Not Just Business

Park And Pay
This was a funny sign on the parking meter.



“All May Park. All Must Pay.”



Another way of saying this is like at the dry cleaners, “No tickee, no shirtee!”



This reminded me of a conversation that I was having with some colleagues about whether individuals or organizations can be evil?



(Note: True story, but I’ve embellished for the sake of demonstration.)



One colleague said, “Individuals are not bad, but people in groups definitely [often] turn bad!”



Another said, “No individuals can be bad, really bad–think of Hitler and so many others who have murdered, tortured, raped, enslaved, and impoverished–it’s the individuals that can and do turn an organizational culture bad.”



A third person replied that, “Indeed, it can be the other way around as well, where bad organizations make or encourage it’s people to do the wrong things–whether for profits, power, or punishment.”



Then someone blurted out, “Well, business is business, right?” In other words, it’s okay to do something wrong because everyone does it in business–that’s the name of the game and what you have to do to compete and survive!



Then I said sort of annoyed at what the last person said, “Business is not business–that is our test to be G-dly, moral, and ethical in all our dealings [in our personal and professional lives]”



Of course, we don’t always succeed–no one does/we are not angels–but we have to try every time, learn and grow and become better people. 



If you do wrong, you will pay–whether in this world or the next. 😉

Why Do People Take The Cheese Off?

Why Do People Take The Cheese Off?

So my question of the day is why do people feel it’s okay to take the cheese off the delicious macaronic AND cheese?

While I understand that it is the best part, isn’t just a little bit of antisocial behavior that would drive people do something like this and leave everyone else with just the noodles underneath…

Anyway on the way back, one of my colleagues stopped me in the street to tell me some philosophy of life about how love makes the world go around, but revenge is the axis it turns on. Ouch@!

Perhaps this is April fools day making people a little snappy today.

One last thought is from episode last week on The Vikings (great show on the History Channel)–excellent battle scene, but also memorable when the one of the characters says “Bad news travels a great deal slower than good news.”

Maybe that’s why no one told me before about the missing cheese on the macaroni today? 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Six Internet Creepoids To Beware Of

Six Internet Creepoids To Beware Of

There are a lot of basket cases out there–both in the physical world and in the virtual one.

The New York Times today has an article by Henry Alford about people who act or are mainly just perceived as creepy online.

He gives examples of people who take out their smartphones (with cameras) in the locker room, who show their online photos and whoops there’s an indecent doozie, who mistakenly send a critical email to the wrong person or distribution list, who say the wrong thing online because of autocorrect or autofill, and who act the detective looking up too much information about others.

At the end, Alford calls for “more tolerance toward the gaffe-makers.”

And while we should be good people and forgive genuine mistakes, some things are not accidents and deserve the seal of “ick!”

Here’s the list of 6 Internet Creepoids to seriously beware of:

1) Overly Cyber Friendly or Familiar: People who chat, text, email, or comment in a way that portrays an inappropriate knowing or intimacy with others.

2) Cyber Stalkers: Those who unsolicitedly and unwanted or obsessively follow, friend, monitor, or harass others on the Internet.

3) Internet Trolls: Individuals who giddily sow discord with argumentative, inflammatory or extraneous messages online narcissistically or just to be jerks.

4) Cyber Exhibitionists or Voyeurs: People who inappropriately or compulsively expose themselves or watch others naked or engaged in sexual activity online.

5) Cyber Impersonators or Identity Thieves: Those who falsify their identities by exaggerating or masking their true selves, pretend to be someone else, or otherwise steal someone’s online identity.

6) Cyber Freaks: Individuals who behave online in extreme unusual, unexpected, and frightening ways.

So while some things are innocent or accidentally creepy from otherwise nice and decent people, other actions are genuinely such from the real online creepoids. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

I Like To Be Clean!

I Like To Be Clean!

This was funny but in a gross type of way.

Bathroom doorknobs are notorious for being germy.

In this case, there was a little bit of tissue paper that someone left on the knob–I know ick!

Apparently someone got fed up with the grossness of this, so they put up a sign–it says:

“I have been here for two weeks. Can you clean me? It like to be clean!”

But that’s not all.

A day later, the note was gone, but that little piece of grossness was still there.

Howie Mandel, please help us! 😉

Smellicious

Smellicious

This past week in the office we had an etiquette offense.

Someone had some lunch that was smell-eeeee!

The whole suite was reeking from it.

First one person runs up to me as I enter the suite and says, “Did you smell it?”

Just getting over a cold, I say innocently, “Smell what?”

Then as I head down the hall, even the sniffles doesn’t protect me from whatever’s been cooking in lunch-land.

Ick–it’s like a combination of day old leftovers that have been warmed over with a foul fishy smell combusting the whole work area.

Next, I see one guy running around the cubicles with a air freshener–spraying and spraying–everywhere.

Followed by a lady, with a similar aerosol, sticking her head in the offices and giving a spritz or two or three.

