Unconscious Bias – A Fallacy of the Oppressor!

Bobblehead DollA few years ago, I had the unfortunate privilege of having for a manager a homosexual person.  Let me emphasize; I do not care about your personal choices and lifestyle; keep it to yourself and out of the workspace.  Hetero- or homosexual, does not matter; it does not belong in the workplace!  Back to the manager, as he was openly homosexual, he embraced all the biases claptrap and accused me of being racist and homophobic.quote-mans-inhumanity

Of which, I am neither.  When informed that I am neither homophobic nor racist, sexist, genderist, etc., I was told he was observing my unconscious biases and claiming that I was not biased was actually declaring I was heavily biased.  He then went so far as to write me up for being biased.  At the time, I had not studied the research on biases and could not counter his charges.  This manager chose to stand inside personal space for the guys on his team, but not the females, which was sexual harassment, but the business refused to think this was sexual harassment.  That this manager continually rubbed himself against the guys on his team was also rejected as sexual harassment.quote-mans-inhumanity-2

I have learned much since this incident, and I want to help those in similar situations understand a few pieces of the language plasticity that goes into the bias arguments.  I will be clear that if a heterosexual male rubs against a female, which is considered sexual harassment, then the same is true for a homosexual, regardless of gender.  Being uncomfortable with being touched is not an indication of bias, simply an expression of a personal preference.

Unconscious Bias

3-direectional-balanceBog-standard bias is considered as attitudes, behaviors, and actions that are prejudiced in favor or opposition to a person, group, or thing.  But, here is the clincher, bias is judged by others as a projection of themselves when they encounter other people, places, or things.  If you think you have a handle on the language of biases, an unconscious bias is also called an implicit bias.  Implicit bias is described as bias that occurs automatically and unintentionally, that nevertheless affects judgments, decisions, and behaviors, however just to keep you in the dark, implicit biases are also stereotypes.  In social identity theory, an implicit bias or implicit stereotype is the pre-reflective attribution of particular qualities by an individual to a social out-group member. Implicit stereotypes are shaped by experience and learned associations between certain qualities and social categories, including race or gender.

Now, if you think you finally have a grasp on biases, stereotypes, and preferences, we add the final straw to the argument.  Biases and stereotypes are judged by an observer using their understanding, education, experience, and opinions as a projection upon you and your actions, behaviors, and attitudes as a lens to understand the world around them.  Thus, my not saying “Good Morning” to my manager was projecting his own biased thinking and homophobia, declaring my actions are homophobic slurs.  In reality, I am not a morning person and generally do not talk to anyone, spouse included, before 0800.  Walking in at 0400 to begin a shift in a call center meant my cherub-like demeanor had not woken up yet, and silence was the only policy.

Bias Self-AuditingWhy

In my email box, I have an email that includes a self-audit of bias for managers.  Before continuing, consider what you know about bias.  Bias is the thoughts, feelings, ideas, and visions of another person, project upon you and your actions, attitudes, and behaviors, so the person projecting can understand the world.  I cleaned up the obvious grammatical errors, not that this improved the material very much.

How and to whom do you delegate work?

            • By giving specific tasks to one team member, am I depriving another team member of a growth opportunity?
            • Am I giving the same level of detail, and therefore equally setting each team member up for success when I assign projects?

End goal: Ensuring that everyone has an equal chance to take on challenging and meaningful projects

How do you give feedback to different direct reports?

            • Am I delivering feedback casually to some team members and formally to others?
            • Do I soften critiques for some team members more than others?

End goal: Making sure you’re delivering feedback equitably.

Any generalizations you make about team members.

            • What kind of assumptions am I making about team members based on age, ethnic background, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, appearance, or anything else?
            • Do my assumptions impact how I feel about their capability and competency?

End goal: Minimizing the perpetuation of stereotypes while practicing and displaying empathy.

Who do you praise publicly, and who do not praise publicly?

            • Is there a personal motivation behind team members I praise publicly and those for whom I withhold praise?
            • Do I limit the exposure of my compliments for some team members and show my appreciation more widely for others?

End goal: Ensuring that you’re sharing accolades fairly.

How and with whom do you exchange casual banter?

            • Do I have friendly conversations or share memes with some teammates more than others? How might that affect workplace alliances?
            • Do some teammates feel alienated or marginalized by witnessing my apparent affinity for other teammates?

End goal: Avoiding outsized allegiances with people based on your shared perspective to the detriment of developing relationships with others with different viewpoints.

Who do you go to for advice?

            • Do I go to the same people time and time again for mentorship? Do they look like me?
            • Are there people to whom I could go for advice and a more expansive perspective?

End goal: Avoid making decisions based only on the feedback shared in an echo chamber.

Consider these statements with me for a moment as part of a discussion on biases.  Feel free to leave your comments in the space provided below this article.  When I need advice, my manager is younger than I am, but has years of experience in the company.  His boss is older than I am by a little bit.  They both look like me.  Does this automatically mean that I must sacrifice talents, skills, abilities, and tenure because the information comes from someone who looks like I do?  No, logic screams.  But the emotional immaturity of those casting biased aspersion will claim yes.Anton Ego

When I first arrived on my ship USS Barry (DDG 52), my second-class petty officers were two white males, one black male, and one black female.  For competence, I went to the black female as she displayed the most leadership—the two white males were involved in their own relationships and were rarely available to answer questions.  The black male did not possess the maturity to answer questions.  The first-class petty officers were three white males, two of whom embodied immaturity, and our chief… well, let’s not speak ill of the dead.  If I acted as these bias audits claim, my Navy career would have been disastrous, for I would have rejected competency and maturity for race, gender, and incompetence.

Suggestions, Ideas, and Thoughts

Stop seeing race, gender, nationality, and other lines of separation.  These are distractions cast upon everyone by foul oppressors who see these lines of separation and project their inadequacies upon everyone else.  It is perfectly acceptable not to have biases and claim you have no preferences.  I do not care about your gender, race, color, creed, religion, handicap status, or anything else.  I care only about your competency, and if I can help you, or you can help me increase competency, let’s work together!cropped-rocks-in-a-stream-2.jpg

Believe that you are a good person!  I know those projecting their inadequacies and claiming you have biases are profoundly pernicious in their approaches.  But, when you have confidence that you are doing the best you can, you can rest easy when these pernicious oppressors begin to attempt to humiliate you.  In the movie “The Sound of Music,” there is a song called “I Have Confidence.”  When you need reminding of your goodness, play this song, and sing along at the top of your lungs!  I promise you will feel better!

When you treat everyone as you desire to be treated, without fear and with confidence, you will always have loyal people at your back to support you.  If you live by implicit bias and fear, the whole world will never trust you, and you will not have confidence in yourself.  Those who oppress want you miserable; deny them that opportunity!Knowledge Check!

Living without biases is possible, is easy, but is sometimes not very convenient.  But, as Mr. Miagi said in the original “Karate Kid,” “Man who walks in street, gets squished like grape.”  Dr. Seuss is right, “Be the best you, you can be.”  Stop allowing the oppressors into your mind; they are not worth your time.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 vs. Critical Race Theory – Which one is Racist?

Bobblehead DollWhen a government, teacher, business, etc., focus on race as the only issue, racial tensions will increase, and racial problems will abound.  Sort of like focusing on chronic pain makes the pain worse; focusing upon race produces racial issues.  Worse, imagined racial issues will create a reality where those issues are alive and well, for race is the only topic.

