualification list, with similar justification. That will doom growth and take us to European-style job rights and stagnation. Since everyone in private business is assumed to act on racism or sexism, only banning discretion can prevent discrimination.

      Again, thank you for your comments. I may quite you on one paragraph above…

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