Colleagues were gathering to discuss the stink and venture guesses as to who the culprit was that would invoke such horror in the office.

Jokes and mild-mannered innuendoes followed to sort of lighten the mood of the folks that had been working extra hard the last few months.

The stick stunk for almost 24-hours, but despite the bad smell in the air, the gregarious mood made up for it–as it was just another event we could bond around–the smell, the sights of the people running around with air fresheners, and the good-natured ridicule on who would offend and break the professional code of conduct–and leave everyone gasping for breath. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Should Or Shouldn’t The U.S. Attack Syria

Should Or Shouldn't The U.S. Attack Syria

As the hour approaches for a punishing U.S. attack on Syria, here are some thought on why or why not to do it:

Reasons Not To Attack Syria:

War-weary–The U.S. has been fighting back since 9/11 2001, how much more blood and treasure should we spend in a war that has brought limited results with over 5K dead and over 50K wounded Americans and costing almost $1.5 trillion dollars so far.

World policeman–No country alone, including the U.S. can be the policeman for the world. We cannot get involved in every war and skirmish: we can’t afford it; it is a distraction from our full slate of pressing domestic issues, and we ourselves are not perfect.

International Discord–Russia and China, two other U.N. Security Council members are not on board with us in punishing Syria for use of chemical weapons or for ending the conflict there. Even the U.K backed out of the operation.

Potential backlash–Syria, Hezbollah, or Iran may lash out at American interests, including neighboring Israel, embassies/posts worldwide, oil infrastructure, and more.

Limited strike, limited benefits–With all the media and lack of secrecy on this operation, the Syrians have had the notice and time to vacate suspected target attack sites and move critical equipment out. Also, we have already ruled out attacking the chemical weapons themselves due to fear of collateral damage. Plus, we have already said that we are not going to try and unseat Assad or end the fighting. So will hitting some empty buildings in a civil war that has already been going for more than 2 years have anything but symbolic impact?

Reasons To Attack Syria:

Morality–We can’t stand idly by while Assad indiscriminately is killing civilians (including women and children).

Norms of War–We must send a message that use of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) is horrific and a precedent that is unacceptable.

Red Line–We drew a red line and now we must adhere to it; our words and deeds must be consistent or else we lose credibility.

Punish bad behavior–The Syrian civil war has cost over 100,000 lives so far and displaced millions, torturing and executing civilians and using chemical weapons is bad nation state behavior and must be punished to mete out justice, as a deterrent, as a rehabilitative action, and to reimpose some equality back in the fight.

Protect Ourselves–Being clear and sending a global message that use of WMD is unacceptable helps in the end to protect us from being victims of such a dastardly deed as well. It is in our own national self-interest.

Axis of Evil–Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah are working together to spread Anti-American and Anti-Israel hatred, terrorism, and to develop WMD (including Nukes) to threaten us and establish a greater stranglehold on the Middle-East as well as Europe. This is a war that is not desired by us, but one that has been thrust upon us by adversaries seeking our destruction.

Closing Thoughts:

If we do it, then we should do it right.

“Sending a message,” in Syria rather than fighting to win something strategically meaningful and tangible continues to leave us vulnerable and just having to fight another day.

We can’t straddle issues of morality, norms of war, and defense of our nation and way of life–either take out Assad, end the bloodshed, and establish a peaceful, democratic government or what is the point?

Obviously, there are arguments to be made on either side.

But what is frustrating is that making a decision after we’ve concluded wrongdoing, and doing something positive is seeming to take too long, and strong leadership is required to bring resolution and greater good.

Moreover, we need to look at the greater threat picture, so while sending Tomahawk missiles to Syria for their chemical weapons use, what about doing a full stopover in Iran with some Bunker Busters to put an end to their menacing and blatantly genocidal nuclear WMD program?

Wishy washy isn’t going to make us any righter or safer, definitive results-oriented action can.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to zennie62)

Autocomplete: Do Zombies (What)?

The autocomplete feature in search engines can tell us a lot about what people are thinking and asking about.

According to the New York Times (21 November 2012) “sites like Google and Bing are showing the precise questions that are most frequently asked.”

Autocomplete suggests the rest of your search term based on the most popular things that others have asked for, so it speeds up your search selection by anticipating what you are looking for and by reducing spelling errors in your search terms.


Another advantage to seeing popular searches is to understand what the larger population is thinking about and looking for–this gives us insight into culture, norms, values, and issues of the time.

I did a simple google search of “do zombies” and as you can see the most popular searches are about whether zombies: poop, exist, sleep, “really exist,” and have brains. 

Even more disappointing than people asking whether zombies really exist is that the #1 search on zombies is about whether they poop–what does that say about our lagging educational system?

I would at least have imagined that the preppers–those infatuated with the end of the world and with preparation for survival–would at least be searching for terms like:

Do zombies…

pose a real threat to human survival?

have (certain) vulnerabilities?

ever die?

have feelings?

have children?

beat vampires (or vice versa)?

