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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Eight Good Behaviors of Managers: Googled by Google

In early 2009 at Google, "statisticians . . . embarked on a plan code-named Project Oxygen. The 'people analytics' teams at the company produced what might be called the Eight Habits of Highly Effective Google Managers. 'My first reaction was, that’s it?' says Laszlo Bock, Google’s vice president . . .  for human resources. 'The starting point was that our best managers have teams that perform better, are retained better, are happier — they do everything better,' Mr. Bock says. 'So the biggest controllable factor that we could see was the quality of the manager, and how they sort of made things happen. The question we then asked was: What if every manager was that good? And then you start saying: Well, what makes them that good? And how do you do it?' He tells the story of one manager whose employees seemed to despise him. He was driving them too hard. They found him bossy, arrogant, political, secretive. They wanted to quit his team. 'He’s brilliant, but he did everything wrong when it came to leading a team,' Mr. Bock recalls. Because of that heavy hand, this manager was denied a promotion he wanted, and was told that his style was the reason. But Google gave him one-on-one coaching — the company has coaches on staff, rather than hiring from the outside. Six months later, team members were grudgingly acknowledging in surveys that the manager had improved." (1)

The full essay is at "Good Behaviors of Managers."
1. Adam Bryant, "Google's Quest to Build a Better Boss," The New York Times, March 12, 2011.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Savage Beatings in a Government's Toolkit: A Case of Pathology Writ Large

The psychology of someone acting on behalf of or in line with a government in beating another person who has not done or said anything personally against the beater is perplexing. The transmission of anger towards what a group stands for onto a particular human being who may be just walking has not been uncommon in human rights lore; even so, the component of strong emotion in the beating itself is bizarre; it may evince a pathology affecting some people when they think about, or engage in, the political domain. So considering violence against the nonviolent as a government tool that depends on the pathology is also problematic.

The full essay is at "Savage Political Beatings: Pathology Writ Large."

Getting More For Doing Less: Bank Board Directors

Executive compensation is an art rather than a science. It is not as if numbers are fed into a computer and the correct compensation pops out. More discretion is involved than meets the eye. “Since the financial crisis,” The New York Times reported in 2013, “compensation for the directors of [America’s] biggest banks has continued to rise even as the banks themselves, facing difficult markets and regulatory pressures, are reining in bonuses and pay.” [1] Just five years after the financial crisis, it is interesting how the banks' respective managements decided to spend the TARP money from Congress and even more money from the Federal Reserve Bank. Also of note, board and upper management compensations seemed to be going in different directions in spite of both being presumably tied to the same firm performance. Even a performance-incentive approach tied to firm-performance can accommodate a lot of latitude, such that banks differ in how much they pay their respective boards. The discretion permits inside collusion and even outlandish demands by "celebrity" members whose advice does not necessarily come up to celebrity status. 

The full essay is at "Bank Boards Getting More for Doing Less."

1. Susanne Craig, “At Banks, Board Pay Soars Amid Cutbacks,” The New York Times, April 1, 2013.

Behind the Prejudice Against Educated Clergy

Among Quakers (many congregations of which refuse to record ministers), some evangelical congregations, and other faiths such as Baha'i (which does not have a clergy), there seems to be an underlying anti-intellectual bias regarding ministers educated in theology and ministry. I think the prejudice is out of anger, whose root is the errant assumption that knowledge, even in faith seeking understanding, causes the educated person to think he or she is better than others. Relatedly, expertise is assumed, falsely again, to bring with it a more general elitism.These flawed assumptions give rise to the prejudice that being educated in theology and ministry are not of much value, as being uneducated or self-educated in the field are actually preferred qualities in cases in which ministers are used (e.g., many evangelical congregations). All this is a slap on the face to those of faith who have spent years of their lives in seminary or university, and such passive aggression goes against Jesus's message on how to treat others.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Christianity and the Non-Affiliated in America: A Changing Mix

The 2018 General Social Survey found the proportions of Roman Catholics, Evangelical Christians, and people not affiliated with any institutional religion to each being within the margin of error around 23 percent of the American population. To be sure, to claim no institutional religion does not necessarily mean not being religious, or at least spiritual. Where the heart is concerned, religious institutions, or organizations, do not monopolize religious or spiritual sensibilities or sensitivities. In fact, I contend that a spiritual or even religious instinct exists in humans that can differ among individuals in salience or force. To be sure, people in whom the instinct is pressing may tend to belong to religious organizations, but this is not to say that the latter are necessary for feeling and manifesting the instinct. This is particularly true, I submit, where programmed worship is unwittingly formulated in a way that actually interrupts or thwarts outright the experience of transcendence, whether in sustained prayer, worship, communion, or meditation.