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  • Moscow, Russia
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Suzanne Lucas was our special guest.

Her Twitter: @RealEvilHRLady

She writes for Inc.com.


[00:00:00] Yegor: Hello everybody. This is Shift-M podcast and an episode with the special guest. We have Suzanne Lucas with us today. And I will ask her to introduce herself.

[00:00:15] Suzanne: Well hi, I’m Suzanne and I write about human resources and business, you can find me anywhere on the Internet by googling “Evil HR Lady”, I’ll pop up or you can google my name, Suzanne Lucas, up to you. I’m easy to find.

[00:00:40] Yegor: Suzanne, my first question is why it’s Evil HR Lady? I think this question was being asked many times, but I do have to ask it.

[00:00:47] Suzanne: Yes, lots of people ask it and it’s because nobody really likes their human resources department. And they always looked on as being a necessary evil. And part of that is just because generally human resources carries out the bad things you know if your boss wants to give you a raise, he doesn’t ask for an HR manager to come in with him to discuss it. But if he wants to fire you he’s going to call the HR person to have her come down. So you know we’re there for the bad news, not for the good news. And then we’re also the masters of paperwork and nobody likes paperwork. So there you go.

[00:01:22] Yegor: So do you really like your work as an HR person or you mostly write and talk and..

[00:01:27] Suzanne: Right now I write and talk and I don’t work for corporate chart anywhere, I used to… I spent 10 years in corporate human resources and then I switched and focused my efforts on writing and speaking and generally trying to influence HR policy for good.

[00:01:57] Yegor: So you are not an evil person anymore?

[00:02:01] Suzanne: No, no.

[00:02:03] Yegor: But you are advocating for them or you’re trying to defend them or on which side are you now?

[00:02:07] Suzanne: Not on a side, you know, I’m not HR vs employees. I am for better jobs for everyone. So that means I’m in favor of good managers. That means I’m in favor of good human resources department. I’m in favor of employees that follow rules and do what they should. So I am on the side of what is best for everyone. And sometimes that means taking the side of the business and sometimes that means taking the side of a human resources department. And sometimes that means taking the side of the employee. But overall if we treat everybody right then our businesses will do better.

[00:02:49] Yegor: Well you said… the subject today it is quite difficult probably to discuss it. We’re going to talk about bullying in the office and making people uncomfortable, let’s put it this way and before we get there, I want to ask the question about something you said just now. You said that good employees are following rules but there are so many coaches and there are so many books saying that if you want to do something really good, you have to go outside of the rules, you have to do something outside of the box, and you know break the system somehow. And that’s how you actually contribute to everything, to the business, to the market, everything. So what you really think we need to do, we need to follow the rules or we need to break the rules?

[00:03:34] Suzanne: It depends on what you mean by a rule. So if there’s a rule that doesn’t make any sense. Yeah that following it doesn’t help you any. But here’s the thing, if it’s really really really important to your boss, that you’re on time to work and you want to be successful at that job, you need to be on time to work. Does that mean that every job, everywhere in the world should operate on a strict schedule? No. But if you want to succeed where you are, you need to pay attention to what your boss wants and what your boss needs. Now it could be that your boss is a complete idiot and that certainly happens, there are many terrible bosses out there. But then you have to decide, do I want to succeed at this job or do I want to move on to something else. And both are perfectly legitimate things to decide. But you have to play by the rules of whatever job you’re in and that changes from job to job. So if you want success you have to figure out what the rules are around that.

[00:04:34] Yegor: And that brings us to the question about bullying. Can you define what bullying is for our listeners?

[00:04:42] Suzanne: Actually a really difficult question and it’s one of the reasons why there don’t tend to be laws against bullying because it’s very difficult to define exactly what bullying is.

[00:05:01] Yegor: Are you googling now?

[00:05:03] Suzanne: I am actually because I read a quote from the Pacer that explains it definitely awesome. “Bullying is when someone is being hurt either by words or actions on purpose, usually more than once” And that’s one definition. But the thing is that so many people see every negative thing as bullying and that’s not bullying. And you know going back to the example of following the rules. So if I’m your boss and we work say at a restaurant and a restaurant is one of those jobs where you have to be on time, you know, you can’t just decide “Oh, I’m going to be late. So we’re going to open late.” You can’t do that. That’s not functional at a restaurant. You know you have customers that are going to come.

[00:05:58] Yegor: Right.

[00:05:59] Suzanne: So you come late and I say “You need to be on time.” Now that’s not bullying, but there are plenty of people out there that say “Oh my gosh she was so mean. She put anger on me, that’s bullying.” And then tomorrow I say the same thing. “You need to be on time. You were late again. And if you’re late one more time I’m going to fire you.” And that sounds mean and harsh and it hurts you feelings, right?

[00:06:28] Yegor: Correct.

[00:06:29] Suzanne: But it’s not bullying, it’s the reality, this job requires you to show up on time. And so any corrections coming is not that. Now if I said you know you’re a stupid horrible person. And just because you’re late that moves us more into the bullying area because I’m not talking about your action, I’m talking about your character, but the reality is you still need to be on time, and to solve that problem, you could show up and then that bullying stops. Now if you start coming on time and I still tell you that your stupid horrible person - then I would define it as bullying, but it’s not always you know black and white. It’s not always easy to see what is and what is not.

[00:07:22] Yegor: But this is something we need to fight with against in our workplaces or is it something which we just need to put up with and live with it the bullying?