Of a truth, often spoken of in these articles, every race man can create to segregate humans into sub-categories, have experienced periods of ostracization, enslavement, racial hatred, and racial segregation.  As a person who identifies his race as AMERICAN and not a color, like a box of Crayolas, I have witnessed man’s inhumanity to man too often to care what race you choose to be.  I have met blonde hair/blue-eyed individuals who report their race as black, blacks saying they are white, adding any other color or racial denomination they desired. The same examples become apparent to others who care to look and listen, for the United Nations affirms that race is a choice and not a biological component of heritage.  When you have met your first Vietnamese-African-Anglo-American Indian, who practices Zen-Buddhism-Catholicism/Judaism, come find me, and we can talk about the racial, ethnic, and religious designations people choose!Andragogy - LEARN

Civil Rights Act of 1964

In 1964, Congress passed Public Law 88-352 (78 Stat. 241).  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.  Provisions of the civil rights act forbade discrimination based on sex and race in hiring, promoting, and firing.  The Act prohibited discrimination in public accommodations and federally funded programs.  It also strengthened the enforcement of voting rights and the desegregation of schools.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 continues to resonate in America. Passage of the Act ended the application of “Jim Crow” laws, which had been upheld by the Supreme Court in the 1896 case Plessy v. Ferguson.  The Court held that racial segregation purported to be “separate but equal” was constitutional.  Congress eventually expanded the Civil Rights Act to strengthen the enforcement of fundamental civil rights.Finest Hour

Effectively ending racial discrimination in America, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was approved by a more significant percentage of Republicans than Democrats.  Yet, the Democrats continue to claim they are the banner under which all voices are equal.  While I do not want this article to take on any partisan political banter, the facts are essential to the history of how America adopted the Civil Rights Acts into law.  As always, if you desire more information, feel free to check the links embedded.

Critical Race Theory (CRT)

QuestionHungarian philosopher Georg Lukacs, the neo-Marxist progenitor of critical race theory, once described Critical Theory as being “on the edge of an abyss, of nothingness, of absurdity.”  Critical theory is an approach to social philosophy that focuses on reflective assessment and critique of society and culture to reveal and challenge power structures—with origins in sociology and literary criticism, arguing that social problems are influenced and created more by societal structures and cultural assumptions than by individual and psychological factors.  Critical race theory is a philosophy that views everything in public and private life—from the government to business to art and anything in between—through the prism of racial identities.

The worldview is based on critical theory, which originated in Germany after World War I and combined the Marxist belief of an oppressed working class with an opaque description of relative truth.  The philosophy swept through universities in the US in the 20th century.  In the 1960s, theorists claimed American law was systemically oppressive, creating critical legal theory.  By the 1980s, theorists added race, giving us critical race theory.  One of the originators of critical race theory, Derrick Bell, wrote: “We use a number of different voices, but all recognize that the American social order is maintained and perpetuated by racial subordination.”quote-mans-inhumanity

According to Derrick Bell, this means that General George Washington was not a great leader; he was a privileged white boy.  That would make Frederick Douglass only capable because he was black. Turning Rosa Parks’ courageous stand for racial justice and equality into nothing but a gender card play.  When everything is subjugated to race, nothing else matters but race.

Racism, Racist, and Racial – The Story of Three Adjectives

Racism is a noun defined as “The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.”  “Discrimination or prejudice based on race.”  “The belief that each race has distinct and intrinsic attributes.”  Racist is a proper adjective and is defined as “having, reflecting, or fostering the belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”  Racial is also an adjective and is described as something “existing or occurring between races,” or “relating to or based upon race.”Content of their Character

Interestingly, racism is a noun, not an adjective, even though many desire racism to be an adjective.  The difference being that an adjective describes a noun, and a noun does not, and cannot, describe an action by a person, place, or thing.  Thus, you can have racist individuals, but racism is a noun; it cannot be expressed enough; every race in history has experienced periods of being the aggressor and the oppressed through race.  Worse, when discussing race, racial history, and racial descriptions, plasticity has evolved to continue to allow those desiring an excuse to use racial prejudice as a reason for their actions.

For example, when a store was robbed, the robber claimed that he only robbed the store because the owner was racist.  Intimating that if the owner had not been racist, the store would not have been robbed; not a very flattering or valid excuse for robbing a store, perpetuating violence, or acting in a manner behooving a terrorist.  Yet, this pattern of thinking is prevalent in many places in the world today.

quote-mans-inhumanity-2Digging a little deeper, how does anyone know the store owner was racist or not racist?  Just because an accusation is made does not a reality and truth reveal.  Having been slandered many times by people accusing me of being racist, I know the veracity of this question.  For example, in the US Navy, I was accused of being racist for not showing due consideration to a second-class petty officer speaking ebonics.  At the time, I had no idea what ebonics was, and since this petty officer only spoke ebonics on the ship, I had no idea what I was supposed to do differently.  But, the petty officer complained to the chief, the chief tore me a new one, and I was left confused and angry.

How can a person tell if something is racist?

Believe it or not, there is an easy test to check for racism.  Where is the focus?  Using the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Critical Race Theory, we can quickly tell which is racist by the focus or intent of the work.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was designed to end a focus upon race; CRT is designed to exploit race and focus solely upon race as the preeminent separating force in human relations.  Thus, CRT is racist, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is not.  Don’t believe me; look closer at the purpose; CRT has race proudly mentioned in the name, whereas the Civil Rights Act of 1964 focuses on equality under the law of all people.

Knowledge Check!The Civil Rights Act of 1964 aims to place all people on equal legal footings.  CRT aims to rip equality under the law to shreds and put people on unequal footing based solely upon race.  Worse, since the UN has claimed that race is a choice and not a sub-human categorization mechanism, people can choose to adopt the race that is favored to their advantage when placed upon unequal footing under the law.  Thus, how does CRT purpose to halt people from choosing different races to suit their desires for more equal treatment?

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Dollars and Sense – Inflationary Spending and Fiscal Insanity

Bobblehead DollThese articles have discussed money, monetary policy, fiscal sanity, and government spending several times this year.  Some have called me alarmist for raising fiscal sanity during a “Global Health Crisis.”  While COVID-19 (Sars-COV-2) is undoubtedly a viral disease with a 98%+ survival rate, I cannot in good conscience call this a “Global Health Crisis.”  The pandemic declaration was a political move, the mask mandating, business closures, and every other hysterical move have been carefully formulated to present a problem where none exists.  Has Sars-COV-2 mutated; absolutely, but the emotional hysteria has mutated far faster.

Dollars and SenseApathy

When you pass paper to a store clerk, are you spending money; no, you are spending confidence.  Your confidence in the dollar’s strength, as represented by a check, cash, money order, credit card, etc., is what is being spent.  Why was the Great Depression so lasting and detrimental; a lack of confidence in the US Dollar.  People who saved their money formed sane fiscal policies personally and acted logically lost their confidence in the US Dollar, and the dollar went into a great depression.

Since President Clinton, the US Government has been on a drunken spending spree and does not appear to be stopping unless the citizens demand they cease and desist!  What does this mean for you and me; everything costs more for two reasons inflation and interest.  When the government prints money, too much money increases prices, and too few goods chase too much money, resulting in people suffering.  When the government borrows money, the interest must be serviced; the interest will increase prices and usually absorb some of the extra capital on the market to bring down inflation.Lemmings 2

Except, Quantitative Easing (QE) is hindering the absorption of money on the market.  Hence America is witnessing something truly remarkable for the first time in financial history, the debt (principal), the interest, and the extra capital, all of these storms are combining into a major conflagration economically speaking.  Usually, at this point, a country begins to look for a place to go to war, which explains China and its expansionist policies in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Ocean.  Too much debt, too much interest, a military needing worked, and assets need to be stolen from other countries.  Typical historical thinking, war truly is grand larceny on a massive scale!

Where are America and China headed; let’s ask Czarist Russia, USSR, Nazi Germany, East Germany, China, North Korea, Italy, Venezuela, Greece, France, and who knows how many other economically unstable countries historically and presently.  Going to war will not solve this economic crisis, though some may try that solution.  The only solution worth advancing at this critical juncture economically is reducing the size of government, placing a firm halt on all government spending, and refusing the politicians to get into debt for at least two decades!  Yes, this means changing Social Security, Welfare, Medicaid and Medicare, and every other government benefit program to fit a reduced budget and smaller government model.  Failure to tighten belts for the next two decades will bankrupt America, and most of the world, making the Great Depression look like a summer picnic.Lemmings 4

Gold and Oil, real estate, Gross Domestic Products (the goods manufactured in America for sale), trade, all of these wealth tools and more cannot support the debt incurred, the money printed, nor the size of the government from the city and county to the White House.  As this trend continues, Wall Street will continue to be tumultuous, at best, and the confidence in the US Dollar will continue to slide.  But, as the dollar slides, which global currency will begin to take up the slack?

