THE WOMEN OF HUMAN RESOURCES & THE BOOMER ECONOMY
PART I : The Rise of Human Resources
From the 1960s through to the 1980s, Human Resources departments were established to handle the legal paperwork of the staff. During this time, new laws were being passed to protect the rights, the human rights of the workforce. During the women’s movement of the 1970’s laws were put into place, attempting to protect the rights of women. In a post WWII male-dominated work culture, they had had enough of cat-calls, being called honey and being slapped in the ass by their male coworkers. They used their newfound voices of representation to protect themselves at work.
Human Resources found itself playing the role of keeper and protector of the secrets of the male executives and their untoward advances on the female members of the staff. The role of the human resources worker, still mostly men, was vaguely defined and had not yet grown into what it is today. HR was compromised. Under pressure they began to see their role as protector of the company, shielding it from litigation, and by extension, protector of the men of upper management from the female secretaries.
Human Resources was a tool used to pressure female victims of sexual harassment into quitting their jobs before it became scandalous for the company. At the time, harassment was not so much a crime as it was an inconvenience. It was easier to dismiss the victims than to punish the main source of income for the American family, the breadwinner men.
With the rise of the internet and job boards (1995–2009), HR was assigned the duties of gatekeeper at many corporations. Part of their job became to look for reasons NOT to hire applicants. They went through all applicants resumes’ with a fine-tooth comb scouring them for mistakes. At the same time, the female presence in the workforce was rising. HR departments, and their role of mediation and communicator became a natural career path for many women just entering the workplace.
The more online job boards grew in popularity, the more overwhelmed Human Resources became with the recruiting and hiring process. This was when recruiting and hiring became automated. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) software increased their ability to reject candidates faster, tossing the resumes’ of the most innovative and creative (i.e. quirky and weird) first. Finding conformity and programming ATS to reward that conformity followed naturally for those in HR. Outliers were easy to remove from consideration for employment. It’s not clear yet, but 2010–2020 may be remembered as the end of the era of American Innovation.
The innovators, unaware of this shift in the system, were being unintentionally cast aside by ATS software which had been programmed to look for those candidates that were the closest “fit” for positions within the companies. The American workforce was becoming more and more homogenized in terms of which personality traits were acceptable while simultaneously experiencing an increase in diversity on a visual level through increasing racial and sexual equality. Equal Opportunity laws had the effect of greatly increasing the presence of white women in the workplace who benefited the most from Equal Employment laws.
The subtle pushing aside of poorer white men and black men went mostly unnoticed as all other minority classes were moving up the corporate ladder. There seemed to be equal opportunity for all, regardless of superficial differences. No one would notice or care if a handful of white men were being tossed aside. The case with black men, on the other hand, varied slightly from that of the working class white male. No change in the office was noticed since many were never given a chance at the American Dream to begin with. A great many of them became imprisoned during this time period, victims of the failed War on Drugs.
Human Resources, taking their new found duties seriously, perfected even further their ability to reject candidates for the most minor of issues at a more efficient pace. From the 1980s onwards, the profession continued to see a large influx of women, becoming a rare female dominated department. Anyone who stood out as exceptional was first to go, assuming they’d want too much in terms of salary, and would not show loyalty to the company. Slowly, people were losing or quitting their jobs as occurred naturally for one reason or another. Unknown to anyone, the seeds of discontent were being sown.
This was the beginning of the age of white male resentment. Under-educated, often busy and repeatedly lied to, they did not know where to focus their anger. These qualified, alpha-male professionals, REAL people, were met with rejection after rejection with doors slammed in their faces as they earnestly attempted to look for new work, not realizing that the rules of the game had changed. The timid and mediocre survived, having a well-developed sense of potential danger, they knew best how to keep their heads down and not to question anything. After 2–3 years, or even longer in some cases, these real people with hopes and dreams, families and bills began to loose all hope and quit even trying to find work. Their numbers would swell in the coming years.
