All the personal data that Verizon FiOS uses to keep you from canceling

Alex W.:

not unexpected…same type of thing can occur with opentable

Originally posted on Quartz:

When you call Verizon FiOS, the customer service representative on the other end of the line already knows quite a lot about you.

The American television and internet provider is now closely tracking exactly what you watch, what devices you use, and how much data you consume. It knows whether your household spars over DVR conflicts and how many hours your kids spend binge-watching shows on HBO.

What’s more, the company is listening in on phone calls to customer service in real-time, with supervisors poised to jump at the moment they sense a fight brewing or hear trigger words from an unhappy customer, such as “switching to Time Warner Cable.”

In a presentation at a meetup of data enthusiasts in New York City, Verizon executive Mahmoud El Assir detailed what happens behind the scenes when customers call into the Verizon FiOS help line. It’s part of the company’s efforts to stay ahead of competitors in the increasingly fierce battle over TV and…

View original 259 more words

Dick Grote, Forced Distribution, and the EEOC Compliance Manual: Forced Distribution Must Show Compliance with All Civil Rights Laws and Regulations

Forced Ranking, its main apologist is Dick Grote, is a blunt management tool, one that does not work in an imperfect world. When imperfect human beings, named as managers, deign themselves to be perfect judges of “performance” by virtue of their position and power over other human beings, the result must be tragedy. See, for example, the Vanity Fair article on Microsoft or read the many articles on the failures of Enron.

This tragedy is compounded with the United States of America’s greatest shame and weakness–chattel slavery of African Americans and all of the negative results visited on those human beings considered as mere property and their descendants. The United States has barely started the recovery process on this indelible stain on the society and its governmental institutions, yet careful and conscientious observers witness consistent backsliding on true equal opportunity. Such weakness is magnified greatly with reckless use of forced distribution, with all of the negatives of the terrible procedure, such as

  • being emotionally abused through unchecked abuse of power,
  • finding new paying work,
  • having to explain the firing in neutral terms repeatedly in interviews with potential employers, and
  • losing access to money to pay for life’s necessities (food, shelter, and clothing) for oneself and his or her family.

All of the bulleted items (above) are thrown onto the target (the so-called poor performer, c-bucket employee) who does not know of the extent of the management’s wicked actions in “calibration” meetings.

Grote, in his writings (analyzed on this blog) on forced distribution, never directly considers the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Compliance Manual and its effect on the use of forced distribution in the workplace. Obliquely, there is one example, that I contrast with an example from the EEOC’s Compliance Manual (below). Employers must be aware, however, that all aspects of processes affecting employees must be without bias.

Dick Grote Quote Equal Employment Opportunity Compliance Manual
“But what if a company’s forced ranking procedure, honestly and objectively done, reveals that the blacks or women or disabled employees just aren’t as talented as the white ones? Should they do what some Harvard professors are said to do and award A’s to all the blacks, just to keep them from squawking?” (Grote, page 4 (a quote from a previous post)).

(Note: Consider this statement from Grote with the ever-present and persistent legacy of slavery and Jim Crow subjugation in the United States of America.)

2. Performance Evaluations

Performance evaluations frequently serve as the basis for numerous other employment decisions, such as pay, promotions, and terminations. They should be unaffected by race bias.

EXAMPLE 23 PERFORMANCE EVALUATIONS

Daniel is a customer service representative, and the only African American in his unit. Until recently he has received uniformly stellar performance ratings, received performance awards, and earned a good reputation among his customers and colleagues.

Things began to change, however, when a new supervisor was assigned a year ago to manage his unit. While Daniel had long been rated one of the best employees, the new supervisor began rating Daniel as below average, which has affected Daniel’s quarterly bonuses.

He files a charge alleging race discrimination. A review of the performance evaluations of Daniel and others in his unit reveals that while Daniel’s overall performance rating has dropped markedly, the ratings of his counterparts have gone up. Significantly, on the most objective part of his performance evaluation – “quantity of results,” which measures the number of accounts serviced – Daniel was rated below average when in actuality he serviced more accounts than persons with higher ratings in this performance category. In addition, there is evidence that the supervisor undermined Daniel’s professional standing with customers – for example, by taking over meetings Daniel was supposed to lead, and refusing to correct a customer’s clearly mistaken belief that Daniel was responsible for an error. This treatment is markedly different than that of Daniel’s colleagues.