I suppose autocomplete is good at crowdsourcing search terms of what others are thinking about, but it is only as good as those doing the ultimate searching–our collection intelligence at work. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Party Time, Excellent.

Passing outside, I encountered this interesting person, who reminded of when I used to visit  Greenwich Village in NY.

– Long blond wig
– Big bow on top
– Overflowing boots on their feet
– Bright blue stockings on the legs
– Underpants on the outside
– Jacket with big cuffs and strips
– And giving “the finger” to passerby’s

Seemed like a real culture commentary.

It’s important to value all sorts of different people–it’s the fabric of our society and everyone adds to it.

Howie Mandel Was Right All Along

Wash_hands

This was a really funny picture I saw exhorting people to wash their hands.

If you don’t, this little green slime creature is going to come and get you.

It reminded me of the other day heading into the bathroom, and I see this guy coming the other way out of one of the Stalls.

He actually does head to the sink to the wash his hands–he’s in the minority in this country, I understand.

Well the sink is one of the automatic ones and has no faucets.

The guy sticks his hands underneath….nothing.

He starts waving his (dirty) hands…and still nothing.

After the third try…he throws his hands up, looks at me, and says, “Now that’s awkward” and proceeds to walk out the bathroom holding his hands literally at full arms length.

I hoped that he didn’t run into anyone he knows on the way and reached out to shake their hands–because they would’ve gotten a nasty surprise, indeed.

This sign tells it the way it is–sorry folks. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Changing Organizational Fear To Firepower

Image
Senator Chuck Grassley posted a video of the Acting Director of the ATF sternly warning employees that “if you don’t find the appropriate way to raise your concerns to your leadership, there will be consequences.”

But as Senator Grassley has pointed out in the video’s description–“the essence of whistle-blowing is reporting problems outside of an employees chain of command.” In other words, reporting problems to external oversight authorities like Congress is an important and protected action in exposing shortcomings and addressing potentially serious issues.

The Congressional Research Service provides an overview of The Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) of 1989–basically, as I understand it, WPA protects federal whistleblowers who report gross agency misconduct (e.g. mismanagement, waste, and abuse) and prohibits threatening or taking retaliatory personnel action.  Moreover, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) was introduced in 2009 to broaden the protections to, I believe, more violations except minor or inadvertent, but this has not yet been passed.  Further, the Office of Special Counsel investigates whistleblower complaints.

Unfortunately, as pointed out in The American Thinker, employees have taken the message as “a warning to keep their mouths shut,” especially after agents exposed the Fast and Furious failed gun-running operation to Congress in 2011.

An agent quoted in The Washington Guardian states: “The message was unmistakable. Keep your head down and the only way you can report wrongdoing is by going to your chain of command. It was chilling, Orwellian and intimidating. What are you supposed to do if your chain of command is the one you think is involved in the wrongdoing? That was why OSC and IGs were created.”

President Obama’s Transition Website states more clearly how whistleblowers should be viewed and treated: “Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance.”

Whether one works in the government or the private sector, actions that are taken as bullying is problematic, not only from the perspective of morale but also in terms of productivity, as pointed out in an article in SelfGrowth called Leadership: Are You a Bully Leader?

“Bully leadership is sharp, authoritative, angry, and feels uncomfortable to those in contact with it…the bully leader bark out orders, threatens consequences and use strong, harsh statements…” as many have clearly come away from with this video.

In a dysfunctional organization where employees are bullied and threatened, the results are devastating to employees and to the vital mission they serve:

Stifling productivity–employees do not give their all–they “do what needs to be done and that is all. They don’t go above and beyond,” so productivity declines precipitously.

Stomping out ideas–since the bully leader “needs to be the one with the great ideas,” employees don’t share their input–they know to keep it to themselves.

Squashing effectiveness–bully leaders want to control everything and “lack trust in other people,” the result is a negative (and perhaps even a hostile) work environment where motivation, quality, and effectiveness are decimated.

It leads me to wonder, can those who lead by fear become more inspiring figures who empower employees and engender communication, trust, and fairness?

Obviously, changing a dysfunctional organizational culture is probably one of the hardest things to do, because the most fundamental everyday norms and “values” that the organization runs on must be overhauled.

However, it can be done, if top leadership on down is sincere and committed to change. The goals should include things like effective collaboration, delegation, empowerment, and recognition and reward.

Fear and intimidation have no place in the workplace, and all employees should be valued and respected, period.
We should encourage employees to speak out sincerely when there are issues that cannot be resolved through normal channels.
In the end, the most positive change will be when we strive to build a workplace where employees can focus on serving the mission rather than worrying about being afraid.

This post shouldn’t be seen as a referendum on any one organization, but rather a way forward for all organizations that seek to raise the bar on performance and morale.

I know that the people of ATF are highly principled and committed, because I worked there (in IT, of course) and am proud to recall their tremendous efforts.
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)