[00:07:35] Suzanne: We need to fight against the actual bullying. We need to follow as we said earlier follow the rules that are necessary for that job. But if somebody is purposely undermining you, purposely being mean - that needs to stop and the problem is that generally employees can’t handle it themselves if it’s their manager or their HR manager. And yes, HR managers do bully or take out that are being the bullies and really that starts at senior management because if your boss is a horrible person, it’s her boss that is allowing that to happen, and you as the employee, there are some things that you can do. But really unless her boss is willing to take control of the situation, you’re kind of stuck as an employee and then you have to decide is this job worth it, or should I move on.

[00:08:42] Yegor: But isn’t it inevitable, the bulling part of any management? Well let me redefine and restate it, it seems to me that any management is based on some sort of hierarchical positioning of people. So somebody is staying on the bottom, somebody’s staying on top and that implies by definition, some element of forcing people to do what they don’t want to do. You know at some point it’s really difficult to imagine a company, or a group of people, or a team where everybody’s happy to do what they do because they enjoy it so much and they love each other and it’s a complete peaceful situation. There is some force involved to be there. It’s inevitable and it seems to me that the bullying part is just the word we’re using for this management, for this force part of the management, well do you think so?

[00:09:35] Suzanne: No, I don’t because force is an interesting word. So I am self-employed, right? So I don’t have a boss. But you know what I really hate - sending out invoices. I hate the accounting part. Now do I do it? Yes. Is it necessary as part of my job? Yes. Because otherwise I don’t get paid, but I wouldn’t call it a force thing. You know when I worked in corporate life, there were tasks I didn’t like, everybody had task that they didn’t like, but it’s part of the job. Force is a very strong word. If you want to argue that we should all go through life only doing things that you know bring us direct joy. That sounds great except that no one would ever do the dishes, garbage would pile up everywhere. And pretty soon we’ll all run out of clean underwear. There are things that we do that we don’t love. But I wouldn’t use the word force. We do it because it’s part of the job. A manager doesn’t need to force anybody to do things, a good manager says “This is what needs to get done” and a good employee carries it out. And sometimes those are things that are fulfilling and enlightening and wonderful, and sometimes it’s doing laundry that just you know has to get done, and those things don’t make it bullying, what makes it bullying is if you’re mean about it, you’re taking credit when other people do things, you are lying about people, you’re gossiping about people you are neglecting to give credit to people that have earned it, that kind of behavior has to stop and that has no place, no matter how hierarchical the business is. You can be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and not be a bully because you’re not mean.

[00:11:43] Yegor: You really think it’s possible to be the boss of a big company and not do the things you just mentioned because the things you mentioned, they sound like the definition of politics. This is how people get promoted in the hierarchy by doing exactly those things which are not a good thing at all but it seems that this is how people get up you know.

[00:12:07] Suzanne: But there are things that are necessary to be done. You know if I don’t send out invoices, I don’t get paid. I hate sending out invoices. It’s a pain in the neck but it’s necessary for the company’s success. You know if you are a cashier at a grocery store counting your drawer at the end of the shift is necessary. Is it fun? No. Is it necessary? Yes. It’s not a matter of saying that you can only do fun things that bosses don’t ask people to do things that are unpleasant, they do. But bullying is more of an attitude than a task. Lots of tasks have to get done. That’s why we call it work.

[00:12:47] Yegor: And why the bullying is happening? What do you think? Because the people by nature are evil or because the situation makes them do that?

[00:12:55] Suzanne: I think people are by nature nervous about their own standing in the world. And they find it easier to knock other people down than they do to help other people and to trust that they will get credit where it’s deserved. So if you have a bully that says to the boss “Suzanne isn’t doing her fair share”, the goal there is to get more credit than you are due, to get more reward. So it is kind of that innate, I don’t want to use the word evil but innate selfishness that we all have. Whereas if you’re being kind, you step forward and say “Hey you know this other person did a great job on this”. The risk you take there is that someone else will say “Hey wait. Well the other person is better than you are. Maybe we’ll give that person a promotion.” And so it’s kind of the self protection thing. And sometimes you just have people that are mean and enjoy being mean. And that happens. But it has to stop at the top of an organization. You can’t fix this one from the bottom.

[00:14:19] Yegor: Have you ever seen situations, maybe you can give an example where a bully or a bullying situation has been fixed and resolved and that have been stopped?

[00:14:33] Suzanne: Well absolutely. Matter of fact I had a boss once who was a terrible bully, she used to yell and scream and call people names, and it went on for a very long time. And then she got a new boss and that new boss came in and said “This is done. You’re not going to do this anymore.” And she didn’t stop it. And she was fired. And it solved the problem. And we got a new boss who was amazing and awesome, and productivity in the department went up and our realms of responsibility increased. And it was an amazing department and an amazing place to work. And that was because the big boss stepped in and fired the bully.

[00:15:25] Yegor: Well in this case the solution is to get rid of the bullying. But my question is have you seen a situation where we had a bully and then we did something and the bully converted into a normal person?

