ArLyne's Diamonds

A running commentary of ideas

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Who was Eddie Willers?

Who was Eddie Willers?
At an event recently I was reminded of the characters in Ayn Rand’s book “Atlas Shrugged” and in particular was reminded of the people I met and counseled who had what I termed “the Eddie Willers complex.”

For those of you who know  - Eddie was no slouch.  He was Dagny’s right-hand man.  Eddie was highly successful  Accomplished.  Competent.

Shmoop describes him as “every man” – but I disagree.  He was exceptional.  Just not as exceptional as the giants who were invited to Galt’s Gulch.'
Why the complex?   Because back in the days when we were all students at NBI there were so many people I met who identified themselves as failures because they were not #1 in their field or occupation.   #1 or nothing.

What does that really mean – if you are not Stephen Curry you are a no good basketball player?  If you are not Barbara Streisand you are a lousy singer?  If you aren’t Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire you can’t dance?

Of course not. 

In the business world we need people with skills at all levels, from the creative genius to the data-entry person.  Not everyone becomes CEO – but what about the Senior Vice-President of Finance or Marketing?  Don’t they count?  Aren’t they successful?  Aren’t they accomplished?

Of course they are.

Yet, even today there are so many people I meet and work with that think they are “nobody” unless they are #1.


What do you think?

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Friday, March 01, 2019

Plea Bargaining

I just learned that many people I know do not understand what actually happens in a plea bargain…so here is my short non-legal explanation.
There is an accusation.  On a scale of 1-10 (1 being mild – 10 very severe) it is given a 9 and the penalties are severe.  If the person goes to trial the odds are he/she will wind up having to pay all those penalties – including perhaps prison time.
On the other hand, the prosecution can’t guarantee that they will win at trial.
So the parties make a deal.  The person accused pleads guilty to a lesser crime – maybe a 6 or 7 instead of a 9 – and a trial is avoided by both parties.
Plea bargain never means pleading to something bigger than you have been accused of having done.
So, to those of you who are saying your friend’s loss of his license (even if temporarily) is “no big deal” – you’ve missed the point.  He pled DOWN to that – not up.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Puppet with the Broken String

As a consultant we experience a full range of clients – from those who only occasionally need some direction to those who require minute details as to exactly what they should do and say. 

The more independent clients tend also (in my experience) to be more consistent in the manner in which they apply the advice given (yes, I give advice! Consulting is more active than coaching.)

On the other extreme are the people who ask over and over again and then somehow do something different from what was discussed.
I find this to be especially true of people who have a need to show-off.  Instead of going with a long-term plan for their professional growth, which we’d worked out in detail – they have to feel superior to others and so brag about their next promotion – especially when it was not yet offered to them.

I don’t really want to be a puppet master.  But some clients hire me especially for the purpose of teaching – guiding – advising – them step-by-step to accomplish something very specific – such as a promotion. 

Yet, we as consultants can only suggest.  We really can’t pull the strings.  Our clients make the final decisions and do what they will do.
I suppose the good side of that is that we can’t take the blame if things go wrong.  (Tongue in cheek.)

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Sunday, January 13, 2019

Due Process, Context, Mediation

Due Process and Context

I was watching TV the other night – Blue Bloods – and one of the segments was a clear example of how context matters.  A young woman, apparently on drugs, ran over and killed another youth.  The prosecution, thinking she had been joy-riding, was about to ask for the stiffest penalty possible.  BUT, the young woman’s mother explained that her daughter had not been joy-riding, but that the drugs represented her attempt at self-medicating because she had anxiety, depression and other psychological problems. (This was verified by a reputable psychiatrist.)

Intent is a significant part of how sentencing is determined.  Since the daughter was not joy-riding as originally thought – the prosecution asked for a lenient sentence and counseling/therapy for the girl. 

Context always matters.

Recently a woman was forced out of her association because she was two months late in paying her dues.  The board assumed that she deliberately chose not to pay them.  No one asked her.  The truth is that she had been ill and not earning any money for a while.  It was the very first time she’d ever been late.  The person responsible for working out a payment plan with the woman never even attempted it – no one bothered to talk WITH her they just let her go.

Not only does context matter – so too does due process.

Due process means the person being accused has the right to face their accuser, to know the details of what they allegedly did wrong, and to be able to defend themselves before a final decision – or sentence is delivered. 

Let me give you another example.   I was involved in a case where an executive lost his job because “he should have known” that his staff told dirty jokes.  The investigator in this case was so biased that she pre-determined his guilt.  Later, when I interviewed the executive I learned that he traveled frequently and was thus out of the office.  The alleged dirty jokes apparently occurred when he was not around.  (This was before the latest idea to make “command” responsible for the behavior of their charges.)

Here's another one:   Someone reported over-hearing a sexually inappropriate comment.  The man who was accused to have made the comment was on the verge of being fired.  There had been no attempt to ask him – or the person to whom he made the comment – about the situation.  Fortunately, his manager intervened and called me in to do a thorough and fair investigation.  Interviewing the man and the woman to whom he made the comment, I learned that they were friends and that what he was really asking was “did you make up with your boyfriend?”   He asked because the prior week over lunch she had been crying on his shoulder about a fight she’d had with the boyfriend.,

While I am on this subject – let’s also look at the foolishness of demanding a policy of “zero tolerance.”

