Category Archives: Business

LinkedIn – User Beware

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Boring LinkedIn Privacy Reminder #16…

Among my things on my list of weirdness is the tendency of some to scoff at mundane social media, or complain about how invasive it is. Meanwhile, their LinkedIn presence looks like an open invitation. LinkedIn is a great service when you understand what it is used for. But you have to spend time understanding the privacy controls and how to use it safely. Otherwise, you are leaving the keys to your life on the doorstep for any idiot to stoop and pick up. And when an idiot like me tells you to be careful, you should listen. LinkedIn is a place for professionals and those are exactly the most valuable to people trying to gain access to information.

I wrote a lengthy, detailed description of how people are using LinkedIn without a clear idea of their objective – and then trashed it, because people don’t listen. Many people have a mistaken idea about what LinkedIn is used for, what it does for them, and whether it is safe in the way they use it. Even though no one reading this will really believe they aren’t careful, the reality is that I found a wide array of privacy lapses up and down the spectrum from LinkedIn users. The information is often useful enough to help serve legal papers, steal your identity, clone your account, gain access to your email, and do all manner of nonsense to your well-being. I try to remind people that privacy takes work and even then it fails miserably. It’s one thing to be unaware and unable to control your privacy, another to broadcast it yourself. You don’t really have privacy, but you should consider making people work harder to invade your life, if that sort of illusion is important to you. LinkedIn can be a valuable tool if you know what you’re using it for and how to control what it allows others to see with or without your consent.

Did you allow the company to access your private contacts when you set up your account? Almost always a bad idea, but most do it. Do you have two-factor authentication active on your account? If not, this is a direct invitation to have your life stolen from you. (If you don’t know how 2-factor authorization works, stop using most services that rely on real information about your life until you do). Did you leave active the setting that notifies you (or broadcasts to others) each time someone makes a change to their profile?

How about your privacy controls? Without being logged in, why should I be able to google your LinkedIn profile and see a very new picture of you, where you live, and your career? Yes, I’m talking to you, the person who worries a lot. Your picture is on the internet, right now, telling me where you are.

People who scrutinize and worry themselves to death about other social media such as FB blithely forget or ignore how important it is to restrict access to your life. With FB, you can easily fake it if you were so inclined. But with LinkedIn, you are bombarded with the necessity of being meticulous and detailed. In other words, please make sure that you have laid out your economic and career identity and then forget to watch your account controls.

If you are going to use LinkedIn, please treat it as a gateway to your real life, because that’s what it is, even if you’ve forgotten that the door is sometimes left wide open. User beware.

When I posted to this idea to social media, I had one person comment on the post and another send messages, concerned. The person messaging couldn’t believe that I could actually “see” all their information. I had to do screenshots of their private information and forward it to convince them. They were angry, as they were certain they had been studiously careful when setting up their account. My conclusion to them was to assume that companies can and will randomly change privacy settings and to be on guard for it happening.

P.S. It is worthwhile to have someone else “look” at your presence on important sites, attempt to logon to your services and so forth. Not only to see what is visible, but to gauge whether something has changed without you noticing.

08252014 Basic Human Dignity

Warning: Negativity and person opinion expressed here.

Yesterday, my wife and I went to buy groceries in Springdale. I made my first round for heavy items and went through the register to pay for them. An older lady was at the register and I could tell she had probably seen her fair share of issues in life. I did what I always do and got her to chit-chat. After I took my ton of groceries to the car and came back inside and finished up the other round with my wife, we ended up at the exact same register. The cashier had called over and gestured a couple of kiosks away, calling toward a younger person by her name. “Do you want me to ask her to come over here?” I jokingly asked. She said “Would you?” to me, and told the younger person several feet away “I still need to go to the bathroom.” The younger person could see that I was looking so she took a few steps toward the older cashier (without getting close enough to maintain privacy) and the cashier told her “I desperately need to go to the bathroom.” The younger person pointed toward the other kiosk and brusquely said “NO. I can’t leave him here, he is training and I have to watch him.” She went back over to stand motionless, in place, and watch the trainee, leaving my cashier to squirm in discomfort, her line now having 4 people behind us and no hope for an obviously necessary bathroom break in sight. I can only presume that she didn’t start screaming in anger once I left or storm off the job she obviously needed to survive.

I’m ashamed that I didn’t lie down on the floor and commence to screaming in protest. The cashier could have been anyone’s mother or grandmother. (Except mine – my mom would have thrown a can of tomatoes at the young supervisor, as well as taught her a few new curse words.) The way the older cashier was treated with disregard lingered in my mind during the evening, while I was trying to sleep and then still bothered me this morning again.