The Euro has discredited itself and is not worth the paper it is printed on.  China thinks they will step into the void and take up the slack with the Yuan, except their financial situation is almost as bad as Venezuela’s and Cuba’s, but their size and government type keep this hidden from the public.  Even though the Yuan is in junk status, the Communist government hides these facts; the truth is leaking out in higher trade tariffs and other global trade and finance costs.  Russia’s economic situation still has not stabilized with the fall of the USSR and will probably need another two to three decades until it can compete on the global economy again.Gravy Train 2

I heard a postulation that the Arabian Oil Rich nations of the Middle East would produce an OPEC-backed currency if the US Dollar fails.  I highly doubt this as a solution, but the potential is there.  Another person claimed the lack of confidence in the US Dollar would lead to the World Bank/International Monetary Fund (IMF) issuing currency for the world; boy, would that be a significant problem!  Yet, the American Dollar is being purposefully destroyed by the current crop of politicians, and nobody is standing up and declaring ENOUGH!

Inflation

The US Government, and many others globally, have increased their drunken spending since Jan/Feb 2020 to incredibly extensive levels and used a “Global Health Crisis” as the excuse.  Except when Ebola was sweeping the world, we did not have this level of insane spending and government intrusion.  Ebola is far deadlier, easier to spread, and yet the Ebola disaster is barely remembered.  Bird Flu, Swine Flu, SARS, MERS, all these viruses have had their time in the media hysterical spotlight, every single one of them is deadlier than Sars-COV-2, easier to spread, and they were never a cause for a global pandemic.Gravy Train

Inflation is caused by poor economic policy, where the government grants itself the ability to print money.  Inflation is not just money and monetary policy; inflation is also confidence, faith, and trust.  Inflation is how the government acts, thinks, and behaves.  Inflation is as real as COVID-19 and just as deadly as Ebola while being more problematic for everyone.  From Dec 2020 to the end of July 2021, inflation has increased the price of goods and services by 3.8%, seasonally adjusted, or 5.4% non-seasonally adjusted, which means that prices go up as a seasonal adjustment in the summer.

Fiscal Insanity

Consider with me an analogy; you live in a community of houses and pay a Homeowners Association (HOA) Fee.  Your neighbor has decided they can write checks on your checking account, and the HOA has granted them legal protection to write checks on your bank accounts.  Because your neighbor has legal protection, you sell off assets to provide the funds for your neighbor.  You sell to other neighbors letters of credit that you promise to pay interest on, provided your other neighbors hold those letters of credit for specific amounts of time.  Except, your neighbors stop buying those letters of credit over time because they do not like how your neighbor keeps writing checks and spending your money.  How do you keep this house of cards from blowing over and losing everything?

Tax BurdenAmerica is in this position right now!  Trend lines show a steady downward trend in the value of the US Dollar.  Inflation will keep increasing prices as too much money is chasing too few products on the market.  Debt needs to be serviced and interest paid.  But, when the interest payment is the only thing being paid, and the principal will also need to be serviced, where and how does the principal get serviced when the interest is absorbing all the monthly payments?  Simple economics, money once created and put into the money market, cannot just be absorbed or disappeared.  Just like food doesn’t disappear once consumed, the offal must come out and be handled responsibly.  Well, the dollar is in an offal position and needs responsibly handled!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

The Role of a Call Center Trainer: A Qualitative Descriptive Study

Bobblehead DollI want to express my deepest gratitude to Call Centre Helper Magazine for the opportunity to advertise for my dissertation research.  I once asked a call center leader what a trainer does; their answer still makes me chuckle.

A trainer trains!

Kind of obvious, right.  Now, what does a trainer train?  How does a trainer train?  How does a business leader know the trainer has been successful in training?  What is the purpose of training?  What does training do for those trained?  These questions and the business leaders’ comment have inspired my professional and academic footsteps for several years now.Call Center 2

In early July 2021, I finally received permission to begin human testing for my dissertation.  I have posted several advertisements on social media for call center workers, trainers, and senior leaders to entice 17 people willing to answer some questions about training in call centers, a call center trainer, and what precisely a call center trainer does.  The following is a brief description of the aims and intents of my research to increase interest and hopefully glean the needed participants to finish my study.

Consider for a moment a teacher who has influenced you professionally or personally, and why did they make such an impact?  Could a different person have made the same impact?  Why?

The above questions are the crux of my research; to date, the role of the instructor has not been considered a variable in corporate training.  As an adult educator, I find this gap very alarming.  In academia, the teacher’s role has been extensively studied, and opinions abound regarding the role of the teacher.  Yet, in a professional setting, no researcher has addressed this gap to date.  With the push to move all training to computer-based solutions in autonomous environments, if the trainer does not teach corporate knowledge and behaviors, who does?

Call Center BeansIn researching the history of professional training, the model employed has not changed since a master taught journeyman who led novice instruction.  Yet, with technology, global populations, cultures, language, and globe-spanning organizations, the role of the trainer seems to continue to take a back seat.  Yet, if a corporate trainer profoundly influenced you professionally, would you not want that experience for another person?

Due to the restrictions on human testing in research, I cannot change the dry legalese of the advertisements.  I know they are long, tedious, and challenging to get through.  However, if you are interested, please get in touch with me directly using:

Msalisbury1@my.gcu.edu

Please note, to participate, you will need the following:

      • Work in an English Speaking Call Center with a home base in the United States.
      • Have a LinkedIn account (This is for verification of professional qualifications only).
      • Speak English like a native.
      • Be willing to answer demographic questions, including time in the current role, education, and so forth.
      • Be willing to elaborate upon your answers. I will ask you some questions about your experiences; please provide details, depth, and descriptions as your answer.

Knowledge Check!Important to note, your name and business will never be mentioned in my dissertation!  I am not collecting any personal data beyond education and years of experience.  Any direct quotes employed will carry no connecting data, and no one will see your details.

Thank you for considering joining me in my dissertation research.  I look forward to publishing this research and discussing the findings with you in later articles.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

 

Customer Service Agent Abuse – Customer Service Begins with Customers

Angry Wet ChickenPlease note, I am not the best person to be around when my “cherub-like demeanor” dissipates.  I continue to invest time and energy in preparation and in unhooking emotion from knee-jerk responses to provide a better customer experience for those I connect with.  I am not perfect; I am not trying to give advice that I am not trying to implement every day, in every situation.  I have read story after story about “how to handle difficult customers,” “how to provide excellence in difficult customer situations,” and I have read the nightmarish tales of agents not allowed to control a call.

While I am a subject matter expert on customer service, customer relations, and customer attentiveness, I miss my high standards often.  I am not bragging; I hate delivering less than exceptional customer service.  I have been a difficult customer when I do not understand, and nobody is willing to explain.  I fall into many of the same traps I work to avoid and appreciate customer service agents who will see through the barbs and help me understand.  When discussing customer agent abuse, I am a bit of a bear when someone makes my people cry and feel there are solutions to challenging customers that do not require ending the transaction.  However, I will not tolerate abuse of customers or customer service agents, ever!

Angry Grizzly BearBack in the 1990s, when I started at a call center on Friday, there were no locks, no badges, no traffic control, and minimal security presence.  Monday morning, we had badges, electronic key cards, traffic control security points, and a host of new security measures.  Why; because a customer showed up at an agent’s cubicle, he had stalked this employee for months, and the only thing saving this person’s life was that she went into labor that morning.  Her stalker showed up with a shotgun and a dozen roses.  While not perfect at controlling my responses, I can clarify and support customer service agents against abuse.

What is Customer Agent Abuse?

Customer agent abuse is any actions conducted over a phone that would not be tolerated in person.  For example, only in the US Navy was going toe-to-toe with another person, threatening bodily harm, and using the foulest of language acceptable behavior.  Even in the US Navy, this behavior was only “tolerated” if you outranked the person you were hollering at, which made no sense during my time in service and even less sense now.  Customer agent abuse includes threats to personal property, life, or family.  Customer agent abuse includes making personal derogatory remarks.