The investigation reveals no evidence of a nondiscriminatory reason – such as a pure personality clash (i.e., one not rooted in the alleged bias)(147) – that explains Daniel’s treatment. There is reasonable cause to believe Daniel’s performance evaluations, and thus his pay, were racially discriminatory.(148)

Federal Reserve Board: Richard Shelby, Chairman of Senate Banking Committee Issues Discussion Draft on “The Financial Regulatory Improvement Act of 2015″; Provisions Amending the Federal Reserve Act Interesting

On May 12, 2015, Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), Chairman of the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, released a discussion draft titled “The Financial Regulatory Improvement Act of 2015.”

The portion of the discussion draft that caught my attention was title V, where Sen. Shelby proposes a number of amendments to the Federal Reserve Act.

Attached to this article is the draft text of the proposed bill as well as the Senate Banking Committee’s section-by-section analysis.

Futility of “Colorblindness”: Use of the Word “Thug” Is One of Dehumanization When It Crosses the Color Line

In Baltimore on April 27, 2015, the city police closed the Maryland Transportation Authority’s subway station and bus stop, located close to the Mondawmin Mall. Yet, there were many students and other travelers coming to that place, a major transit area, to go home or other places. The people were stuck in that place without being able to leave. An incident occurred, with property damage.

However, on the same day, was the funeral for Mr. Freddie Gray, who died of injuries sustained while in police custody (the specifics of which is being investigated as of the date of this post). The incident was seen as a result of frustration for the lack of answers for the death of Mr. Gray, but it seems that the incident was separate from Mr. Gray and a direct result of police blocking transit passengers from getting to their buses and subway trains.

An issue has developed as to how the incident is being characterized, namely by the use of the word “thug.” W.E.B. Du Bois in “The Souls of Black Folk” had written about the color line, the very different perceptions of life (and context applied to words) between members of the White society and the non-White societies.

The long history and continuing practice of Black subjugation and dehumanization does not permit for any ambiguity in words, such as for the word thug, once used liberally to discuss the incident in Baltimore on April 27. The situation was already charged with all of the events going on in the city before, on, and after that particular day. It is preferable to deal with the property damage and those that caused it with dispassion, just like the persons with authority have asked people to do while investigating police action around Mr. Gray, which lead to his death.

More specifically, the people causing the damage should be dealt with as human beings that made a wrong decision and allow them to have the ability for redemption and to repair the damage caused to other’s property and to themselves. Careless use of the dehumanizing words like thug needlessly inflame passions and continue to demonstrate the United States’ systemic dehumanization of non-White people.

While condemning others for undesirable acting out of frustration, several politicians conducted themselves in a similar way by generous denial of humanity to people that they criticized.

  • President Barack Obama, April 28, 2015, statement (bold by the blog author): “My understanding is, is you’ve got some of the same organizers now going back into these communities to try to clean up in the aftermath of a handful of criminals and thugs who tore up the place.  What they were doing, what those community leaders and clergy and others were doing, that is a statement.  That’s the kind of organizing that needs to take place if we’re going to tackle this problem.  And they deserve credit for it, and we should be lifting them up.” (Use of the word defended by the White House, April 29, 2015. Of note, Josh Earnest, the President’s press secretary, suggested the dictionary definition, but with the color-line area in the United States of America, clarity, and universally acceptable definitions is far more important. If the White House cannot accept a differing perspective on this issue, one can imagine the uphill battle necessary to change a social structure causing so many to suffer because of not belonging to the social majority group in the United States.)
  • Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake used the word but later clarified her remarks (in sum, treating those that committed errors as human beings).