[00:15:39] Suzanne: I don’t have a personal experience with that but I certainly have seen cases where people have come to me with things and asking questions on how to do that. And you can. But it requires a lot of work. So what would have had to happen in this situation if my bad boss hadn’t been fired, would be that her boss would have had to work very closely with her and corrected her every time she did something wrong. Sometimes that’s worth it, sometimes it’s not. And that’s what it takes though is this constant correction and a constant calling out of things. But part of the problem with bullying is that a lot of bullies are very good at doing things behind the scenes, and so their boss never sees it, and the human resources department never sees it. They do it very carefully and you can see that starting out in school and years ago, when my daughter was in first grade, there was a girl who was bullying her and I went to the teacher and the teacher said “Ok I’ll keep an eye on it” and a few days later I went back and the teacher said “Well I didn’t see anything” and I said “Well my child has come home with stories.” And she said “Well I stand on the center of the playground and I watch, and I didn’t see this girl pushing your child.” And I said to her “This is not what girls do. How could you be a first grade teacher and not understand.” Of course this girl wasn’t going to push my child in front of the teacher. She wasn’t pushing her anyway. She was saying mean things and the teacher was standing in the center of the playground. She didn’t see it because she wasn’t close enough to hear and it wasn’t until I explain which I shouldn’t have had to explain to a teacher, that “No, you need to listen to what she is saying, you need to be closer to that.” But this girl was smart enough that she didn’t say anything when the teacher was around. And that’s a first grader who can figure that out. A 45 year old has had many-many years to practice. There are secret bullying techniques. And so that can be part of the problem is that people see the victim and think the victim is crazy because the person they’re claiming as a bully has always been perfectly nice to everyone else. Well that’s because bullies are smart. They do it. They behave properly when the boss is around.

[00:18:18] Yegor: Well yeah, that sounds like what’s happening in offices actually.

[00:18:25] Suzanne: And not only in offices.

[00:18:27] Yegor: Yeah but you know what I think about this bullying problem as being a manager, correct me if I’m wrong. I think that those people who we call bullies are not the worst people in the team, they are sometimes pretty active and aggressive in a good way and pretty motivated to do something, but they don’t know exactly how to do that because there are no explicit rules of you know becoming the winner and getting on top of everybody else. And that’s why they’re trying to use other techniques which we don’t like, like the example with the girl in the school. She didn’t know how to win against your daughter, because there were no explicit rules defined by the teacher. And that’s why did they use the techniques and methods which nobody really like which were called bullying. But if the teacher would give her the explicit formula of how you can be the best one, how you can win the position on top of everything else, and in order to do that for example you need to get better scores of your essays of your work. I don’t know what you do in the first grade but you do some formal stuff which everybody will appreciate, and the teacher will say now that girl is number one and that girl is number two and everybody will know the formula like in a sport, you know you don’t need to be a bully when you for example run a marathon. You just there’s no point of being a bully, you just run and run if you win - you win, if you lose - you lose. You can bully everybody around you. But in the end if you are the first one - you’re the first one, and we don’t have the explicit rules in many cases, in many offices and that’s why bullies come out.

[00:20:02] Suzanne: Well I agree with you that that is a huge problem and one of the problems that compounds that is cultural differences. When you’re sitting in Russia, Moscow, and I’m assuming you’re Russian. Yeah. And I’m sitting in Switzerland but I’m American and so just between the two of us we’re dealing with three different cultures right. And some things are just so little and they can cause big problems. And I had an experience where a bunch of Swiss people were complaining about Americans who would overstay their welcome at a party. And I said as an American “Well did you start giving hints that it was time to go like oh goodness it’s been a great evening but it’s getting late.” And they said no. And I saidWell you need to do that.” They’re like “No, the guest does that.” And it turns out that in American manners, the host is the one that indicates that it’s time to end. And in Swiss manners, it’s the guest that indicates that it’s time to go. So since neither person knew what the other was expecting, they both were waiting for the other person to start this “It’s time to go.” And so neither wanted to be rude by bringing it up, but they’re being rude was exactly that they expected behavior that the other person wanted. Does that make sense?

[00:21:35] Yegor: Absolutely.

[00:21:38] Suzanne: And so you know that was just a funny story. But you take that and move that into an office. And I don’t know a lot about Moscow but where I live in Switzerland 30 percent of the population is foreign, non-Swiss. And so in your office you may have you know 10 people and have five different countries represented. And so just trying to manage those different cultures can be very difficult. And if you don’t set out clearly what the company culture is then you’re going to run into those conflicts and you’ll even have the perception that someone is being rude or bullying you when they have the perception that they are following all of the necessary rules. And so I think you’re right that there needs to be a real and clear definition of what success looks like and what proper behavior is in an office, and all of those things. Otherwise people get bent out of shape when something comes up and doesn’t fit in with their expectations. And the problem with culture is that we grow up with the culture and you don’t realize that that’s not how the whole world operates until you move to a new culture. And then you find out that what normal is is purely culture

[00:23:18] Yegor: Yeah, that’s true. That brings us to the question about discrimination actually because I’ve been in this situation once in the office where I saw my manager asked me to interview a guy for a position of a programmer and I did the interview because I also was a technical person at that time. And I did the interview but the guy was from India and the entire team was from Germany, so it was a German company and everybody were like white male there. And the guy came from India and he was Indian and like 15 years older than everybody else in the team. So I did the interview and I told my manager that the guy is good. He was really technically good and competent, but he was obviously older than everybody else. And from a different culture and the manager just told me he’s not a good fit. And that’s it, that’s the answer I got from my manager, I still remember that, and there was in my opinion some sort of discrimination. But the manager was protecting the culture of the team. So if we would bring that person to the team there would all obviously some sort of bullying happen. I don’t know what would happen but what do you think about that kind of discrimination like protecting the culture, but discriminating people who are pretty good technically and potentially competent for the team?

