Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations
[The Introduction from Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, available now for Kindle and in trade paperback.]
This book is about the new Age of Incompetence, with brain-dead, unaccountable employees holding sinecures at the heart of our government agencies and regulated institutions like banks and hospitals, protected by affirmative action and union policies. The rot is spreading as pressure from state and federal regulation of companies has increased, empowering an internal compliance bureaucracy — Human Resources (HR) — that has devalued the best job candidates and employees and promoted affirmative action and diversity over team productivity.
The result has been ever-more-costly failures and a steep decline in organizational performance. From the mortgage meltdown that brought down the world’s economy in 2008, to the disastrous launch of the healthcare.gov website for Obamacare, major segments of business and government in the US have grown more expensive and less competent over the past few decades. Billions of dollars of waste in government contracts for IT projects, boondoggle weapons systems, and deadly service failures at the VA are in the news every day. Public schools are widely seen as mediocre, and in the poorest urban districts they are failing to provide a decent education for the students who need good schools the most to make up for bad family backgrounds. Costs for regulated services like schools, colleges, medical insurance, drugs, courts, prisons, and infrastructure like roads and bridges rise far faster than inflation, while time to complete major projects stretches out to decades, and many fail completely and are cancelled after billions have been spent. And the rot is spreading as government pushes businesses to adopt similar employment policies, with HR enforcing government mandates that compromise competitiveness and give overseas companies the advantage.
This book will trace the factors that have hobbled growth and damaged organizational competence. Government regulation has led to HR departments that actively sabotage the hiring of the best candidates for jobs, with by-the-book mediocrities placed in positions of responsibility.
Silicon Valley and the tech industries are the next targets. If you’re a manager at a tech company, I’ll suggest some ways to protect your people from HR and its emphasis on credentials and affirmative action (AA) over the best fit for a position. Corporate leaders need to be sure their HR departments are managed to prevent infiltration by staff more interested in correct politics than winning products. And I’ll show why appeasement of diversity activists is a dangerous strategy that may make your organization a target for further extortionate demands….
Affirmative action policies have placed mediocrities at major decision points in most large companies, government agencies, and highly-regulated institutions like schools and hospitals. A small percentage of deadwood can be routed around, but over time feedback effects from the generalized lack of accountability and lowered standards for performance cripple the institution. This is the cause of the failure and extreme cost overruns of almost all large government projects and a tolerance for incompetence so long as policy manuals are followed to the letter. This effect is largest in government and public education, but also visible in larger companies where HR departments are coming to be staffed by progressives who believe in removing non-progressive thoughts and people from the workplace. In high tech, women and minorities dominate HR in part because companies wanted to balance their male-and-Asian-heavy engineering staff to make their numbers look better, but now are just realizing they’ve created an internal enemy to product quality and excellence in staffing engineering teams. (A corporate manager comments: “How do you know HR is lying? Their lips are moving…”)
This book will focus on the situation in the US, which was until recently more resistant to the bureaucratic disease and thus had a healthier economy and a more dynamic labor market than Europe. The onset of top-down sclerosis by Federal regulation and micromanagement has reduced US growth to the same stagnant levels seen in Europe, for much the same reason: educated by public schools to believe they need permission to do anything, young people stop trying to do anything, and wait for someone to help them. The increasing numbers of untouchable diversity hires in positions of responsibility has inhibited accountability, and the inability to fire employees after even the most egregious malfeasance has spread from civil service and union shops into major corporations —s ince some cannot be held accountable for incompetence, no one is; and the continuing presence of employees who coworkers know are shirkers, incompetents, or even criminals reduces the morale of those who are good at their jobs and work hard. The dysfunction varies by industry and company, with the worst-hit in heavily-regulated sectors like banking, education, and healthcare, where government either controls every element of the business or pays for most of the product. Sectors which until recently were relatively free of deadwood, like high tech, are now under attack by the diversity activists, who want more hiring of less qualified people to make high tech workforces more representative — which would mean discriminating against better candidates who are white, Asian, Indian, male, etc.
This book will also look at a few other countries that have tried various forms of affirmative action policies to demonstrate that while these places are culturally very different, the divisive and socially damaging long-term effects of AA preferences are visible in every country where it has been in place for longer than one generation.