A member of the Baltimore City Council, Carl Stokes, disagreed with a CNN’s Erin Burnett, stating that thug is shorthand for the N word. (Author’s note: Differing underlying worldviews of Stokes and Burnett are on display in this short interaction. Conflict over definition also lead to an odd situation of CNN personality, Ashleigh Banfield (White), trying to tell a Black person, Mr. Stokes, why use of the N word is wrong (when it is solely applied to Black people)). It is the reason why mere dictionary definition of the word thug is insufficient for the understanding needed for true equality to be placed in practice.)

Federal Reserve Board (OIG Report 2015-MO-B-006): Number of Black Employees in All Other Pay Grades Fell during Period of 2011 to 2013; Reason for the Decline is Unclear

This post contains an additional observation of the audit report of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Federal Reserve Board, 2015-MO-B-006. (Previous posts on the OIG report are located elsewhere on the blog.)

In Table C-2 of the OIG report (page 65), despite the total number of employees increasing at the Board during the 2011-2013 period, the Black employees in the All Other pay grade category fell 34 positions total during the same period. The reason for the decline is also unclear, but it is a result that requires a full explanation.

There were small increases in the higher pay grades for Black employees. It is unclear whether the increase came from promotions or external hiring. It is interesting to note that the Blacks, All Others category (2012 and 2013), lost 18 positions, but the gain in the mid-level (11) and senior managers (7) totaled 18. This result left the total number of Black employees the same.

Since all job classes are combined, it is unclear what job classes were affected.

Black/African American Permanent Board Employees, Table C-2, 2011-2013
2011 2012 2013
Total Black/African American employees 567 573 573
All other pay grades, FR-16 to FR-25 434 418 400
Mid-level professional pay grades, FR-26 to FR-28 106 125 136
Senior managers and officers pay grade, FR-29 to FR-00 27 30 37
Total employees of the Federal Reserve Board 2187 2279 2353
Source: FRB OIG Audit Report 2015-MO-B-006, page 65.

Federal Reserve Board (OIG Audit 2015-MO-B-006): Performance Ratings Differences Wrongly Diminished; Board’s New Performance Management Approach May Be Based on Grote Approach and Fierce Conversations

I have reviewed a report by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Federal Reserve Board (Board) [The Board Can Enhance Its Diversity and Inclusion Efforts, Audit Report 2015-MO-B-006], and I am disappointed with the weakness of investigatory probing in the part of the report discussing the Board’s performance management policy. Specifically, I question the independence of the OIG when the OIG is following the Board’s performance management policy, yet the OIG does not describe the program in its audit report.

Moreover, the position of the Board’s Chief Operating Officer, Don Hammond, does not inspire confidence. Rather than addressing any signs of unfair and inequitable workplace practices, he makes arguments to defend the status quo. A status quo that includes Artis v. Bernanke (or Yellen) and Robert Auerbach’s observations.

In addition, Mr. Hammond focuses on job level measures, yet ignores that the Board’s policy is implemented on an agency level (in 2011-2013 and after that period). As such, the agency level measures (between Whites and African Americans as well as between Whites and Asians) are relevant measures and need to be further studied and addressed.

Statement of Don Hammond, Federal Reserve Board Chief Operating Officer

Glassdoor.com Review

With respect to the more relevant job level analysis [performed by an independent consultant, see Appendix E of the OIG audit report], the independent consultant concluded that there is no trend of statistically significant differences between White and African American performance ratings when the data are analyzed at the job level. (OIG report, page 100 (carryover paragraph)) (Emphasis (in bold) by blog author.)

[Author’s note: However, the independent consultant did find statistically significant differences at the agency level between Whites and African Americans and between Whites and Asians. (OIG report, Appendix E, page 90 (third full paragraph))

Review submitted 24-August-2013:

I have been working at Federal Reserve Board full-time (more than 3 years)

Doesn’t Recommend Neutral Outlook Disapproves of CEO

Pros

Prestige (for what it’s worth), adjacent to National Mall, OK cafeteria, annual leave, insurance (health, dental, vision), raises available (but if you are not one of the 20% “high performers”, you will tread water economically with low raises with 70% of the staff at the “commendable” (nice way of saying average) level.)