[00:24:33] Suzanne: Well I think that that kind of discrimination is wrong. First of all, just because somebody comes from a different culture doesn’t mean that they can’t fit into a company culture. Secondly, age discrimination is rampant. A few years ago I wrote an article about age discrimination, someone had come and asked me a question about how to work with an older boss, and they had said in their e-mail, you know, I have nothing to talk about with him and I’ve never talked about this person, this is horrible blah blah blah. And so I answered her question and you know I said “You know you need to just look at this as another person and not worry about the age difference.” The picture I chose to accompany the article was a picture of an older man. I got another email from this woman who said you’re undermining your message about age discrimination by showing such an old guy. And she went on to say “I’m 50 I go to the gym three times a week, people think I’m no older than 30, I look great. That’s how it should be. Nobody wants to work with a guy that looks that old.” And she couldn’t see that she was doing exactly what she accused other people of doing, because to her, 50 was not old, and say you shouldn’t discriminate against 50, but this guy who gets probably 70, he’s old he’s okay to discriminate. And she didn’t see it. Likewise you bring in this guy from India to your team and you say “Well we want to keep the culture. Well what do you mean by the culture, you want to keep everybody German, and which they’ve already failed because you’re Russian, right?” You want to keep everybody white male, that’s not culture, that’s skin color. Maybe your culture should be “We work hard, we attain goals. We make quality product. We write quality code or whatever it is you guys did”, then you ask that question”Does this man from India fit into that?” Can he do quality work? Yes. Can he write quality code? Yes. You know that he’s okay for that culture. It’s the idea of skin color or nationality doesn’t make a company culture what company culture is. Do we treat how we treat people? What kind of work do we do? How do we approach work? Do we do things that you know require flexibility or are we really one of those places where everybody is on time and the know has to follow checklist? And while I’m not a checklist people, there are people that are and that thrive in that culture. That being a checklist person versus more of a free spirit isn’t a race thing, it’s not a gender thing, it’s not an age thing, it’s not a sexual orientation thing - it’s a company culture thing. And you can find people of all different categories that will be checklist followers and you can find people in all different categories that will be free spirits, even uptightest people who are uptight. There are some free spirit [00:27:52 inaudible voice] here. You know they do really great in a free spirit environment and would say on a checklist environment. That’s the kind of culture. Not a skin color, not a race, not a gender, not a nationality. And when you start looking at those things, I think that’s a recipe for failure, especially in a global climate. I mean I am sure that mass scale is also very global right now.

[00:28:16] Yegor: Yeah, it’s pretty global but still has a lot of prejudice against racism, color and sex and everything, we see it here as in many other places and that’s my next question comes from there. Don’t you think that this discrimination and hostility and xenophobia is something which we naturally have in our brains because we’re you know by definition we’re sort of animals and we are always trying to define who is a friend, who’s an enemy. And we need that for survival you know in the wild, we don’t live in the wild now, but still we inherit that from animals and we need to define who is our friend, who’s our family, who is our enemy. So by looking at the person, if I see that the person is a different color that automatically triggers me inside me that he’s not one of us. And even though we are now civilized people and we definitely understand him he is one of us, because he lives in the same country, he speaks the same language, he writes the same Java code, I don’t know. But you know our animals inside us tell us that that potentially is an enemy. So be on alert. And that’s where it comes all these negative discrimination things. Don’t you think so?

[00:29:34] Suzanne: I think there’s definitely a trend right now, not a trend. There definitely is something to that. And if you look at evolutionary biologists you’ll see that they have studied that. One of the things that they’ve found is that people can generally only really know 100 people and otherwise you know everybody else is kind of a stranger. And so then you have to make that judgment who looks like me, who is separated into my neighborhood or whatever. And it also allows us to be nervous of the other. And in ancient societies that served us well. And you lived in small villages and you knew everybody and so somebody coming from the outside, you didn’t trust because they weren’t part of your group and you didn’t know what they were bringing and a lot of times they were bringing war or they were bringing disease. And that was something that you know people came from other villages and brought you diseases that were new to you and that can be devastating so people are actually nervous about other things. In today’s society, we don’t live in a small village with a hundred people in it. We live in huge cities and we see thousands of people on a daily basis. I mean I ride public transportation. I don’t own a car. So every day if I get on a tram or the bus I’m going to see people but I don’t know. And so that’s a very different life than we lived thousands of years ago. And our brains haven’t quite up to that. And this is one of the reasons why it’s so critical that we teach our children that everybody is equal and that we don’t judge people by their skin color or their accent or whatever because it is ingrained in us. And I always say people say you know little kids are never racist, that’s taught. I think that’s absolutely false. I think little kids are naturally scared of things that are different than they are. And if you look at a school class they will find a reason to pick on one of the kids. And if one kid has a different skin color than all the other kids that’s an easy thing to pick on. It’s everybody’s the same skin color, they’ll find something else, someone else is too tall, someone else is too short, someone else you know dresses funny. There’s always going to be this thing with children trying to as you said figure out who they are, and as such they’ll find someone that’s different than them and gang up on that person. It’s our job as adults to stop that behavior in kindergarten and if we can stop that behavior in kindergarten, hopefully, when these kids grow up and go into the working world, they won’t see the man from India and say “Oh he won’t fit our culture.” They will say “Oh he’s a really good programmer. Let’s bring him on board.”

