Two Kinds Of Workers You're Better Off Without

Worldwide, many employees do not have any rights at all: They are slaves and therefore treated as property.

As of March 2016, WorldAtlas.com reported, based on multiple sources compiled into a “Global Slavery Index,” that there are an estimated 35.8 million slaves globally and that approximately 1 in 4 of them (26%) are children. “Adult male slaves, meanwhile, are often forced into labor due to financial debts, while females are often exploited for prostitution.”

Although today every country in the world “condemns” forced labor, according to the International Labour Organization, someone is still making money from it. Even if you subtract forced sexual labor, the world’s 14.2 million slaves generate an estimated $51 billion per year.

Michael Hobbes, writing for the Huffington Post, notes that consumers have for twenty years now tried to avoid slave labor in the products they buy. And although many lists have been published in the name of providing transparency, truly achieving this goal remains elusive. However, eventually technology and the worldwide trend toward greater and greater recognition of universal human rights will likely shut down those who continue to rely on this illegitimate form of “staffing.”

Some employees are lucky enough to choose where they work. Although they inhabit a far more privileged place in the world, they do suffer from workplace bullying, which is a pervasive problem.

A 2008 study by Dr. Judy Blando, cited by Forbes in 2016, found that 75% of employees had either witnessed bullying or been bullied during the past year. Blando cited research showing that 82% of victims did not remain in their jobs; replacing a worker costs 25%-200% of their annual salary; and that in at least one survey of Canadian employees, bullying cost $180,000,000 in “lost time and productivity” (Blando, p. 3).

In the United States, is no federal law against bullying yet, but in certain cases at least, an individual may be protected if they are victimized in such a way that other federally protected rights are violated (for example, if it is combined with racial discrimination at a federally funded school). Nearly every state has both a law and a policy dealing with the educational environment.

Additionally, there is a nationwide campaign in the United States to introduce the “Healthy Workplace Bill,” which would make workplace bullying illegal and allow victims to pursue legal action both against the workplace and against the alleged offender.

Even if an employer is not yet legally bound to remove bullies from the workplace, the reasons for taking proactive steps to do so are similar in nature to those pertaining to forced/child labor. Not only is social media easy to access, free and pervasive, but the trend worldwide is for citizen to take matters into their own hands and report what they see as wrongdoing. From a risk management standpoint, ensuring a healthy workplace environment as well as an ethical labor chain is essential to maintaining goodwill and avoiding negative publicity.

In the future, as informal pacts and formal policies turn into strictly enforced national and international laws, keeping slavery and bullying out of the workplace will no doubt be essential.

If you want to build a sustainable business, don’t build it on the backs of people who are mistreated for your living.

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All opinions my own.

On The Indispensable Nature Of "Straight Line Thinking"

"The truth at any cost lowers all other costs." - Robert Steele, former CIA Officer and intelligence reform activist 
Adbusters uses the term "straight line thinking" to describe "logic freaks" focused only on "more technology, more rationality, more surveillance, more consumption, more control."
But that isn't what I mean. From my perspective, "straight line thinking" is:
  • The ability to clearly articulate what your desired outcome (goal) is.
  • A commitment to getting there as efficiently (shortest number of steps, cheapest cost) and effectively (highest quality result) as possible.
  • Encouraging debate regarding the best method of achieving the goal.
Great communication facilitates all three aspects of "straight line thinking." Not only does it enable different kinds of people to understand what you're saying, but it also makes it possible for them to participate in achieving the goal.
In order to enjoy the benefits of "straight line thinking," though, one's organization must be healthy enough to handle painful feedback. It's like going on a diet: At some point you have to get on the scale. This point is exemplified by Jack Nicholson's classic line in A Few Good Men.
The inability to tolerate reality is symptomatic of a society on the decline. 
Accordingly, when propaganda becomes a substitute for real news, it becomes impossible for people to know what's going on, and to make decisions based on that information -- a point made by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange made in his interview with Fox News journalist Sean Hannity.
To put it bluntly, if the public does not have real information, there is no democracy. There cannot be.
We need to have the truth in order to make society better.
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All opinions my own.

Is Federal Communication A Waste Of Money?

In my own personal capacity as a citizen and as a communication professional, I am frequently critical of the federal government's use and misuse of communication tools.

As a federal communicator -- and please note that all opinions expressed here are my own -- I have spent the better part of my career trying to make things better. Not just on my own, but also with many intrepid others. There are in fact numerous mechanisms, from meetings to listservs to free training sessions to videos, that enable us to improve.

Most recently, in 2016, a group of us culminated a year-long project and published "Advancing Federal Communications: The Case for Professional Standards of Practice" (executive summary here). The paper argues that in the absence of clear and consistent professional standards and uniform government practice, as exemplified by the UK for example, we will continue to see well-trained professionals hampered in their efforts. No matter how stellar a performer you are within a specific agency, your work needs to be set against a much larger context set forth by the government itself, one which explains to the public why your work is vitally important and not a waste of money.

Just yesterday, January 10, 2017, the Daily Caller published an article called "Taxpayers Spend Thousands On Poorly Used Gov’t Public Relations Jobs." It made reference to "Government PR," Item #14 in Sen. Jeff Flake's recently published "Wastebook," in which he excoriates the government for spending so much money on advertising and public relations contracts. The U.S. Government Accountability Office published its own report in September 2016.

In his book documenting government waste, Senator Flake asks a very valid question:
So what does it say when more than $1.4 billion is spent every year promoting federal agencies and services but trust and confidence in the government have plummeted?
In response to his own question, Flake suggests that "a good product sells itself" and recommends the following:
"Federal agencies could improve their public relations at no cost whatsoever by simply conducting themselves efficiently and effectively rather than misspending taxpayer dollars on questionable and unnecessary projects and activities that will inevitably end up in Wastebook."
Reading this, I have to shake my head and wonder at the logic of this argument. It is not a waste of money to hire federal communicators and deploy them to explain what the government is doing. Far from it: I'm on social media every single day, and I can see the public reacting to what the government says (and doesn't say).

They see, for example, that the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act was incorporated into the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, and they don't understand what it is or what it means, and it is into that vaccuum that many suspicions naturally fall.

So if you want to increase trust between the public and the government, of course you should be telling people, in clear and objective terms, what's going on. Tell them what you're required to tell them. Answer their questions. Make it easy to understand and not dense. Don't hide information. Don't complexify it. Go where the citizens are - on social media. All of that.

Most of the money is being spent on advertising and PR contracts. They are not necessary if you have a great team of government people who are empowered to do their jobs.

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Important note and disclaimer: As always, I do not represent any individual agency, group of agencies, or the government as a whole in my personal writings. Also obviously, as a federal communicator I am going to be personally biased towards the perpetuation of my own profession; from that perspective please take what I say with a grain of salt.