Posts Tagged ‘promotion-in-place’

Mitigating Damage: Corporate America’s 5 Folkways of Promoting Unqualified Minorities

February 21, 2010

So I was recently having a conversation with a friend.  Somehow the subject came up about a recent occurrence at his work place.  Apparently, the head of his workplace’s Human Resources department, who supervised about five other people, got “promoted” from “Manager of Human Resources” to…wait for it… “Director of Human Resources.”  Apparently at his place of employment, “Directors” typically supervise divisions of about 20+ employees, while “Managers” are subordinates of Directors, and supervise smaller, more job-specific, units of about…oh…say 5-10 employees.  So “Manager of Human Resources” would seem like an appropriate title right?  Why the fancy new business card with accompanying higher salary and extra perks when no additional responsibility was added.  Well, the head of Human Resources (where else would such inefficiency take place?) was a woman, and apparently there weren’t enough non-white male “Directors” to serve the needs of diversity, so a new Director position was created to alleviate the hard bigotry of meritocracy.  What I just described is what’s commonly referred to as a “promotion in place.”  It’s one method at Corporate America’s disposal to satisfy the conflicting goals of having minorities in high positions and efficient organizational performance.  So let’s say that you’re a corporate executive, and you’ve been told that you need more non-white males in positions of leadership.  But, the reason you don’t have more non-white males in leadership positions is that none are qualified, and…you are still responsible for the efficient functioning of your department!  What do you do? Here are five commonly-used techniques for dealing with these conflicting goals:

1) The “Promotion-in-Place”

As described above, the unqualified minority is kept in the same job with the same functions and responsibilities…the only thing that changes is the title of the job…and the accompanying salary and benefits (an increase of course).  Example – An unqualified minority (UQM) was the sole sales representative for the Northeast Region, with a title of “Northeast Regional Sales Representative,” and he, along with the other regional sales representatives, reported to the “National Sales Manager.”  The UQM is now “Northeast Regional Sales Manager”…still the sole sales person for the Northeast region…with no subordinates or increased responsibilities…who still reports to the “National Sales Manager”…but with a better sounding title and a pay raise.  The assault on fairness and squandered resources (in the form of an undeserved salary increase) are the main drawbacks here…but hell…those are drawbacks to all of these.  On the plus side, the UQM stays at a position he is probably competent at, and doesn’t have any (more?) responsibilities added to his portfolio that he cannot meet.

2) The “In Charge of Nothing”

I remember reading the assigned textbook for some horrible “Principles of Management” course I was forced to take.  There were several different blurbs and short interviews highlighting different managers from different organizations, and their techniques/”words of wisdom.”  What struck me was that the managers with names that would imply that they were white males, like “John Smith,” had titles like “Director of Marketing,” “Research and Development Manager,” and “Head of Accounting.”  Managers with names that would imply that they were not white males, like “Taikeesha Jackson,” had positions like “Director of Parking Lot Operations”…one woman was the “Director of Facilities,” and went on about how the decisions she made, such as whether or not to put a coy pond in the lobby, were vital to the performance of the organization.  This is an example of the “In Charge of Nothing” a.k.a the I.C.O.N.  Here, the unqualified minority is given a newly created position “in charge of” some minor function of no real necessity to the operations of the organization, like making sure that all multi-page reports are stapled at the top left corner of the page.  In the “con” column, in addition to the wasted resources of the salary/benefits increase, you will also probably have to give them some kind of operating budget for their imaginary “department.”  Additionally, they may begin to take their new “job” seriously, and this could have a negative effect on company operations.  Picture Taikeesha Jackson getting upset about people parking crooked, and calling all employees into the conference room for a 4-hour incoherent rant about “respect.”  That’s four hours of wasted productivity…but hey…you have to let her go ahead with the meeting and maintain the veil of authority.  On the plus side, you didn’t put her in charge of anything that ACTUALLY MATTERS.  At least she isn’t in charge of Sales…and losing accounts because she keeps accusing clients of racism.  This way, the damage that she can cause is only minimal…like catching the parking lot on fire!  In this particular situation, concrete isn’t likely to burn, so I would go with the I.C.O.N!

3) The “One-for-the-Price-of-Two”

The “One-for-the-Price-of-Two” occurs when a UQM is promoted to a newly created position, the responsibilities of which are already covered by a current existing position.  For example, the 6-person Marketing Department reports to the Director of Marketing.  A UQM marketing employee is now promoted to the newly-created position of “Director of Electronic Marketing.”  From this point onward, he will oversee all e-marketing activities, while the Director of Marketing oversees all marketing activities, including e-marketing if need be.  A benefit of this method is that it has the potential to avoid many hard feelings.  After all, the Director of Marketing is not actually being replaced by the undeserving minority, but instead just giving up some of his responsibilities to the unqualified quota-hire.  So while he may be peeved that the quota-hire has the same pay, benefits, and perks, with less responsibility, he can’t be too upset…his work load just got lighter…at least in theory.  The drawback is that you are now basically throwing away whatever the UQM’s salary is and getting absolutely nothing in return, as the job duties were already covered.

4) The “Bump-and-Assist”

The “Bump-and-Assist” may be the most desirable of these options.  Here, a UQM is promoted to a leadership position, and at the same time, a white employee is promoted to a newly-created assistant-leadership position, in order to provide some level of effective leadership, while still allowing the UQM to appear in charge.  For example, the Customer Service Manager previously supervised 6 Customer Service Representatives.  Now that the position has been filled by a UQM, the position of Assistant Manager of Customer Service has been created, and filled with a competent white employee, who the Customer Service Representatives can turn to when they need help, and who can sweep some of the UQM’s bad decisions under the carpet when he/she isn’t looking.  Allowing the UQM to maintain the illusion of control is vital to the successful implementation of this plan.  The drawback, as with the “One-for-the-Price-of-Two,” is that you are now basically throwing away whatever the UQM’s salary is and getting absolutely nothing in return, as the job duties are now really being handled by the white assistant-manager.  But on the plus side, organizational harmony should remain largely in tact.  The qualified white will still get something of a promotion, so feelings won’t be hurt as much as they could have been.

5) The “Hail Mary”

This is, without a doubt, the least desirable of all options.  This is where the powers-that-be, for whatever reason…maybe they believe their own press releases…, actually believe that the UQM is capable of running a large and important division…or even a cash register…and promote/hire them without any hidden support structure.  Big mistake.  This won’t end well.  For an example, just Google “Carly Fiorina Hewlett Packard.” 

You might think that maybe, given such unappealing options, at least some individuals/entities in Corporate America might instead choose to hire a competent white (maybe a…gasp…white male) employee, and just fight any lawsuits that may happen to arise.  You would be wrong.  You obviously have no idea how entrenched political correctness is in Corporate America.  Discrimination lawsuits aren’t the motivation for discriminating against whites…they’re just the excuse given for doing so.  For those big-business shills who always babble about the almighty “Market” and its efficiency, just remember this…given a choice between diversity (and accompanying bankruptcy) and efficiency, Corporate America will choose bankruptcy every time.

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