Exclamation MarkWhile some may add or subtract to this list of agent abuses, I prefer simplicity.  Thus, I repeat, only for emphasis, if the behavior is not tolerated in front of a police officer, that is customer agent abuse, and should not be accepted.  Is speaking loudly customer agent abuse; probably not.  However, the situationality of defining customer agent abuse is such that professionals will need clear and specific directions.  Let us clarify a few topics.

What is a Customer?

A customer is anyone asking for assistance.  That is the entire definition, and when we understand this definition, our whole mindset and attitude swings from “customer service is someone else’s job” to “how may I assist you today?”

Who is a Customer Agent?

Knowledge Check!A customer agent is anyone able to provide the assistance being sought.  Will you be the one today to provide the service needed?  Do you realize this is a choice made every time you engage another person?

Reality Check

Would you ever see your family as customers; why?  Do you think those definitions are too simplistic; honestly, when you think about it, no.  Your fellow employees are your first customers.  Your leaders are your first customers.  Then come vendors and shareholders and external customers.  I have never agreed with separating internal and external customers.  Some try to claim an external customer pays the bills.  Sure, but without your team of employees, there are no products or services to sell.

cropped-bird-of-prey.jpgA business owner once told me that this method of thinking was as valuable as arguing about what came first, the chicken or the egg.  Yet, before you can grow into a small business, you must provide a service or good for purchase.  Hence the most essential customer is your fellow employees, and failing to understand this simple fact, breeds an Us vs. Them mentality in employee and customer relations.  Worse, this aggressive attitude only grows as the business grows and is heard by your customers in every transaction!

Customer Agent Abuse

Tell me, as a business leader, would you allow an employee to scream, swear, act belligerently, and raise their voices to another employee?  If the answer is no, why do you allow any other customer to act similarly?  I have worked in many different call centers, I have had my share of abusive customer calls.  I have suffered the slings and arrows of contempt from fellow employees and customers in hostile work environments.  I have been physically assaulted, threatened, sexually harassed, and more in professional settings, including call centers.  So, why do we allow customer abuse?

QuestionWhat is driving business leaders to excuse irrational and detestably unprofessional behavior by customers?  Honest question, if we would not tolerate behavior in person, why is it allowed over the phone?  Why is the customer agent taking the brunt of the abuse when we all know the problem originates much higher than the agent you are talking to.  Customer service, customer appreciation, customer attentiveness, customer relations, customer retention, etc., all circle around the customer culture bred into the business from its days as a small business.  Worse, the leader’s approach to customer service is felt and observed by agents all over the company and soon will imitate that leader’s attitude and behaviors.

I have led teams where my agents were reduced to tears from the verbal harassment.  When I discovered this, I pulled the quality records and calls, documented everything, and exercised my right to refuse service.  Yes, I invited customers to leave employment and my company without batting an eyelash or caring a single bit.  Nobody deserves to be harassed, sworn at, screamed at, or belittled, all in the name of “customer service.”  Customer agent abuse is a failure of leadership!

Ending Customer Agent Abuse

cropped-tools.jpgSome of what I am proposing will be anathema to your organization; I realize this.  I understand that some of what I propose will be hard to implement, face tremendous pushback, and might cause some organizational design changes.  All of what I am about to suggest is achievable through leadership and customer service.

      1. If employees cannot abuse each other, then neither can anyone else!
            • Invite those who swear to call back when they are more emotionally under control. End the call, end the transaction, make notes.
            • Invite those who habitually abuse to stop being customers or employees.
            • Make notes, keep documentation, and refer to legal if additional problems arise.
            • Make your policy known to your customers, all of your customers.
            • Set high standards of behavior and train to meet those standards.
      2. Revise business policies.
            • Listen to the transactions.
            • Make notes on pain points and process problems that irritate customers, and then dedicate yourself to fixing those pain points.
            • Enter the customer transaction with the intent to act!
            • Listen… Listen… Listen… verify what was said; listen some more.
            • Appreciative inquiry, learn it, love it, live it! Your customers know where and who the problems are.  Repeat as often as needed to ensure understanding, then take prompt action!
      3. Write cohesive and clearly understood policies.
            • Train to the policies.
            • Adjust the policies as needed.
            • Revisit policies every 12-months for applicability.
            • Revise policies as needed to meet customer expectations.
            • Set high standards and train customers to meet those standards.
            • Use rewards for improving customer interaction and transactions.
            • Not all rewards cost money!
      4. Embrace Change
            • Many claim they already do this, but they secretly refuse to change and act opposite to any change that threatens their power source. Eliminate that customer!
            • Change requires courage, tenacity, and imagination. All of which become available when appreciative inquiry becomes a principle for achieving excellence!
            • Set shelf-lives for processes, policies, and procedures.
            • Delegate to achieve new blood and new thinking on old topics.
            • Demand excellence, train for perfection and watch people achieve.
      5. Praise!
            • Honest, sincere, and regular praise will demonstrate an attitude of gratitude to your people, who will then pass along the praise to everyone else.
            • Observe people until you can even reprimand with praise.
            • Never criticize!
            • Never demean!
            • Never allow anyone to denigrate or deride your customers, and your customers will always be at your back.

Bobblehead DollIt does not matter whether your business is a manufacturer or a service provider; it does not matter if you are a non-profit or government agency; what matters is your customer.  Be the customer agent they deserve.  Admit fault, always understand that you cannot know everything, and asking questions is not an evil act.  You customers today are your customer agents tomorrow, and being a better customer is a job!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

When Fiction Becomes Reality – An Illegal Safe House

Angry Wet ChickenTwo days ago, I received an email that still has me baffled.  What is an “Illegal Safe House?”  The subject line of the email states precisely that, “Illegal Safe House.”  The email had been forwarded to me from other sources, and I got lured into research mode.

01 June 2021, The Gateway Pundit published a story regarding migrants being housed in a secure closed hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Through ICE, Scottsdale Police, and other security agencies, Homeland Security, plus a hired contracting agency, provide security.  Those housed are not discussed; people with questions are pointed to an organization’s website, and nobody knows anything they are willing to release to the public.

Exclamation MarkOther sources report the following regarding this “illegal safe house,” which I have collated into a single comprehensible statement.  I am not the author of this information, and the sources from which it was gathered are not vetted for veracity.

A federal contractor began operating a temporary hotel facility for immigrant families Saturday, 29 May 2021. The site has generated substantial public and media attention.  After nearly two weeks of operation, Scottsdale police report that the only calls for service at the location are from those operating it due to people not associated with the site coming onto the property. Several protests attended by as many as 300 people have occurred, which have been lawful and peaceful.

Whether using this hotel for this purpose complies with the city’s zoning ordinance has been raised. This hotel has been rented to provide temporary stays to families.  Thus far, the city of Scottsdale has seen no evidence indicating this use is not in conformance with the zoning ordinance.  The city of Scottsdale continues to be in contact with the operator and officials from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

According to ICE officials, this site is for intact families seeking political asylum who are being processed and taken to transportation facilities as they continue their journey to a sponsor family or organization.  Families are at this location for an average of 48 hours, and the vast majority of people travel outside Arizona after processing.  Medical screening (including COVID-19), meals, and other services are provided on-site.  A figure of “1,200” families at the hotel in Scottsdale has been cited, which is incorrect.  The federal contract provides for 1,239 beds in aggregate for all temporary facilities along the southwest border.

The city of Scottsdale has received several hundred calls and emails regarding the facility. Immigration is a federal matter over which the city of Scottsdale has no responsibility or oversight.  If you have further concerns, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Federal Government representatives:

Having tried to contact and engage the elected officials mentioned, good luck breaking through their bureaucracy for straight answers!  None of the elected officials mentioned care a fig for those who elected them.  They continue to prove their dissonance and derogatory attitudes towards the electorate every time they open their mouths!  Arizona, are you sure you are appropriately represented?