Affirmative action — which substitutes the lower standard of “good enough” for “best” in hiring new employees, setting the bar low enough so that affirmative action hires can meet it instead of seeking out the most qualified candidate — is not the only labor regulation crippling organizational productivity. State and federal regulation and micromanagement of economic activity continues to increase, complicating and delaying every public and many private projects. Whole sectors of the economy are weighed down by regulation; new medical devices and drugs cost $billions to get through corrupt and scientifically-antiquated FDA studies and approvals processes, which results in high prices for new medical technology. Routine services like dental cleanings and hair braiding are illegal in many states unless done under supervision of a cartel of state-certified practitioners; four states even outlaw residential decorating services unless licensed. Hazards of toppling armoires aside, the state is easily captured by motivated business groups to outlaw new competition for their business, and under the pretense of protecting consumers, allowing professional cartels to charge much more for services.
Labor laws are similarly gamed by politically-influential unions and power-seeking bureaucrats. Minimum wage laws outlaw lower wages for unproven or new workers, and restrictions on firing as in Europe make it less likely companies will take a chance on hiring a full-time worker rather than a temp or contractor. The long-term result of Euro-style labor protection is Euro-style high unemployment, especially in young, inexperienced workers, who are thereby kept from ever gaining the experience that would make them valuable enough to hire despite the additional rules and costs imposed by the laws. People accept that education costs money and that students may be paid less for internships or even pay outright for classes, but forget that most occupational skills are acquired in the workplace, in the first years of employment. By outlawing lower wages and at-will employment, labor laws are keeping young people from important learning experiences and ruining their chance to start on a career ladder.
Until the Roosevelt administration and the New Deal, the Supreme Court had held back many attempts to regulate private business, ruling them unconstitutional overreaches. But after Roosevelt threatened to pack the court with new justices who would approve his regulatory agenda, the Supreme Court bowed to his wishes. In a series of cases, the newly Progressive-leaning Court expanded the Commerce Clause to allow federal regulation of almost all economic activity. In Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942), the court ruled that a farmer could be fined for growing wheat on his own land for his own animals’ consumption because he would otherwise have had to purchase wheat in the market, which a 1938 agricultural control law regulated. After this, the court rarely found any Federal regulation of contracts or commerce to be unconstitutional, despite the clear intent of the framers that such Federal power over commerce was intended to prevent states from creating trade barriers and discriminating against the products of other US states.
As a result, laws and regulations on commerce of all kinds — and labor specifically — have expanded, and the staffing levels of Human Resources departments and administrations at colleges and hospitals have ballooned to meet bureaucratic requirements. Federal fingers are now in every pie, wasting resources and deadening initiative, since a lawsuit or negative attention from the NLRB, EEOC, Dept. of Education, HHS, EPA, and other enforcement agencies can destroy or damage a company or institution. HR and administrative staff approve of the progressive control agenda—which gives them power and status—and when free to drift leftward serve as an internal fifth column dedicated to enforcing progressive standards on their own organization and its workforce.
Companies serving an international market find themselves battling foreign companies who don’t have as many burdens, especially in Asia. The US advantage of a productive workforce and innovative technology is gradually worn down by the time and money spent fighting bureaucrats. Mediocre managements take current rewards for themselves but ignore the future, eventually failing. Foreign companies take over markets, one by one, as US companies dragged down by unions and mediocre key employees lose revenues and eventually abandon markets.
Governments have expanded the areas they control while the Civil Service, union, and affirmative action rules imposed on their workforces have reduced their effectiveness in their most critical functions. From deaths caused by bureaucratic malfeasance at the VA to killer cops rarely punished and kept on the payroll by the efforts of police unions, this lack of accountability makes it difficult to remove incompetent or criminal public employees and makes it impossible for even motivated elected officials to reform public services. The rising debt and costs for every public project mean failing services, rampant injustice, and decaying infrastructure are not being addressed. As a result, US competitiveness is declining vs. countries with better-managed public services. And public anger and cynicism as the years pass and each new group of elected officials fails to fix any of the problems they promised to fix is leading to a dangerous disregard for the law and a desire for a dictator who will sweep aside the checks and balances of a Republic.