If you missed the word “still” in my story, the cashier had asked previously, well ahead of time and then been ignored. She tried to make the best of a bad situation and was polite to her “supervisor.” She had to be humiliated and was forced to mention her need in front of several people, without being given any chance at privacy. After all that, she had to grimace and writhe instead of being allowed to go to the bathroom.

I got angrier and angrier at myself because I failed to intervene. I’d like to think it was because I didn’t want to create a scene that escalated to the older cashier being in trouble, even though she had done nothing wrong and any reaction would have been on my shoulders, both as a human being and as a customer.

For all of you who have jobs which would never put you in this kind of situation, please stop and think for a moment that there are a lot of people in jobs where the basic need to go to the bathroom is questioned. I worked at a place like that for many years; several of my jobs required “permission” to walk away. Absent permission, you could and would be disciplined or fired if you dared stray from you position. Not all the stories about people losing control and soiling themselves were urban legends. For people with great jobs, this might be difficult to accept as truth. I saw it directly more than once myself, as well as being involved from a H.R. standpoint later.

If you are a supervisor or own a business, please stop and think that staffing to a level which allows and encourages people to know that they are human beings and are valued as such is paramount. Please raise your prices if that is what it takes to ensure that everyone can exercise basic human liberty. I will gladly buy less stuff if it guarantees that people are afforded more dignity.

Taking the comparison to another level, to all the businesses who think that you are saving money by compromising the safety and health of your employees by forcing them to behave in unsafe ways or to treat other human beings as interchangeable cogs to be discarded, I hope that karma is just a concept with no real-world teeth to it. Shame on this harsher outlook toward employees. Saving money to stay and grow in any business with this attitude is a disservice to society. Compete intelligently and remember that at each step employees are human beings who would otherwise tell you to jump into a molten lake of lava for forgetting their humanity – if they could do so. If you can’t remember that people always trump process and profit, you aren’t doing anyone any favors by employing them.

Expediency Over Quality

I’m trying not to be cynical about some things…

But whether due to the economy or not, I’m hearing a lot of chatter about people feeling like they are being forced to put out terrible quality service or products. To clarify, I would say that these same people are saying it feels like they are being “pressured” more than in the past. The common refrain is that the available time given to get anything done isn’t increasing, but the expected output is.

Whether it might be relabeling not-so-fresh meat or produce at the grocery store, using less reliable brake pads on cars, not doing as much follow-up at the dentist office or just not taking the time to clean up the details for anything customer service related – people are either saying they are being pressured to do lesser quality or I’m noticing it more. My gut instinct is that people are indeed saying it more.

With each anecdote, I’m hearing that people are getting the “wink” from the people giving the orders where they are employed. In other words, look the other way if possible and fix the issue later if there is a complaint. (But I might add that the Open Secret rules applies – you aren’t supposed to acknowledge that corners are being cut…)

Running lean is a valuable tool to reduce costs. But it tends to reduce quality and increase the likelihood of customer dissatisfaction.

It seems obvious, doesn’t it?

“If you don’t have time to do it right, you ain’t gonna have time to fix it later, that’s for sure!” -x


Work Rules and Open Secrets Commentary

These are excerpts from something I wrote years ago as a primer of sorts for people working in an area I worked…
Goals & rules that matter are enforced. If you see a rule or procedure that is ignored, you must conclude that it is a dead rule or for “show.” Management will not appreciate your attempt to point out that rules that are alleged to be important are flagrantly disregarded.
If standards are not being enforced, a logical person would be irrational to continue to concern himself with expending extra energy meeting goals that are, by lack of application, unimportant. Being unconcerned, however, does not equate to announcing it over the rooftops.
Do not directly acknowledge to anyone that you have come to realize that some goals are not real and that you have delegated them to a lower priority. The appearance of importance must be maintained. You are more likely to get in serious trouble from pointing out your realization than from direct misconduct.
An “open secret” is anything that is either prohibited or not specifically permitted, but which everyone knows goes on. No direct discussion of the “open secret” happens. It is the proverbial elephant in the room that no one dares discuss.      
If you violate any provision covered under the “open secret” rule, you are going to endanger your peace of mind, if not your job. Many times an employee who is trying to do his or her job properly will run into trouble with “open secrets.” They are then forced into a position where they are challenging it. Since open secrets don’t actually exist, you end up boxing with the wind.  Examples: Sally is allowed to clock in 15 minutes late, Jack is allowed a extra smoke break, Fred doesn’t have to concern himself with some paperwork, everyone gets an extra 15 minutes of break, etc. Trying to discuss it is going to anger, Jack, Fred, and Sally, while you are going to be targeted as a troublemaker, even if your question is valid.              