Cons

Performance evaluations (that is, the dreadful so-called PMP) use the forced distribution, or “rank and yank” method. Google it; forewarned is forearmed. A set percentage are given bad reviews, with encouragement to quit. The internal webpage shows no one gets below commendable; do not believe it. The entire performance evaluation system is a true insult to workers who bravely try to meet impossible-to-satisfy expectations. Again, my fellow human beings–beware.

[To employees (current and future): As low-level managers will be taking notes for the PMP on computer, you must make sure to ask for a copy of any managerial documentation with your name on it. If denied, make note of the denial. Also, take assignments, do well on them, write a success list (for your own eyes only) so that you can update your resume and leave at will. Your heart, soul, and mind will thank you when you leave the building for the last time.]

Resistance to necessary change. Just because it worked in 1970 does not mean the exact practice must continue in the Internet era.

Excessive division between PHD and non-PHD staff. PHD staff advances; the rest languish.

Advice to Management

Complete transparency (that is, sunshine) should be standard operating procedure. Employees have a right to know if managers are making adverse decisions about their careers behind closed doors with a outside facilitator.

Forced distribution ultimately will cause systemic failure, requiring congressional attention to fix the mess.

With regard to the Board’s new performance management process, there is no specific description of the plan provided by either the OIG or the Board. However, there is a Glassdoor.com employee review (August 24, 2013) that provides some idea about what the Board may have implemented–A Dick Grote-style system (see Glassdoor.com review in table). If true, this Grote system will provide no improvement; the annual statistical review (OIG recommendation 3 and management response, page 101 of the OIG report) that the Board questions on a cost basis becomes an absolute necessity.

The new performance management process was piloted in five divisions and the OIG for performance year 2013–2014, with full implementation in all Board divisions in the 2014–2015 performance year. The purpose of the new process is to align staff to the work of the Board, provide greater accountability, support the growth of staff, improve the value of time spent, and increase the fairness of the process. In addition, the new process involves frequent conversations between employees and their managers that are designed to develop and grow employees’ capabilities. The Board contracted for the necessary expertise to assist with the program’s implementation, which includes information sessions, tools and guides, training, and other support. [Page 30 of the OIG report] (Emphasis (in bold) by blog author.)

Bucket

 (rank)

Percentage (amounts can be adjusted) Effect
A 20 Lavish rewards, encouragement
B 70 Little to paltry increase
C 10 Pressure to quit or firing

Given the Glassdoor.com review, there is reason to believe that the new performance management process, implemented across the Board (including the OIG), is the Grote Approach. In addition, the conversation method is governed by the Fierce Conversations program. Dick Grote favors forced distribution, a system that does not benefit protected class members. (The forced distribution issue covered in numerous posts in this blog.)

But what if a company’s forced ranking procedure, honestly and objectively done, reveals that the blacks or women or disabled employees just aren’t as talented as the white ones? Should they do what some Harvard professors are said to do and award A’s to all the blacks, just to keep them from squawking?” (Grote, page 4 (a quote from a previous post)).

(Note: Consider this statement from Grote with the ever-present and persistent legacy of slavery and Jim Crow subjugation in the United States of America.)

The general approach of the Grote process is to make the employee responsible for satisfying the whims of the manager. If the employee cannot read their manager’s mind, the employee must quit or be fired.

Unique to Discipline Without Punishment is the final step before an employee’s termination – the Decision Making Leave. The employee is suspended for a day with full pay. On this day he must make a final decision: either solve the problem and commit to fully acceptable performance, or quit and find more satisfying employment somewhere else.

The Grote Approach is summarized below (information from Grote Consulting’s website).

Performance Appraisal

Corrective Action

Callibration

Does everyone know exactly what you expect and exactly how well they’re doing? We can help you create a new performance appraisal system that is simple and effective. Or tune up a worn-out one. And we can train your managers to be masters of performance management. Does your existing corrective action system solve problems, enhance relationships, and build personal responsibility? Does it reflect your organization’s values? Are your managers comfortable holding tough performance improvement conversations? We can help. Calibration systems assure appraisal accuracy, guarantee differentiation, and drive the truth into performance management. We can help you create a successful approach and train your managers and facilitators to use this this deceptively simple procedure skillfully.