[00:32:34] Yegor: That sounds like a really great definition of the future. But don’t you think that by suppressing the kid’s natural desire to define who is with them and who is against them, like you just said, I definitely like the example, I agree. I remember my school time that we definitely were trying to find you know who doesn’t look like we are, who doesn’t behave like we are, doesn’t dress like we are, and you know to define groups and understand who is against who. And if we suppress that desire in our children and we tell them that don’t do this definition, don’t try to discriminate and define groups and find enemies. Maybe we ruin their fundamental interest for the competition, for becoming better, for winning something and they will grow up like nobodies. They will grow up with no ambition, they will grow up like if the thing that everybody’s a friend with everybody and there’s no friends, no enemies, then there will be no motivation for them to fight for a better world, for improvement.

[00:33:38] Suzanne: I don’t think you want to tell everybody that everyone’s a friend but that we don’t choose our friends based on the superficial things. You know you can teach them success. Someone still gets the high score on the math test. I actually think that’s important, that’s something that schools don’t like to do anymore. They don’t want everybody to know your grade but I think that it can actually be beneficial to know where you stand, and you know what you need to do to get ahead like you were saying earlier. I don’t mean that we should purposely torture kids because some kids are going to do as well in general, but having people have an understanding of what it takes for success is important. The important thing is to separate out the things that are important to them, the things that are not important. Skin color not important national origin not important. Hair color not important. Important how well you do on an exam? Yes. Important how you treat other people - that’s important. Those things we want to teach people to look for and do we need to focus on having an enemy and that’s one of the things that really can bring people together is having the same enemy. I’m not a big fan of that, you know you look at sports and people live and die based on their sports team. But then after the game is over you’re still friends with people who had a different sports team and I think that’s something that you know kind of should be emulated in the rest of life. Now just while the game is on, I’m cheering for this team, you’re cheering for that team. But as soon as the game is over we’re back to being on the same side.

[00:35:33] Yegor: Right. So it sounds like we blame the teacher for the bullying kids, right?

[00:35:38] Suzanne: Yeah we should always blame the teachers and the parents. No! You know teachers have a really hard job and you could not pay me enough money to teach you know second grade. It would be horrible. It’s really-really hard and they’re dealing not only with the kids, but they’re dealing with the parents and parents come with all sorts of different attitudes too and there’s a kid in my son’s class who is he always tells me stories about this kid. He’s a little bit obnoxious. And I met his mother on back to school night. And she was wearing a T-shirt that said “I’m no angel” on it. And I thought “Ok, you are definitely this child’s mother”. Whatever she was. Her personality was influencing her son and it was probably also genetic, you know just this kid is a very in your face kind of a kid and that can be genetic, as well as a personality thing. And she was obviously very much you know “Hi, here I am, I’m not going to make any allowances for anybody else. I’m no angel”, the teacher has got to deal not only with that kid but with the personality and prejudices and biases of the parent. That’s a really hard job. A really hard job. And the other thing is you can teach all day long that if somebody doesn’t wish to learn and doesn’t wish to make the changes, no amount of teaching will change that they have to want to do it from within. So I don’t blame teachers. I don’t even blame parents for adults. I only blame themselves. You know no matter what your childhood was, you can decide if you want to be nice or not.

[00:37:50] Yegor: But people want to win in the office. I’m trying to get back to the office situation. Let’s say I’m a programmer so I get the new team and I get a new company. I want to win the competition. Somehow I don’t want to stay on the bottom of the entire hierarchy, I want to be promoted eventually, I want to be respected. I want to earn something for myself and if I don’t see the rules, if I don’t see how this competition can be won, then I start bullying people around me naturally, because that’s the only technique I still have left in my toolbox.

[00:38:29] Suzanne: Right. Which is why as you said at the beginning, we need to go and make sure that we have clear rules and clear expectations of what is acceptable and what success looks like. And part of that is it’s got to be really clear on the difference between doing and managing. Generally in business culture we consider managers as higher than the individual contributors. That said you’re a technical person and I can tell you right now that there are some tech people out there that should earn a heck of a lot more money than their managers do because they’re far more productive and they are being better success to the company and all that, but they don’t manage other people that don’t tend to reward people that way. We tend to reward them based on managing, but we never really define what it takes to become a manager to move up that ladder. And so people think “Well I am the best coder on the team so I should get the promotion.” But if your personality is such that you’re not any good at managing other people you’re not really the person that should be managing. Should you be rewarded financially for being the best coder? Absolutely. But we need to make it clear that when we’re promoting to a management position, we’re not only looking for technical skills. We’re looking for personality skills and management skills. All of them can be taught. But you have to be willing to learn them. And a lot of times companies aren’t willing to teach those things.

[00:40:07] Yegor: That’s right. And can we know at the beginning, when we just hire, this is the question for the HR part of your profile, can you tell a person, when the person just shows up for the interview that there is a potential bully in front of us, or the person will behave more properly?

[00:40:28] Suzanne: If I had a technique for that, I would package it and sell it and then I’d be really rich. You know, hiring is a real skill. And one of the problems that we have in business is that most managers don’t hire all that much. You know if you’ve got a team of five, which is a pretty standard size for a team, you maybe will have one person quit every other year. So you’re hiring one person every two years. That gives you no chance to really learn what you’re doing. And another problem that we have is in a lot of companies recruiting is seen as an entry level HR job. So you have a lot of 22 and 23 year holds doing their recruiting. Well they don’t know anything. Sorry, you’re just you don’t, at that age you don’t understand the business you don’t understand what makes a good hire and what makes a bad hire, because you don’t have the experience behind it. So when you have a 22 year old recruiter and a manager that hires one person every two years, then it’s no surprise that we get bad hires. It’s actually surprise that we get good hires.