  • ·       A kindergarten boy kisses a little girl on the cheek.  He is expelled
  • ·       A young boy accidently picks up his mother’s lunch bag instead of his own.  She notices it and calls the school to report the mistake.  None the less, because her lunch bag – in his possession – contained an apple and a small paring knife he was suspended for carrying a weapon.
  • ·       Two women, thinking they are alone in the restroom at their office talk about their dates the night before – in pretty graphic terms.  Some other woman, who had been in the stalls reported it as creating a hostile work environment.  The women are fired.
  • ·       A man making a delivery package in an apartment building knocks on an apartment door just as the next door opens and out comes his wife – with her extra clothes and the partially unclothed man that she had been with.  Reacting in the moment the first man socks the second man.  He has no other history of violence – but his children are (almost) taken away from him in a custody battle.

All too often decisions are made with limited – and sometimes biased – information.  People are harmed whereas they could have been given an opportunity to work something out.  

I am a firm believer in using mediation where ever possible – especially in these workplace he said/ she said accusations of stupid and jerky behaviors that don’t reach the level of a crime. 

I have been mediating disputes among people since the eighties – starting with doing visitation and custody mediation and now mediating problems in the workplace.  I also teach other professionals how to do mediation. 

Oh, and how to do fair and impartial investigations.   Two of the six books I have written and published are due to these activities.  See below.
  • Conducting Workplace Investigations:  Designated Investigator  
  • Culture:  Inside the Company and Outside the Country            
  • Leading and Managing a Global Workforce                                    
  • Conflict in the Workplace: Causes and Cures                               .
  • The "Please" and "Thank You" of Fundraising for Non-profits.         
  • Training Your Board of Directors             

In summary, due process requires looking at all sides of the story – from context to the investigation to the decisions regarding the appropriate sanctions and outcome.  Who gets selected to do the interviewing and investigation is equally as important because all too often people start out with either conscious or unconscious biases.                                  

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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Teachers attitudes affect students behavior

If we don’t change the attitude of some of our teachers – we will never change the problems some of our students manifest.  Here are a few examples of what bothers me about too many – certainly NOT all – teachers.

I met a woman I knew but hadn’t seen in ages.  She was dressed like a slob – dirty jeans, wrinkled top, tennis shoes.  I knew she was a teacher at an elementary school so I wondered what had happened to have her so poorly dressed and groomed.  I asked her if something was wrong and she replied:  “Who am I to impress they are only kids.”

Years ago as a graduate student one of my course requirements was to mentor a young at-risk child.  My mentee was a shy delightful little Chicana girl.  We would take walks together.  One day she proudly showed me the dress she was wearing and said: “I’ve kept it clean all week and Mommy didn’t have to wash it.”  She was so proud.

A few weeks later I met with her teacher who – among other things she said – told me that she found these students disgusting because they wore the same clothes day after day and she (the teacher) would never allow her child to go to school in the same dress twice in a row.  Her lack of empathy and understanding bothered me tremendously and I’ve never forgotten that story.

Not to long ago,  when visiting my cousin, a k-12 principal in California, I asked “Did you see how that teacher treated that student?”  I was horrified and my tone of voice reflected it.  My cousin replied:  If I so much as comment on it – they file a grievance with the union.  It takes me many hours to prepare for the hearing – and I lose anyway.  I’ve given up.

Recently, I was with a group of highly motivated educators and we were talking about strategies to make their students feel more welcome and safer.  One of the suggestions was to have the teachers stand at an open door welcoming students as they moved from class-room to class-room (period to period).  Much to my chagrin – several teachers responded that “it’s not in my contract.”

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Thursday, December 20, 2018

Housing that's Affordable

Affordable Housing

Tiny houses are adorable.  I wish I had the space to have one on my private property.  I can see them as “mother-in-law” homes.
BUT – to make a series of them which would only house about 6 small families on a piece of property that could hold an apartment building (or condo) of at least 30 homes seems to me to be foolish.
Let’s recognize that we MUST build UP.  We have a huge housing shortage – and in particular a huge shortage of housing that people with modest incomes can afford.
Rather than subsidizing housing, how about building enough small (but not tiny) apartments that have full apartments, parking, possibly even an exercise room and a park for kids to play in…. If we build UP we can have all of that at reasonable prices.
NIMBYs are partially responsible for the increase in homelessness and the increase in traffic congestion.  They vote against any project that would be large enough to allow for different sized apartments at different prices – with all the extras.
Let’s get practical.  Let’s increase housing.  We need it desperately.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Congress pays its own settlements


Received from:____________________________  Date:_____________

[     ]   Blouses                [     ]  Tops                                [     ]  Shirts
[     ]  Sweaters              [     ]   Skirts                             [     ]  Long Skirts
[     ]  Pants                    [     ]  Pant Suits 2 pc.             [     ]  Pant Suits 3 pc.
[     ]   Dresses                [     ]  Long Dresses                [     ]  Gowns
[     ]   jackets                  [     ]  Outdoor jackets             [     ]  Coats
[     ]   Scarves                [     ]  Shawls                            [     ]  Belts
[     ]   Hats                      [     ]  Gloves                            [     ]  Shoes
[     ]   Handbags           [     ]  Evening Bags                [     ]  Small pouches
[     ]   Other – describe ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Guess what?

Members of Congress will have to cover the costs of sexual harassment and retaliation claims out of their own pocket.  Up until now they were paid through a special taxpayer funded account.

They also opted to make the entire reporting and handling processes simpler and more transparent.

The power of women in office.   The power of #MeToo Movement

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