QuestionsQuestion 3

      • Who is hosting illegal immigrants?
      • Will those fostering them ensure they show up for court?
      • How do we know these are “intact families?”
      • If these are “temporary housing facilities,” why are they kept so secret?
      • Why wasn’t the public notified that this hotel had been rented and is housing illegal immigrants?
      • The City of Scottsdale claims the ICE operates the hotel in a manner consistent with proper zoning regulations. Yet, Congress proclaims that the Federal Government trumps local regulations and can do anything they want.  Knowing the politics of the City of Scottsdale’s “Zoning Board” and “Zoning Officers,” I can only presume that the zoning officers were hushed by the more than $600-million Endeavors.org received to “sponsor” this illegal safe house.  Who is following up on the money?
      • Where did the money originate, and who is in charge of the contract at the Federal Government?
      • Who hired Endeavors.org to operate temporary housing? Why?  Where is a copy of this contract for public scrutiny?
      • If this contract was a “No-Bid” contract, who are the contracting officers, and why was this a “No-Bid” contract?
      • How many other “Illegal Safe Houses” are being operated? Where are they?  Who is being housed?  How long are they being housed?
      • How much money is the City of Scottsdale receiving directly from this housing scheme?
      • How much money is the State of Arizona being paid for operating these domiciles?
      • Safety and security of America, who vetted these illegals? What documentation was used?  Where did that documentation originate?  How do we know the documentation is legitimate?
      • If these illegal immigrants are being housed temporarily, where are they being sent to next? Who approves travel?  Who is paying for travel?  Who is responsible for mandating appearance on court dates?Plato 2

These are but some of the fundamental questions I would expect to see addressed on Endeavors.org, the parent company operating this domicile.  Except, none of these questions are discussed, addressed, and no additional information is available from the website.  Does anyone else find this particularly odd?  Want to see something horrifying; go to the following link and look at the map for where “migrant services” are provided by Endeavors.  Now, ask yourself, is the problem on the southern US Border restricted to just the southwestern US?

Frankly, I do not care where you stand on illegal immigration, immigration, and immigration reform.  This article is not written to discuss these topics.  I am concerned with the secrecy, the lack of funds, and the government’s profligate spending.  I am concerned with national security issues.  I am very concerned with the human trafficking issues.  America has become the human trafficking capital and human slavery capital of the world.  Yet, none of the politicians locally, state, or federally are willing to act on human trafficking and human slavery problems.  We have token arrests, but prosecutions take forever, and illegal immigrants are being taken advantage of, with a nod by the Federal Government and a sly wink from the state and local governments.

Knowledge Check!With America being a representative government, this means that the citizens are responsible for the actions of their government.  I refuse to be held accountable for feeding the ever-hungry jaws of human slavery and trafficking, the sex and drug industries.  Join me; throw off the chains that threaten to bind and gag us, refuse to be governed by the current crop of politicians who refuse to do their jobs, while taking bribes and “political donations” from groups that are trying to overthrow America!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

 

When Fiction is Reality – The World Weeps!

Exclamation MarkI find a piece of fiction masquerading as science from today’s email, and I cannot help but ask myself, when did fiction become a reality?  How did Orwell’s 1984 escape the pages and become a reality?  Why did Animal House exit the big screen and become a way of life?  Mark Twain is one of the most often quoted authors, and I particularly like his comments on statistics which is pertinent to today’s discussion on fiction.

“There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Consider something with me; even if you initially disagree, please humor me.  Statistics prove nothing; the best a statistical analysis can ever do is represent a bias towards a specific course of action.  That is it!  Mark Twain’s quote describes the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments. Mark Twain’s point is used to doubt statistics to prove an opponent’s point.  Inherent in every statistical analysis are the researcher’s biases, the desire of the researcher to attempt to verify something via numbers that are generally unable to be proved otherwise.Anton Ego

Except research proves nothing; even peer-reviewed research, the gold standard in research, can only point a person towards a potential solution and encourage a person towards a course of action.  The numbers prove nothing, ever!  Many people have become convinced that statistical data is comparable to “Holy Writ,” which is erroneous and dangerous.  Let me prove it to you, please.

Project Implicit

Project implicit was designed by Harvard University, is hosted on Harvard’s servers, and is all about individual bias.  Implicit bias in statistics is described as bias that occurs automatically and unintentionally, that nevertheless affects judgments, decisions, and behaviors.  Bog-standard bias is considered attitudes, behaviors, and actions that are prejudiced in favor or opposition to a person, group, or thing.  But, here is the clincher, bias is judged by others as a projection of themselves when they encounter other people, places, or things.

Broccoli PNGFor example, President Bush I, did not like broccoli.  A prejudice, possibly from childhood, he does not like this vegetable and handled the situation poorly at a state dinner in Japan.  Not liking broccoli is a bog-standard bias.  Other people, especially those enjoying broccoli, will view this event and shake their heads, possibly even ridiculing the president for his disinterest in broccoli.  Others who agree that broccoli is nasty will not have a problem with the presidential bias against broccoli as they exercise the same intolerance.  Thus, a bias is a behavior, an attitude, and supporting actions against something, someone, or someplace, even if that bias is understood or not.

Implicit bias takes normal bias one step further, according to psychiatrists and psychologists.  The extra step includes the inability to explain why a person does not like broccoli.  If there is no hidden reasoning from childhood, traumatic experiences, or irrational fears, then bog-standard bias is considered implicit bias, as judged by the person observing the behaviors.  Are the differences apparent; the reason I ask this is because of the problem in naming biases, the individual doing the observing and judging.Implicit Bias Test

In a branch of science called “Chaos Theory,” there is a hypothesis “that people affect their environments to their own desires.”  The premise was accidentally discovered when humans observed particles under close study and observed under remote means, and the particles acted differently.  The human influence upon particles was a giant leap forward in science, and nowhere is the power of researchers more fully understood than in human sciences (psychology, psychiatry, etc.).  The human brain is wired to connect socially, which is part of the problem when humans are studied under observation.  The innate desire to connect means that people will choose differently when under direct observation, when under remote observation, and when under no observation.

Hence bias is a judgment of another as witnessed through a lens of another person’s understanding, opinions, biases, and experiences.  Researcher bias is a fact inescapable and remains a topic of discussion in every research paper as a contributing factor to the results.  Why; because the researcher’s influenced the results, influenced the data, and influenced the process to achieve their own desires for an outcome. QED: Thoughts become things.Thoughts Become Things | the quotes

Returning to Project Implicit, ask yourself, why would you allow someone else to judge you?  Do you know them?  Do they know you?  Do you fully appreciate that the other person and yourself will influence the results?

Project implicit claims to measure, using mathematical formula the bias of another person, using time and word lists.  Using this formula (v1-v2=BIAS), Project Implicit proclaims they can help you recognize implicit bias on a range of topics from racism to gender roles and from veggies to pets, all because the mathematics claim they are conducting science.  Except, the implicit association is rigged to produce the desired results, as discussed above; hence, where is the veracity?The problems with implicit bias training | The Spectator | Truth Conquers All

GIGO

Garbage in equals garbage out (GIGO) is an axiom that initially began in computer programming and signified that when you dump a bunch of garbage into a system, the results are garbage.  The same is true for every single human endeavor; when you begin with garbage, the best you get for a result is more garbage.  Returning to implicit associations as an indicator of implicit biases, ask yourself, who selected the terms associated with the topic under study, the researcher or the researchee?

Of course, the researcher selected the terms, chose the topic, and tested how fast you can associate a word with the topic under study.  Then comparing the two results declares you have a bias.  Except, do you have a bias; I do not think so!  But, that’s my bias, for I choose to believe that you know how to choose and act in social environments to your potential and desired outcomes.[الإنحياز الضمني] مكتبات التصنيف الجاهزة في العقل البشري | محمد بن نخيلان الشمري

An Example

I was ordered to take an implicit association test to measure my emotional intelligence in a previous position.  The test used word associations on the topic of gender roles and leadership.  Believe it or not, I failed that association test; I do not place genders into any roles as traditional or limited to one gender or the other.  The best leaders are good followers; leaders are not born, they are made; gender, like race, never plays a role in the leadership potential of the person in charge.  Yet, when I failed the association test, my organization was informed I was obstinate, difficult, and opinionated; not that I deny these accusations, I simply refuse to fit into a pre-determined box.  Plus, I would see more people escape the box that has been built for them to “fit” into!https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8368/8537356422_23bf051215_b.jpg

Later that same week, I snuck into the association exam a second and third time, mainly because the researchers kept sending active links that did not discriminate against logins that had previously taken their test.  Yes, I intentionally poked holes into these researcher’s pet project, and I will explain in a minute why.  On my second attempt, I chose what the results considered a “traditional male” with a bias against women.  In the third attempt, I decided to be a woman with a grudge against men and their traditional roles.  I wanted to show how irrelevant these word association tests are and how the results should never be taken seriously.

