How much diversity is enough?
There must be a lot of white racists right here in Fayette County. According to the NAACP, whites have voted in blocks against black candidates, thereby making a case for district voting.
The NAACP seems to be saying in their claim that only a black candidate can serve the interest of black constituents, and that blacks can be presumed to overwhelmingly support black candidates.
Gee, isn’t that racist? Could it be the NAACP wants a guaranteed outcome instead of just a level playing field?
Maybe our President wants a guaranteed outcome in the federal workforce, too, because last week he issued an executive order, “Establishing a Coordinated Government-wide Initiative to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Workforce” intended to “promote the federal workplace as a model of equal opportunity, diversity and inclusion.” The order went further to say the federal government “must create a culture that encourages collaboration, flexibility and fairness to enable individuals to participate to their full potential.”
You might think from that executive order our federal workforce, rapidly growing under President Obama, has too many white males, but let’s take a look at the 2010 stats from the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
Blacks are 11.1 percent of the population but 17.7 percent of the federal workforce. Hispanics are slightly under-represented compared to the population. Asians and Pacific Islanders are 4.4 percent of the population but 5.6 percent of the federal workforce. American Indians are 0.7 percent of the population but 1.8 percent of the federal workforce. Whites are 70 percent of the population and 66.2 percent of the federal workforce, but as President Obama’s executive order makes clear, that’s still way too many white people on the bloated payroll.
If you observe that measuring the workforce by racial and gender groups instead of measuring performance is breathtaking in its stupidity, it is, indeed, but don’t tell OPM because that sort of common sense would make their sensitive heads explode.
Preferential hiring, retention and promotion practices in the federal government has a long history. Let me share with you a little of my own memories.
For five years in the 1990s, I stepped out of the corporate world to be a quasi-government employee — I was Director of Investigations in the eastern U.S. for the FDIC/RTC.
My investigators and support staff developed civil and criminal cases against those who caused losses to failed savings and loan institutions. During an intense hiring period, I would have liked to use affirmative action in a positive way, which in my mind would have included an overt effort to cast a wide net to invite and prompt qualified minorities and women to apply, and then from that pool hire the best for the job. But of course OPM had other ideas.
Any business owner reading this is probably rolling his or her eyes, because they are in the trenches of hiring and firing, and they know that “best qualified” does not come from education and experience listed on a resume, and it certainly does not come defined in a racial group.
They know that because they have hired people with glowing qualifications, only to discover later that person is either an idiot or a fool who focuses on rights instead of responsibilities.
Smart hiring officials learn that finding the best people requires that you “screen out” with the resume, but you select the best from their personal qualities like eagerness, interest, dedication, tenacity, loyalty, integrity, professional appearance, written and oral communication skills, composure under pressure, ability to get along with peers and superiors and so on. As a hiring official, you do your best to pick winning performers, but reality does not always emerge in the interview process.
When you have federal human resources types involved in hiring – people who care quite a lot about minority groups but little about those personal qualities that make the best employees – then getting the good ones hired becomes an obstacle course.
In my case we ran that obstacle course as best we could, and despite the losers on the payroll, we succeeded in hiring some outstanding people, too.
The real performers carried the load of the slackers along for the ride. The federal award and promotion system gave far more weight to minority status than to performance, but I must tell you that among my best performers were “minorities.”
Performers and slackers came in all races and genders, and therein lies the secret readily apparent to some of us but hidden forever to the pathologically sensitive – employees should be hired, judged, promoted and fired based on individual performance, not membership in any group.
Having said that, I’ll share a real secret with you that might stir some lashback. Among my best investigators looking for bank fraud and negligence, people of all stripes that I was proud to work with, women were often better at the job because for some reason they were more focused on details.
But I had winners and I had idiots and fools that were black, white, men, women and so on of any race, gender, religion or any other classification a liberal might dream up. And every one was an individual, responsible for their own performance.
One foreseeable consequence of OPM’s boneheaded preferential treatment of minorities was the weakest employees learned quickly how to game the system. Once their under-performance became clear and they were on a path of documented deficiency and correction, many protected themselves by filing a discrimination claim based on race, gender, age, religion, you name it. That made them protected for a year or so because management had to treat the claim as if it were real, and the procedural wheels turned slowly.
On one visit to Atlanta from Washington, D.C., an EEOC attorney was reviewing the case of one of my fools who had protected herself with a race discrimination claim – she was black. I asked the attorney, who was also a black woman, if my perception was correct, that 90 percent of these claims were false. She answered that I was probably low, more like 95 percent. Your tax dollars and mine at work.
I finally did manage to fire that particular fool of an employee, and because she was so unpredictable I asked for an Atlanta police officer to oversee cleaning out her desk and escort her off the premises. That is just one example of the waste involved in making federal employees so protected from common sense disciplinary action.
During that episode of my life, my investigators and the attorneys and prosecutors we worked with recovered over $600 million for taxpayers, and the credit is theirs, not mine. The real shame is, if we had not been tangled up in red tape, we could have recovered twice that amount.
That was 15 years ago. Do you think federal hiring, managing, promoting and firing practices have trended toward common sense in that time period? Do you think they now realize people are individuals, not members of a group? Neither do I.
I’m sure OPM is still dedicated to group identity in personnel management, with nary a thought to the fundamental improvement to the system of treating people as individuals, judging them by their performance and giving pink slips where deserved.
And I’m certain of this – OPM welcomes the President’s new initiatives. I’m sure the NAACP is reassured as well by the President’s order, which is right in line with their assumption that blacks will always vote based on the color of someone’s skin.
[Terry Garlock of Peachtree City occasionally contributes a column to The Citizen. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.]