WMATA: Search under way for the Next General Manager of DC’s Metro System; Transit Authority Needs Dedicated Revenue Source

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is searching for another General Manager. Finalists from an initial search were released because of a difference of opinion of what type of General Manager (GM) WMATA should have–a “financial turnaround specialist” or a traditional transit executive. A transit executive would be preferable because (1) transit is a public service, not a profit-generating business, and (2) the system is responsible to the welfare of all human beings using or operating the system each day.

I am skeptical of any financial turnaround specialist because the true test for one was in 2008 during the United States financial crisis. None showed up (excepting the Obama Administration), and, thus, I do not expect any candidates for WMATA.

State Amount of Funding
(components are rounded; in millions of dollars)
FY 2010 FY 2011 FY 2012 FY 2013 FY 2014
Maryland 215.6 228.1 246.4 263.6 279.7
District of Columbia 201.6 214.15 233.3 249.1 271.7
Virginia 129.4 129.7 142.2 156.5 181.0
Subtotal subsidy 546.7 572 622 669.2 732.4
Debt service 27.5 48.7 48.7 37 33.0
Audit adj fy 2011 and 2012 -30.5
Total (budgeted) 574.2 620.7 670.7 706.2 734.9
Actual* [630.7] [722.51] [687.02] [711.10]
(6/30/10) (6/30/11) (6/30/12) (6/30/13)

The difficulty with deciding to take the GM job with WMATA remains the same as specified in a previous post. Primarily, WMATA still does not have a dedicated source of revenue. It is interesting that Maryland supports a financial turnaround specialist for WMATA, yet Maryland provides funds for Baltimore’s subway and light rail system. WMATA’s unique financial and political circumstances make WMATA a challenge, one most incumbents only keep the job for about 3-4 years, excepting Richard White. Even with the challenges, there should be transit executives willing to accept the GM job, well aware of the high stakes (and potentially short-term nature) of the job.

Passenger Fares and Parking Fees
(rounded; in millions of dollars)
FY 2010 FY 2011 FY 2012 FY 2013
Budgeted 702.7 789.5 767.7 874.0
Actual* 727.8 (6/30/10) 804.5 (6/30/11) 816.7 (6/30/12) 856.8 (6/30/13)
*Actual amount comes from Metro’s statement of revenues, expenses, and changes in net assets. This statement does not identify parking fee revenue; I used the total revenue amount in the table.

The financial statements are not yet available for 2014, and the ridership numbers are estimated for 2013. However, I have updated information for WMATA as it was available at the time of this post.

Ridership
(in number of trips)
2010 2011 2012 2013
Rail Bus Rail Bus Rail Bus Rail Bus
217,219,146 123,670,000 217,052,000 124,173,000 212,188,640 131,780,990 209,000,000* 136,000,000*
* Estimated
Source: Metro Facts.

Interesting Background Facts (source: Metro Facts 2014)

Metrorail system age: 39

Organizational Structure of Metro (Metro Compact Article III)

[Four legislative bodies–Congress (federal government), D.C. City Council, Md. state legislature (Montgomery and Prince George’s), Va. state legislature (Arlington, Fairfax, and Alexandria) (subsidy funding)]

Board of Directors (8 members selected from each jurisdiction [federal government, District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia]) [Note:  There are 8 alternates.]

Officers (General Manager, Secretary, Treasurer, Comptroller and General Counsel and such other officers as the Board may provide.)

Metrobus

328 routes (breakdown by jurisdiction not available)

Metrorail stations (by state)

Total: 91

District of Columbia: 40 (38.3 miles of track)

Maryland: 26 (Prince George’s County (15) and Montgomery County (11)) (38.31 miles) [Note: The state of Maryland operates its own subway in Baltimore, Md.]

Virginia: 25 (Arlington County (11), Fairfax County (11), and the City of Alexandria (3)) (41.47 miles)