My plan backfired; my employer was not happy.  The researchers had to scrap their entire data set and go back to the drawing board to fix the research plan, and then after regaining approval, collect human testing data a second time.  Lots of prestige was lost for my employer.  I did not care then; I care less even now; even though I eventually left that position with people angry with me, I do not regret my actions.  Thankfully, I was not the only person offended by the word associations and the results which “snuck back” to play!Mediocrity Joke

Why is this important?

The answer to why these topics are important is found in the principles outlined:

  1. Statistics prove nothing!
  2. Statistics can only support a course of action!
  3. Research can only support a decision!
  4. Research cannot prove anything!
  5. Faux science abounds, and until researchers and academia acknowledge this problem, it will only grow.
  6. Never believe what you read, see, or hear!
  7. Faux science is being used to classify, separate, denigrate, and deride!
  8. Faux science is the excuse for stealing your liberty, freedoms, and legal rights under the US Constitution!
  9. Faux science crops up in courtrooms which is a cause for bad case law, which develops into detestable legislation!
  10. Faux science looks, sounds, and appears legitimate until you dig deeper. If you do not dig, you will be misled!

Bobblehead DollI cannot stress enough the need for every person to stop accepting the box others claim you must live in to “get along and get ahead.”  You are an individual with inalienable rights, a brilliant mind, and unlimited potential.  You are needed on the front lines of the battlefields of today.  You must play an active role, or you will not be able to leave the American Heritage and this great Republic to your children and community.

But, like the “Reading Rainbow” used to proclaim, “Don’t take my word for it!”  Meaning explore, doubt, ask questions, and keep asking questions until you are satisfied the answers are truthful, without dissemination.  Liars will tell you a thousand truths to get you to believe a single lie.  But, do not take my word for it; prove it to yourself; then teach it to another person so that you can learn more perfectly.Reading Rainbow

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

It IS ALL About Leadership – More Shameful VA Chronicles

I-CareRecently, guardianships have been in the news, and I doubt this story will make the lawyers very happy.  The department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) reports that an Albuquerque couple has been sentenced for defrauding guardians, which included veterans.  The criminal report claims:

Susan Harris acted as president and was the 95-percent owner of Ayudando, while Moore acted as chief financial officer and was a five-percent owner. They engaged in a pattern of criminal conduct from November 2006 to July 2017 that included unlawfully transferring money from client accounts to a comingled account without any client-based justification.  They wrote and endorsed numerous checks, often of more than $10,000, from these comingled accounts to themselves, family members, cash, and other parties where payment would benefit their families.”

For the better part of 11 years, this couple has spent money not their own, abused their charges, and defrauded vulnerable clientele.  While the federal attorneys and investigators crow about catching this couple and ending this situation; what about all the rest of the guardianships where abuse is occurring?  I have read horrific stories about victims of guardianship abuse and hope more will be done on this topic very shortly!VA 3

For 11 years, where were the VA and the Social Security Administration?  Where were the local hospital leadership, social workers, and other federal employees who had to have known something fishy was going on?  Where are these Federal Employees now?  Where are the politicians scrutinizing this incident to ensure that protection for vulnerable citizens never happens again through legal guardianships?

Now traveling to Eastern Oklahoma VAHCS in Muskogee where an audiologist provided poor care and billed for unrendered services.  Pay close attention to the VA-OIG report; the leadership failures on this report alone are voluminous and unforgivable!

A facility fact-finding review revealed the audiologist provided poor care to eight of 43 patients reviewed, including misinforming patients who needed hearing aids that hearing aids were not needed. Although the audiology leaders reported the fact-finding results to the OIG, they failed to evaluate whether patients needed clinical follow-up; determine whether additional patients were affected by the audiologist’s poor care; evaluate whether clinical disclosures were required for the affected patients; and communicate the fact-finding results to the Facility Director, who was, therefore, unable to initiate the process to determine the necessity of a large scale disclosure. The instances of poor care were also not reported to the Patient Safety Manager, who was, as a result, unable to assess the adverse events to determine if patient safety interventions were indicated. The VA-OIG also found that performance monitoring of facility audiologists was not conducted as required. Annual competency assessments and annual performance appraisals were not consistently completed and did not contain adequate performance standards. Audiology leaders failed to consider whether the audiologist’s actions warranted a report to the state licensing board due to a lack of understanding of the requirements for reporting and, therefore, the Facility Director was not informed of the need to initiate a state licensing board review” [emphasis mine].

Will, someone please tell me, were the audiology leaders who failed to perform their jobs removed from Federal Employment?  What about the audiologists causing the problems?  Are they removed from Federal Employment?  Were their licensing practices curbed to protect other populations of patients?  The leadership failures here read like a Steven King horror story but do not have the satisfaction of finishing the story.VA 3

Yet, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) will continue to market that they are “defining quality in healthcare.”  The jokes write themselves but cannot be fired from Federal Employment!  Politicians, why can these jokers not be fired from Federal employment for such egregious abuse of their positions and failures to do their jobs?

I-CareTraveling further to North Carolina, we find that the perpetrator of this fraud has pled guilty, but again responsibility, accountability, and correction of the VA is being skirted.

John Paul Cook, 57, of Alexander, North Carolina, pleaded guilty to defrauding the VA. After enlisting in the Army in 1985, Cook sustained an accidental injury and complained the injury worsened a preexisting eye condition. In 1987, Cook was discharged, and he began receiving benefits that would increase over the next 30 years due to Cook’s repeated false claims of increased visual impairment and unemployability. In 2005, the VA declared Cook legally blind, and he began receiving disability-based compensation at the maximum rate despite repeatedly passing vision screening tests to obtain or renew his driver’s license and purchasing vehicles that he routinely drove.”

1987 to 2020, we will be generous in counting the years here; regardless, we are looking at 30+ years this fraud continued.  Where were the verification protocols?  I have had to produce a valid driver’s license at the VA to obtain and keep current my VA identification card.  How did this fraud go on for so long?  What is the VA doing to stop, or at least hinder, those who would defraud the government before the problem becomes 10 years old, let alone 30?!?!  I cannot fathom how this fraud went on for so long without a routine checkup, a routine exam, a follow-up exam, etc.VA 3

Going north from South Carolina, we find more fraud, this time in New Jersey, where a man did not report his mother had deceased and continued to claim her benefits for a total of over $200K.

Melvin Greenspan, 72, of Perrineville, New Jersey, pleaded guilty to defrauding VA of over $200,000 in survivor’s pension benefits. After the death of his mother in 2006, who had received survivor’s pension due to his father’s prior military service, Greenspan failed to notify the VA about his mother’s death and made withdrawals of the benefits through 2018.”

Where was the leadership?  Where are the leaders now?  Another fraud case, older than a decade, and still the VA cannot be held accountable for facilitating the fraud.  I am stunned!  How did this one continue for so long?  Doesn’t the VA check local newspapers, the Social Security Administration, other Federal Agencies?  Since the culprit was not held on defrauding SSA, one can only presume the mother’s death was reported there.  Why did the VA not get notified to ask the family questions?VA 3

On the topic of guardians and leadership, the following story makes me angry!  However, I will withhold further elaboration since those accused remain innocent until proven guilty by a trial of their peers.

Johnny Ray Gasca, 51, was arrested for allegedly abducting a 68-year-old woman with dementia from the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center in California. A witness recognized Gasca and reported he might have previously taken money from the woman’s bank and retirement accounts. Following his arrest, Gasca described the victim as his girlfriend and told agents that they stopped at a bank where the victim made a $15,000 withdrawal after leaving the medical center.”