[00:41:46] Yegor: So there is no room you would not get any recommendations for the 22 years old hire manager?

[00:41:55] Suzanne: Everybody needs to start out somewhere and learn things. But as long as you’re 22 year old is being trained by someone with experience, then that’s great. The problem is when you have an entire department of inexperienced people and I don’t mean to sound like age discrimination but there are things that just take time to learn, and you’re not going to know them on your first job. Do we expect that people will make mistakes of their first jobs? Absolutely. Do we expect that people will make mistakes on their tenth job? Absolutely. But the question is is there a manager that can help guide and develop and help the person learn. And if there is, then that’s going to be okay. But if there’s not, if we just throw that person to the winge, then we cross our fingers and hope for the best. And it may or may not work out. We need to acknowledge that hiring is difficult. That hiring is a skill and that we need to teach that skill to managers. If we do that we can definitely increase our good hire to bad hire ratio. The other thing that we need to do is do a lot more with references and I don’t know how things are in Russia, and in Switzerland when you leave a job, your boss writes a letter that suppose to be a reference that they’re frequently negotiated and not very clear on what actually what kind of employee you actually were. In the United States, references are done via a telephone and a lot of companies have policies against giving references out because they don’t want to be sued, because Americans we like to sue people. And as a result you don’t necessarily know what happened with this person on their previous job, and even with a good reference, that doesn’t mean anything, or bad reference if you don’t know the person giving it. Because how do I know that the person giving me the reference wasn’t the problem. You know you could say this was a terrible employee, but it might have been that the manager was actually the terrible one. You know it’s impossible to know. So that’s where networking becomes really important and helpful in hiring because then you know people that know the person that you’re hiring and can give you an honest outside opinion on that, but then you come to that problem that you mentioned earlier when you interviewed the man from India, your German staff is going to know other Germans, and they’re not going to know the guy from India. Because we tend to group [00:44:46 inaudible voice] each other. So while networking can really help you get a quality higher. It also necessarily excludes people that you don’t know otherwise. And so that can be bad. In other words, this is a really complicated and not easy to solve. Sorry.

[00:45:07] Yegor: Okay. But I’m more interested in the situation in the interview room and I can tell by myself, by my own experience and by the experience of people who I talk to sometimes other programmers, they say that if they behave direct and let’s say aggressively or more pushy in the interview room, then chances to get a job are lower. So hiring managers and potential managers they just put them in the in the category of potential gurus, because they are being direct and being explicit about the facts they say and about things they say and do, when they are trying to keep their mouth shut and don’t say too many things and blue and always be polite and always trying to be correct, then the chances of getting hired are higher especially in California now, especially in the world where you know political correctness is the way more important than your job skills program.

[00:46:13] Suzanne: That is true and I don’t ever want to work in California. But you also have a problem with bias against women. Man can be seen as more direct and that seems as a positive thing. And woman that is direct is seen as a negative thing, and I’ll say a lot the same scale as the same personality but you switch the gender and suddenly a positive becomes a negative. There is a new study out just this week that talks about how in order to succeed at work women have to be nice and men don’t have to and that I think everybody should be nice. I think the takeaway from that is “men should be nice”. But the other takeaway from that is simply that we treat people differently and we have different expectations of what people should be like, and then we punish people who don’t act in the way that we expect and that can be with gender, it can be with race, it can be with national origin. It can be a sexual orientation and it’s not as if somebody would say oh I don’t want to hire women. They would just say “I expect women to behave this way” and actually I wouldn’t say it’s all subconscious, you just expect the women to behave that one way. And when she’s not and you take that as a negative and the same way with men. And actually when I say I think everybody should be nice there’s probably some argument to be made that a man being nice would actually be against what people expect of him and could damage his career as well. So yeah I’m sorry, I don’t have any big solutions for you. I can just tell you that there are lots of problems.

[00:47:55] Yegor: You have [00:47:55 inaudible voice].

[00:47:56] Suzanne: Sorry. I’ve run out of solutions.

[00:48:00] Yegor: But let’s discuss the global vision of what’s happening now. Like I said it seems to me that big corporations now especially in America where big corporations are paying a lot of attention right now to do the piece inside the office. And when piece is good in general but it seems to me that extra attention to that and trying to resolve all possible conflicts between different people, men and women, older and younger is actually giving us more damage than the benefits. Don’t you think so?

[00:48:42] Suzanne: Well I think that we’ve lost the ability to disagree with each other and still be friends. And I sometimes hang out on Twitter which I probably shouldn’t because it’s bad for your brain. You know you say I think the sky is blue and somebody comes back at you and says well no it’s gray where I am. And then this big fight happens and we’ve lost this ability to argue points and to argue with facts. We worry way too much about feelings and once you get feelings involved, then you start having people talking about being bullied. And the thing is that facts are neutral. And nobody should be offended by a fact that people are and they get upset about it. And it is detrimental. So I’d really like to see a return to focusing on facts and focusing on we can disagree about the best way to carry out this project, but we all want the project to succeed. So you know we’re going to come to an agreement and then we’re going to go forward and whatever the agreement is even if it’s not my best choice. You and I have agreed on it. So we’re gonna go forward now and we need to learn how to do that again. And I don’t know how to bring that back especially in the United States where it seems like the society is becoming so divided. Everybody spends all their time worrying about saying something because they’re going to offend somebody and then there’s going to be a screaming all caps you know yelling on Twitter again. We don’t need that. We need to be able to discuss ideas and plans and be friends afterwards and we’re moved far away from that.