Because there are so many examples of malfeasance and incompetence in government’s control of commerce and labor regulations, I was forced to leave most of that material for the next book, which will focus on government. Entire books have been written about the costly failures of the Drug War, public schools, affirmative action, and police militarization. This book will focus on the creeping spread of this atmosphere of consequence-free failure. The hubris of central planners and their capture by special interests, acting in concert with well-meaning but naive do-gooders who think they can vote their way to a better world, has brought us the diseases of socialism by taking away authority and accountability that let businesses succeed or fail. The pleasant-sounding ideal of equality of outcome — which killed hundreds of millions of people as the activating principle of Marxism-Communism — is actually the enemy of individual freedom, accountability, and achievement. The decline of excellence as a primary goal leading to profit and growth has not come because people like failure and mediocrity, but because they were sold a fairy tale about how government could make everything fairer and make everyone happy through the workings of laws and regulations. The result has been a lot more unhappiness and civil strife as the unintended consequences have swamped whatever good was intended. And the level of hypocrisy has risen as politicians promote the message that everyone is a victim and that someone else — “the 1%,” corporations, Republicans, foreigners, Muslims, blacks, the Koch Brothers, the Jews, whoever works as a scapegoat—is responsible for keeping them down.
High tech, one sector where the US led the world and generated immense new wealth, has now been targeted as the next area to be regulated. Activists and demagogues are attracted by money, and with more than half of the US private economy now controlled by government regulators, it was inevitable the parasites would look toward the remaining healthy sectors for their next fix. Calls for diversity quotas in tech company workforces, video game characters, and open-source software projects are early warning signs. HR departments in most tech companies serve as the political commissars of regulation, and HR departments in tech are staffed by lower-paid employees who have little understanding of the technology but a lot of interest in screening out even the best prospective employees who don’t fit the narrow diversity mold. Managers who want the best teams and the fastest, coolest products are resisting these HR apparatchiks, and I’ll show what you can do about it if you work in tech.
The next battlefield after high tech is discretion in hiring — which the activists believe must be limited to force employers to hire any candidate “qualified” for a job as soon as they apply. Only a few radicals are proposing this kind of blind hiring now, but continuing successes in getting firms to bow to their diversity demands will result in a list of new demands. Seattle has already passed an ordinance requiring landlords to rent apartments to the first applicant who qualifies — next what counts as qualified will come under their control, and government-sponsored Section 8 and protected class tenants will be deemed qualified no matter what their credit reports and criminal records show. And similar movements in hiring — supposedly to prevent discrimination by eliminating management choice of who to employ — are coming soon.
There are many people working hard in HR to promote the interests of their organization, but their efforts are often blunted by the prevailing HR culture that substitutes buzzwords and feel-good social goals for promotion of productivity and excellence:
…Most HR organizations have ghettoized themselves literally to the brink of obsolescence. They are competent at the administrivia of pay, benefits, and retirement, but companies increasingly are farming those functions out to contractors who can handle such routine tasks at lower expense. What’s left is the more important strategic role of raising the reputational and intellectual capital of the company — but HR is, it turns out, uniquely unsuited for that. Here’s why:
HR people aren’t the sharpest tacks in the box. We’ll be blunt: If you are an ambitious young thing newly graduated from a top college or B-school with your eye on a rewarding career in business, your first instinct is not to join the human-resources dance. (At the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, which arguably boasts the nation’s top faculty for organizational issues, just 1.2% of 2004 grads did so.) Says a management professor at one leading school: “The best and the brightest don’t go into HR.”
Who does? Intelligent people, sometimes—but not businesspeople. “HR doesn’t tend to hire a lot of independent thinkers or people who stand up as moral compasses,” says Garold L. Markle, a longtime human-resources executive at Exxon and Shell Offshore who now runs his own consultancy. Some are exiles from the corporate mainstream: They’ve fared poorly in meatier roles—but not poorly enough to be fired. For them, and for their employers, HR represents a relatively low-risk parking spot.
Others enter the field by choice and with the best of intentions, but for the wrong reasons. They like working with people, and they want to be helpful—noble motives that thoroughly tick off some HR thinkers. “When people have come to me and said, ‘I want to work with people,’ I say, ‘Good, go be a social worker,'” says Arnold Kanarick, who has headed human resources at the Limited and, until recently, at Bear Stearns. “HR isn’t about being a do-gooder. It’s about how do you get the best and brightest people and raise the value of the firm.”
 “Why We Hate HR: In a knowledge economy, companies with the best talent win. And finding, nurturing, and developing that talent should be one of the most important tasks in a corporation. So why does human resources do such a bad job—and how can we fix it?” Fast Company, August 1, 2005. http://www.fastcompany.com/53319/why-we-hate-hr
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations
[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, in Kindle and trade paperback.]
The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game.
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.
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