In the first report from the VA-OIG discussed, we found guardianship rules being violated to the Nth degree.  In this story, we have no information of an assigned guardian, and we have a dementia patient being abused.  The dementia patient was traveling with a friend; who is the legal guardian for a dementia patient?  Where are the family or friends legally bonded to render aid for this patient and monitor finances to protect them from abuse?  How can the VA operate one way in one locale and 180-degrees differently in another locale and the leadership not held accountable?VA 3

Speaking of missing leadership, the following VA-OIG report is a beauty!  The Department of Veterans Affairs – Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has a program to help homeless veterans, where contractors are used, and the VHA uses case management documentation to verify the veteran is receiving the assistance being paid for, the program is called the contracted residential services (CRS) program.

The VA-OIG found facility staff did not consistently document case management and monitor the progress of veterans in the program.  Further, four of the 14 CRS contracts reviewed had performance deficiencies, with one resulting in improper payments of $592,000. These deficiencies may affect the health and safety of veterans living in transitional settings. Moreover, VA lacks assurance that veterans received required services. There were also contract administration problems in 13 of 14 reviewed contracts. Contracting officers did not always properly delegate responsibilities to staff functioning as contracting officer’s representatives. Further, one facility’s representative did not ensure contractors provided meals or the means to purchase them, as required, and another lacked invoice supporting documentation for approval. The VA-OIG audit team estimated that 107 of 119 contracts had monitoring and administration deficiencies. Furthermore, the team estimated that VHA made $35.3 million in improper payments, of which approximately $21.6 million was technically improper because the individuals authorizing payment were not delegated authority to serve as contracting officer’s representatives.”

If your accomplishment rate in your employment was 48%, would you retain your job for very long?  If 90% of your documentation claiming how well you do your job was missing or fabricated, how long would you maintain employment?  If you delegated people to complete your work who were unauthorized and you were contractually culpable, how long do you think you would stay out of prison?  How long would your boss stay out of jail?  How long would your company exist?  Now, answer me this riddler, why does the government get a pass on these questions?VA 3

Finally, we have Deputy Inspector General David Case’s testimony regarding the failure of VA leadership where the implementation of a new electronic health record (EHR) is being stalled.  If you care, the VA leadership and the VHA leadership are failing the EHR initiative.  Not that this was not expected, and not that this is not surprising, the IT and IS departments of the VA and VHA are so hopelessly lost it amazes me the VA is even using computers and not written records!  But, do not take my word for it, Case himself claims,

“Detailed in this statement, we have repeatedly found unreliable and incomplete estimates for upgrades and costs, inadequate reporting affecting transparency to Congress, and stove-piped governance with decision making that does not appropriately engage Veterans Health Administration (VHA) personnel who are the end-users of the new EHR system.”VA 3

Knowledge Check!Get that; the leadership failures are obstructing Congress and hindering the EHR progress!  What can we conclude from this batch of VA-OIG reports:

        1. The VA, VHA, VBA, and National Cemetery leadership are actively missing, like the Democrats from the Texas Legislature.
        2. If the leaders are present, the leaders are the problems in progressing.
        3. The leaders have created a system where fraud and abuse of the veterans and taxpayers can be achieved with ease.
        4. Nobody in the US House of Representatives or US Senate scrutinizes the legislative branch sufficiently to effect changes.
        5. When in doubt about where your leaders fall, check to see if they are in their offices. Oh, wait, that won’t help, their offices have locks on the doors!

If this is how the VA defines quality healthcare. In that case, the veterans are screwed, the taxpayer is sunk, and the leaders will enjoy their magnanimous federally approved retirement packages, ad nauseam ad infinitum!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

 

The Role of Quality – The Only Path to Improving Productivity

LookWarehouse or call center, manufacturing or non-profit, service industry or product sales, the role of quality continues to be misunderstood.  Sometimes, it appears that quality is intentionally misunderstood.  Often it seems as if quality and compliance are synonymous, even though quality is a small part of compliance.  Some businesses call quality “Quality Assurance,” “Quality Control,” or the “Quality Department.”  Regardless of the name, quality is the only path to improving productivity; however, productivity is measured.Inspiring Quotes on Quality - Fortune of Africa Swaziland

I have worked with businesses that used quality as a stick to beat employees and ultimately fire them.  This is an absolute abuse of quality and the quality people!  Worse, it hinders productivity because everyone becomes worried about meeting quality demands and not meeting customer expectations.  The employees who meet “quality” in these organizations are depressed, morale is pathetic, and the brand suffers significantly.  What really hurts, everything costs too much takes too long, and the company is not competitive, flexible, viable, or even worth mentioning.

What is Quality?

Bobblehead DollQuality is a process of striving to improve.  Interestingly, people inherently know when they have received quality or not.  Be it a person, a company, a community, a state, a government, etc., how one approaches quality as a process for improvement defines that person, company, community, state, etc.  Some companies think, “We have a quality department, we are meeting quality metrics, we are doing just fine in quality.”  To which I reply, in my best imitation of Colonel Potter from M*A*S*H 4077, “HORSE HOCKEY!”Quality Quotes (40 wallpapers) - Quotefancy

Why; because that company cannot define what drives the metrics being reported.  That company has a quality department but not a quality attitude, quality focus, and quality determination.  It cannot be stressed enough if your people are not quality first; you are losing between 33% and 50% of your potential!  Worse, the loss of potential is always hard to pin precisely to a direct problem when the problem is lodged in something as amorphous as “quality.”Chinese Crisis

Recognizing Quality Value

Let’s do the numbers together.  A manufacturing plant, a call center, and a warehouse are examples A, B, and C, respectively.

Example A: Employee A has been trained on making a part; he has never been told how his parts affect the finished product and is sometimes sloppy in creating pieces.  But, because he is within set standards, his sloppy work can be cleaned up at another station, so Employee A does not want to improve quality.  Producing 200 parts made per day, with anywhere between 5 and 75 pieces, needing additional work; Employee A has an overall cost to the company above and beyond expected costs.  Regardless if Employee A increases his productivity to 250 to 300 pieces per day, his defects remain potential lost.Blue Money Burning

Example B:  XX Team has 15 agents; each agent is expected to handle 80-100 calls per day.  But the quality metrics are so stringent; the team can only meet 35-40 calls per day on average.  However, the business processes to complete work, and meet the quality standards, handicap any single agent from meeting the 80-100 calls per day.  Does the company look at the agents or their business processes and quality standards?  The business will demand higher productivity and never realize that the churn increase is from burned-out good employees walking away!blue-money

Example C:  Inbound product receivers, outbound product shippers, and quality are the three departments in a warehouse.  Inbound, they do not consider themselves part of a quality initiative; their productivity is driven by how many items get properly stowed per day.  Outbound is where the company focuses as this is where the customer satisfaction is directly observed; how much an outbound picks and prepares for shipping is productivity.  Quality is considered someone else’s job as a quality department counts for compliance to SOX and other legislation.  Inbound and outbound employees know their positions, and because they are not quality, they can create quality problems intentionally or not, and someone else will always take care of the problem.  Dirty part locations with inventory from other areas don’t matter; quality will fix it.  Torn or damaged product in a location, it doesn’t matter quality will fix it.  In this case, 2/3rds of the employee potential for improving quality is AWOL!

TOP 25 POOR QUALITY QUOTES | A-Z QuotesNow, someone might think, these are hypotheticals, not real businesses.  Those examples are directly from my experience.  Yes, these examples are slightly oversimplified for brevity; however, not having a whole company quality culture hinders productivity.  This is a truth inescapable.

Co-Equal but not Co-Valuable

kpiProductivity, however measured in your company for goods or services, should be a co-equal part of quality.  Yet, if equality cannot be achieved, err on the side of increased quality until productivity catches up.  The value of productivity is measured in green money, cash.  The value of quality is measured in blue money, potential.  Bringing up my favorite axiom, “Burn enough blue money, and cash evaporates, and no one can trace where the cash went!”