[00:50:43] Yegor: Yeah I totally agree with that, but that’s the general fight against this bullying in the office and harassment and discrimination and all the stuff which are bad by when we see the extremes forms on them. But the general fight against them seem to like you said to destroy our ability to have arguments in the office, to disagree with our co-workers and to defend our positions. Now we are afraid to do that, we’re afraid to say that I disagree with you because that might look like a bullying, because that may look like I’m being a negative person, and that may cause some lawsuits in the entire corporation. And the big corporations are trying to get rid of those of people who are being a little bit more negative than neutral level completely agreeing with everything what’s happening.

[00:51:34] Suzanne: I agree that we need to be able to argue and discuss and just agreeing with everybody isn’t very helpful.

[00:51:50] Yegor: Where are we moving? That’s my question. So what’s going to happen in 20 years, in 50 years?

[00:51:56] Suzanne: In 50 years? I don’t know! Right now I think we’re moving out of a very bad path. Where we’re becoming more divided as a society because we are losing the ability to argue politely and if we don’t do something to stop that, I think that that will have a more fractured world. And I think that’s going to be really problematic.

[00:52:29] Yegor: But what do we do to solve that, I mean, to prevent that from happening?

[00:52:42] Suzanne: [inaudible voice]

[00:52:46] Yegor: Sorry, say it again, I lost it for a second.

[00:52:50] Suzanne: Everybody should read everything that I write and follow it.

[00:52:54] Yegor: Well yeah that makes sense.

[00:52:59] Suzanne: I would like to see people going back to having formal debate classes at school, at university, where you don’t know until you show up for the competition which side of the debate you’re going to have to be on. And that helps people learn about facts and stay away from feelings. And we need to focus more on facts and less on feelings.

[00:53:30] Yegor: Well, you know, people are saying that when I read a lot of books about that, that actually our decisions and the majority of our decisions are being made driven by emotions, not by facts. We are by definition quite irrational creatures so we are not making our decisions because of the logic, we just follow our intuition, we follow our emotions and that’s how it should be. You know scientists say.

[00:53:44] Suzanne: Power intuition?

[00:53:46] Yegor: Yeah that’s what they say, this is how we behave normally. And maybe that’s how the business should manage us based on our emotions and feelings instead of objective facts and all that stuff.

[00:53:58] Suzanne: I don’t buy that for instant, based on facts, but let’s have reality here people and let’s deal this way with reality. And you know let’s all be kind. I’m always in favor of kindness but we don’t ignore facts because we don’t like them, because they don’t set our own personal narrative.

[00:54:22] Yegor: And are you a rational person or irrational more?

[00:54:26] Suzanne: I like to think very rational.

[00:54:30] Yegor: Even though you’re a woman.

[00:54:59] Suzanne: Yes, it’s a stereotype. I am rational and I’m very logical and I got a perfect score on the logical reasoning section of the jury.

[00:54:51] Yegor: People you know tend to think that women are more irrational and more into like more driven by intuition, and men are more driven by facts and logic that’s what they say. So it’s a stereotype, yeah.

[00:55:01] Suzanne: It’s a stereotype. Talking about stereotypes, they tend to have some basis in fact. But you have to make sure that you understand the difference between a population and a person. Overall women work fewer hours per week than men do. The average woman works fewer hours than the average man. That doesn’t mean that I work fewer hours than you work. But the overall population is that overall women prefer temporal flexibility. They prefer to have a more flexible schedule than men do. Does that mean that every woman prefers that? No. So that’s one of the things that you have to be concerned about especially in hiring and managing is that you may know what the average population is, but you can’t apply the average population to the individual. We need to treat each individual as their own person and not say “Well you’re a woman, so therefore you must be more feelings driven.” I am a woman. I am not more feelings driven.

[00:56:18] Yegor: Well look, but if you are… Yeah, that’s right. But look if I’m a hiring manager and I need to hire let’s say a person who will need to work with fax and do some analytical work. And I know I have a stereotype which exists and I know that women in general tend to be better with emotions and intuitions and I know that men work with fax better, and now I have a line of candidates for the interviews. So why can’t I use the stereotype and say “Look, I know that the chances of getting a man with analytical skills are better or higher.” So why can’t they just say “You know only men are invited for this job. No women please.”

[00:57:02] Suzanne: Because you are missing out on some great analytical women like…

[00:57:07] Yegor: Yeah, absolutely, I know, but my chances still mathematically are higher because I just filter out the potentially not the category which is a less fit. You know, not as good as… potentially.

[00:57:21] Suzanne: You’re not wrong, and that’s one of the reasons why you can have things such as paid maternity leaves actually reduce the number of women in the workforce because companies say “Oh my gosh, she’s 25 and married. She’s going to want to have a baby. I don’t want to hire that person. I should have someone else.” It’s illegal in the United States. I don’t know about the laws in Russia or actually what’s going on into laws in Switzerland, I should probably find out. In the United States that’s illegal. Does not mean it doesn’t happen? No, of course it happens, because you look at it statistically and you think “I really need someone that I know is going to be there in the future and it’s far more likely that Jane is going to have a baby and want to take that long maternity leave. So I’m going to hire Harold because it’s likely that even if Harold’s wife has a baby, he’s only going to want to take two weeks”.