04092013 Quality, Qualicide, Perfectionism


Lately, I’m encountering ghosts from my “quality past.”

When I worked at a huge multinational meat processor, I taught dozens of 1 and 2-days quality classes. I also administered the pay-for-skill-and-knowledge component that involved testing and evaluation. The version taught at our location was based on the revived Crosby method in the 90s. I taught many more classes in Spanish than English, probably about 7-to-1.

Overall, even though the effort was doomed from the onset, it was one of the best things I was ever involved in.

(The premise of this type of quality hinges on accepting a new definition of quality. Instead of using it equally across different brands of the same car, for instance, you were required to look at things with a “conformance to requirements” filter. In other words, a Mercedes-Benz wasn’t necessarily higher quality than a Ford Escort, depending on one’s customer requirements…)

Before I digress like I am accustomed to doing, teaching these classes and doing the testing forced me to learn a significant amount of practical Spanish. My accent and inability to roll “rr'” dipthongs was horrific, but I plowed through, reminding myself that no one else had the right combination of English ability to navigate the program to the majority Hispanic workforce. Almost everyone in the program would be speaking Spanish, rather than the management language, English. I was “good enough” for the circumstances.

The class and testing absolutely forced me into a “good enough” non-perfectionist mindset. I knew even then that it was a little ironic to keep telling myself that “good enough” was more than enough in a class and learning system designed around quality initiatives.

Basically, when the quality program was launched, I wasn’t a key cog in the machine. It didn’t take long, however, to realize that I had been given the almost never-heard-of opportunity to write my own ticket and create the system to suit my own ideas. Granted, there were a lot of people involved. The reality, though, was that I had huge latitude in vetoing even required components. This was especially the case with the Spanish version of the testing and classes.

When I went to Minneapolis for quality training, I was the only hourly employee to be given the chance. My Spanish-speaking counterpart who accompanied me never once taught a class or led testing. I acquired a poor Spanish version of the proposed class book and took it back to Springdale with me. I spent weeks doing a very rudimentary redrafting of the entire book.

In the Spanish version of the class, I largely ignored the pie-in-the-sky elitist components of the entire program and used what I instinctively knew to be practical. After a few classes, I relentlessly threw out any aspect that didn’t work immediately or effectively. I listened closely to anyone who would take the time to explain their criticisms to me. If I detected boredom with some components, I discarded them or changed them to make them relevant to the people in the room. Many classes were in fact led by me but directed by the participants. I can’t express how fulfilling it was to see people step up and take the reins and lead their coworkers, especially when they were being creative. Several of these people surprised themselves by being confident and creative. The workplace we were in was known for fostering the exact opposite of this type of mentality. We were basically human beings doing mechanical work, for the most part. It is one of the reasons that programs such as Quality which rely on creativity were facing an uphill battle.

I encountered resistance from authority figures but ignored their commentary and edicts unless no alternative was given to me. Usually, though, I got creative and found ways around every attempt to make the classes boring and devoid of real significance. With the English version of the class, though, I couldn’t get by with doing the things that worked. I had to conform. Which led me to the realization that much of the observable output of the class, at least through management’s eyes, was totally incorrect, as the language barrier prevented them from properly “seeing” the class and how drastically different the class could be when compared by language.

Life is largely a series of repeated events, I’ve noticed. Things I’ve learned before come back around to be learned again. Being in social organizations can be frustrating because there are large meta issues which bear striking resemblance to what I’ve already went through.

Open Door Policy

My friend Joe loaned me is copy of a law enforcement-related leadership book. As with most such accidental occurrences, it was quite interesting. When the original presentation by the author of the book was announced where Joe works, he was less than enthusiastic. It turned out that he enjoyed the presentation and learned to look at things slightly differently.

One of the amusing revelations is that the speaker talked about the stupidity of the ‘open door’ policy. Managers claim that an open door signifies availability, listening, and responsiveness.

The speaker explained that this is, in fact, counter-productive and wrong.

Why wouldn’t a manager be out among his subordinates, in their areas and comfort zones? He’s being paid to manage them and therefore should be familiar with their world and jobs. Expecting subordinates to go to his office where they are not comfortable and where they normally perform no duties is actually bad for the organization.

If a manager goes to his people’s areas, he is learning and his subordinates can talk to him without being afraid of appearing as if they are brown-nosing or ratting on the group.

I’m supposing that Joe had never heard this commentary before because he seemed to like it.
I’ve heard it before – and I like it, too.