Returning to Example A, the employee does not know, has not been trained, and is unaware that their actions are directly costing the company.  Since there is a quality person to check and “fix” the mistakes, the loss of potential is immeasurable until the business leaders have to increase the manufacturing price to account for the added work in quality to correct the errors.  Hence, when all metrics are equal between quality and productivity, err on the side of quality, and productivity will catch up.

Exclamation MarkWant a secret; it does not work in reverse!  Erring on the side of increased productivity increases costs elsewhere, burns potential, and ruins company bottom-lines.  Quality cannot “catch up” to productivity — an example best witnessed in manufacturing and warehouses.  The potential costs between manufacturing or multiple handling of products carry a potential cost, with no means of recovery.  Thus, it remains imperative to understand the roles of productivity and quality defined early, and placed in the proper order, to avoid significant cash hits to the bottom line.

Quality – A Culture, Not Just a Department!

cropped-2012-08-13-07-37-28-1.jpgA quality culture is an extension of the individual’s professionalism, always striving to be better.  Not faster, not slower, but better every day.  Training is a dynamic part of quality, and learning something new should be encouraged.  Yet, training, especially in call centers, always seems to take a back seat to operations and productivity.  All because productivity is not correctly understood and placed in its proper role.  Training and quality are potential or blue money expenses where the return on investment will be unknown.  Why; because quality and training place tools into the hands of employees, who then go on to build or destroy based upon the examples of leadership.

Quality Image Quotation #4 - Sualci QuotesQuality should be felt in every conversation, in every process, in every program, in every interaction.  As the most important customer in a business is other employees, the quality program is the most important activity and process for enhancing the business’s goals, aspirations, and daily production rates.  A culture of quality will then have the ground to grow and room to expand.  But, a quality culture will not grow overnight, nor will it grow without causing stagnant processes to change.

Knowledge Check!Consider a seed.  To grow, that seed has to be destroyed completely; but no one ever mourns the loss of the seed for the potential fruit to be born from that seed growing.  The same is true for a quality culture growing; the culture will destroy the seeds of stagnation, the apathy of indifference, and the processes and procedures that are not valuable to the new quality culture.  Will you allow a quality culture to grow?

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Sales Tax Holiday’s – Pure Politikal-Gimmickry

Angry Grizzly BearUntil I moved to New Mexico, I had never heard of a “Sales Tax Holiday.”  As a kid, I learned about rebates from an economist who defined rebates as money that did not have to be charged, which pays for a program to give some money back after the purchase concludes.  However, rarely are rebates actual cash returns, but get “built” into the price to sell the product.  Consider all the gimmicks and rebates involved in selling a car, and you know the truth and deceptiveness of rebates.  Sales tax holidays are one of the biggest scams perpetrated in 17-different U.S. states, and it is time to rip the bandage off this festering wound and apply some sunshine disinfectant!

What is Politics?

Politics is too often a word with so much baggage; people become confused and stop listening after hearing the word politics.  According to Webster:

As a Noun, “the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.”

    • The activities of governments concerning the political relations between countries.”
    • The academic study of government and the state.”
    • Activities within an organization that is aimed at improving someone’s status or position and are typically considered to be devious or divisive.”
    • A particular set of political beliefs or principles.”
    • The assumptions or principles relating to or inherent in a sphere, theory, or thing, especially when concerned with power and status in a society.”

As a Verb, politic/s is derogatory and is defined as “engaging in political activities.”

Knowledge Check!From Old French Politique “political,” Latin from Greek Politikos, and Polits “citizen” and Polis “city.”  Thus, we have described the term politics in all its glory and inhumanity.  Is the term more understood?

Politics is a descriptive tool used to identify certain human activities where power is sought, and devious means and divisive gestures are employed to obtain that power.  Every action tied to securing power through devious means and divisive gestures is politics or political, which means derogatory.  For those needing more, derogatory is “showing a critical or disrespectful attitude.”  Thus, at the root, politicians by their very name and nature are derogatory towards those who elect them into power.

What is Realpolitik?

Bobblehead DollRealpolitik is politics or diplomacy based primarily on considerations of given circumstances and factors, rather than explicit ideological notions or moral and ethical premises.  For a long time, the American public has witnessed the same political gamesmanship (realpolitik) in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Presidency.  All because those in power have intentionally blurred the line between a Republic and a Democracy to stay in control.  Never does realpolitik benefit the rule of law or provide equality as a primary and fundamental governance position.

Sales Taxes

Use the link on Sales Taxes to appreciate progressive and regressive taxes more fully.  The sales tax sits at the highest pinnacle for regression of all the progressive ideas needing to be eliminated.  Consider this, in states with the highest sales taxes, the sales tax is a reversed pyramid scheme where the final consumer winds up paying taxes on business-to-business transactions, dynamically increasing the price of the final goods or services delivered.Gravy Train 3

From an article on sales taxes by the Tax Foundation, we find the following important information:

“Narrow sales tax bases reduce collections, but more importantly, they make the tax less neutral and less economically efficient. Many states exempt certain goods (like groceries or clothing) from the sales tax for political reasons, excluding many consumer services (such as dry cleaning, haircuts, or tax preparation) largely by historical accident. Most states instituted their sales taxes during the Great Depression, when services made up a much smaller portion of the economy. Since then, the portion of total U.S. personal consumption dedicated to services has grown significantly, while the purchase of goods has declined. This trend has contributed to the erosion of states’ sales tax bases over time, an unintentional base narrowing that puts upward pressure on sales tax rates.

How can a person tell that sales tax schemes create inequitable tax bases:

Curiously, a policy expressly designed to inject progressivity into sales taxes—an exemption for groceries—largely fails to accomplish its purpose. Studies suggest that the exclusion of groceries beyond the necessary exemption for food purchased using SNAP or WIC does not favor lower earners.”

What is a Sales Tax Holiday?

Lemmings 2Simply put, a sales tax holiday is a day, usually just a single day when the government allows you to purchase goods and services without paying a sales tax on the receipt.  However, all the other sales taxes are still built into the cost of the good or service; just on this special day, the final receipt sales tax is not charged.  Sales tax holidays are one of the most inefficient and ineffective methods of “sharing unanticipated government money surpluses with the taxpaying public.”

How do we know sales tax holidays are a gimmick, are ineffective and inefficient, and are nothing but the practice of realpolitik?  In 2017, the Federal Reserve researched and found that sales tax holidays only shift normal patterns of purchases, not spurring economic growth, not increasing sales, just moving sales to a holiday to see a minor benefit on regularly planned purchases.  What’s worse, sales tax holidays discriminate unequally, making taxpayers the fool.

Tax Scheme 2For example, Florida in 2021 held a “Freedom Week” where camping supplies and outdoor hobby supplies were tax-exempt.  As a disabled person, I cannot camp.  As an empty nester, there are not many outdoor hobbies for myself and my retired spouse to enjoy where we need supplies.  Thus, people like myself and my spouse would not benefit from “Freedom Week.”  The same goes for tax-exempt school supplies; not having children in school, we do not benefit from a sales tax holiday as kids prepare to go back to school.

Worse, those in the lowest income brackets, guess what, they do not benefit from sales tax holidays either!  Just like in the example above regarding the sales tax “exemption for groceries—largely fails to accomplish its purpose and does not favor lower-income earners.  Hence the politikal-gimmickry of sales tax holidays.  If your circumstances do not allow you to participate in the sales tax holiday on the exact day (or days) provided by your state, you lose, and the politicians could care less.

Janelle Cammenga, writing for The Tax Foundation, makes the following case:

Sales tax holidays are political gimmicks that distract from genuine, permanent tax relief. Sales tax holidays are free marketing for businesses to advertise for a 4-7% discount on products.  If a state must offer a “holiday” from its tax system, it is implicit that the tax system is uncompetitive. If policymakers want to save money for consumers, they should work to reduce the sales tax rate year-round.”

Tax BurdenI agree, mightily, sales taxes are progressive, which makes them a poor tax, to begin with.  Adding sales tax holidays make a sales tax worse!  Yet, they are sold to the public as if they were the best thing since sliced white bread.  While it may be true that taxes are the cost of society, there are better ways to collect taxes, and there are infinitely better ways to spend taxpayer dollars than the profligate waste we see happening daily!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.