[00:58:20] Yegor: Exactly. Well I know it’s illegal, definitely, absolutely, but I’m thinking, I’m just asking about your opinion for being a hiring manager so my question is that… I don’t know even my question.

[00:58:36] Suzanne: Should you do it? No, you should not. Not just because it’s illegal, because like I pointed out, I have a very analytical logical person, and if you said “I’m just going to reject all women.” Well you’re going to reject me and you’re going to miss out because I’m awesome.

[00:58:50] Yegor: So the stereotyping doesn’t make sense, right, doesn’t help you as you’re saying.

[00:58:56] Suzanne: It doesn’t help your out. And the thing is that people will self select as well. I am not going to apply for a job that I think I will be really awful at. So you can’t rest assured that the people applying for the job at least have interest and think that they are capable of doing that job. So if you’re looking for a highly analytical job, and a women applies to it, you can rest assured that she is an analytical type. So don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about gender, don’t worry about race, cause if you’re all caught up on stereotypes and I can get you stereotypes about Russian, you could give me stereotypes about Americans, and some of them might be really funny and some might be offensive.

[00:59:54] Yegor: Well I can give a counterexample probably, we can say that for example people who are taller than 6 feet have more analytical skills, for example, we can take like a million people and calculate the statistics and definitely we will find some correlation with the height of the person and analytical skills. But that will be just silly to filter out shorter people because we just think that statistically there are 5 percent more of them have analytical skills or so. So there will be just on big numbers that work. If we need to hire a million people, that would make sense. We can say “You know we need a million analytics” and in that case we tend to go for men more because on the big number, on the million people, definitely, the correlation will exist. But if we need just two people, that big numbers will not apply, that will not make sense.

[01:00:41] Suzanne: Right. There you go. But even if you’re hiring a million people, you would be missing out a lot of excellent analytical people if you’re just limited too.

[01:00:54] Yegor: Yeah but in that case will not worry about that because we need a huge number of them and we just know that on a million people we definitely will find more, taller people will have better skills and shorter people for example, or blond people will be more analytical than people with dark hair. Let’s hire blond people. A million blond people because we know that in a million people like 3 percent more of them will have more skills, okay, let’s do it.

[01:01:22] Suzanne: Your German pals would like that.

[01:01:27] Yegor: I don’t know, but on big numbers it maybe will make sense, I don’t know. But I’m also in general against that discrimination, that sort of discrimination because in our company we work on a completely different side of the office problem, we hire everybody and we don’t even care, we don’t even ask for the gender or the color of the skin and everything because all people in our company, they work remotely and we don’t know who they are. We just hire them by objectively looking at their like professional skills, like the Java coding skills, programming skills. So in some cases we don’t even know who is in front of us, if it’s a woman or a man. So we are completely against, we’re not only saying that we’re against discrimination, we’re doing that, so we’re not even asking that questions.

[01:02:12] Suzanne: And that’s awesome and that’s one of the things that you can do when you have remote workers and you have highly technical workers, because yeah, there’s no need to care how someone dresses or how they interact with co-workers or whatever, if they’re all going to be sitting in their bathrobes at home working. Who cares. And that’s awesome. I’m very glad to hear that.

[01:02:37] Yegor: And we are also solving the problem with bullying by defining explicit rules of the competition, so we give people an exact specific formula of how to become a better programmer, how to be more appreciated in the team. You don’t need to bully your friend, you don’t need to actually compete with your coworker on some psychological or emotional level. You just compete by the quality of code you deliver, if you deliver better code, you’re better. That’s it. No discussions. We’re not going to look at how you behave. We only look at your results and some people actually get offended by that approach, you’ll be surprised. Yeah but some people are saying we’re not monkeys like that, we’re not like cogs in the engine. We don’t want to be treated like that. We want our emotions to be appreciated. We want to be like people in the office and we want to talk to each other and we want you to know who I am - a woman or a man.

[01:03:33] Suzanne: Well you know what, you can’t ever make everyone happy, can you?

[01:03:38] Yegor: True. No, we can’t. Yeah, that’s true, but this is our situation. Sometimes it troubles us as well because you know sometimes people are saying that our approach which is like I said very formal and very rules oriented is against what they would expect in many other companies where…

[01:04:03] Suzanne: Yeah there’s lots of other companies that are much more, I don’t know, free with that. But I agree with you that knowing strictly what the rules are, help people to succeed. And it also helps them to know if this is a place that they want to stay. There’s no reason why you need to stay in a company that you don’t like. You know what, there are millions of different jobs out there and especially as we become more global, there’s even more opportunities to go around the world and work with different things. Find something that fits you and what you like and then your life is better. A lot of people take their relationship with their job more seriously than with their spouse. They’re like I can get divorced no problem, but quit a job? No! You know that’s kind of ridiculous, but anyway.

[01:05:02] Yegor: Okay,thanks for the discussion, it was really interesting for me.

[01:05:03] Suzanne: You’re welcome, it was lovely.

[01:05:04] Yegor: Okay. Have a good day then.

[01:05:05] Suzanne: You too!

[01:05:07] Yegor: Bye bye.

[01:05:08] Suzanne: Bye.

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