Taking advantage of new technology and the dire situation of this new arbitrary underclass, the unwanted techno-nerds began the task of displacing certain sectors of the economy. Uber Grubhub and Airbnb, the first generation of new service-oriented companies came along. They offered part-time, piecemeal work to these people who were desperate enough for any work. The gig economy was born.
I don’t think the people in HR ever understood their role in causing the stagnation of our economy and the rise of contractor-employee “gig” work. Instead of going along with the natural growth of new companies, HR stifled the economy, short-circuiting the growth of many companies who could not grow at the rate they desired due to a false narrative created by HR to cover up their own ineptitude, or maybe even vengeance, a “lack of skilled workers” was sited at the reason for not hiring people into the new positions being created in the tech industry.
In the meantime, HR was proud of their accomplishment and their new found power. They had the ability to keep the riffraff out of the office. They could keep these unruly white and black men away from new opportunities. At the time of this writing, 71% of all Human Resources professionals are women. One side-effect of this has been the “domestication” of the workplace. Wielding more and more influence, the feminization of human resources has changed the dynamic of the hiring process from one of decisive action, being hired on a handshake, to a long drawn out courtship. No longer are companies growing aggressively, seizing opportunities for growth and expansion, but are now instead content to grow slowly.
Gone are the days when a person could conceivably get hired on the spot during the first interview. Now companies will stretch out the interview process to three or four, sometimes six interviews before extending an offer of marriage, I mean work, to a new employee. In the past, it didn’t matter if a new aggressive superstar salesman rubbed an executive assistant the wrong way. Now potential new hires are first screened by ATS to make sure they are within a normal range of acceptable personality traits through examination of their work history for continuity and consistency, no risk takers allowed. Next, they are screened by Mom (HR/Protector) before being introduced to the kids (the team). The whole family will then sit down together to discuss whether or not this new person is a good enough “fit” within the family dynamic to be their new brother or sister. The wussification of the American workplace is now complete. We have collectively decided that the American economy will never be firing on all cylinders, it will never be great again, and we’re okay with that.
It was the perfect storm of ineptitude. HR had sealed the gates shut, symbolically blocking the sensual but dirty working man from access to her daughters. Another layer of protecting the family was created with “Human Resources speak.” A constantly changing language, not quite English, seasonal in nature. They had their own vocabulary complete with choice keywords of the day no one outside of HR could influence or could decipher. The self-appointed workplace language police now had the power to arbitrarily decide which words to use for each “skill’ workers possessed. This became their weapon of choice against the worker and the American economy. Combined with her ATS software, every open position at the company was now hers to fill or leave vacant, qualifying or disqualifying anyone she pleased with the flip of a switch.
The ATS keyword for “training” could become ‘instructing’ one week, ‘teaching’ the next, then ‘mentoring’, or perhaps,’ coaching’, then back to training again. Hiring managers too busy and overwhelmed due to a shortage of staff were glad to cut out the hiring of new workers from their duties as that just meant increasing their already overburdened workload. Because of the dismal failure of Human Resources Professionals we have a situation where, on average, 30 people are doing the work of 50, while the rest of America wallows in perpetual unemployability, who for legal reasons, are unable to ascertain why, using their MBAs to drive tourists from the airport to their hotel for Uber or Lyft, We have incompetence, miscommunication, misunderstanding and shortsightedness ruling the day.
PART II: The Boomers & The Peter Principle
The overworked and hectic staffs of these companies were all too willing to go along, not having a moment to spare for the simplest of training, they would rather have the burden of doing the work of 2 people instead of taking the time to hire and train new workers. All they could picture was the unfinished work that would be piling up on their desk while they took the time to show the new guy or gal the ropes.
In the meantime, people who wanted to work, people who with minimal training could perform well in what should have been expanding companies in a robust economy, gave up and gave in. They had been thoroughly rejected and dejected. Their confidence and sense of self-worth shattered, they turned to opiates and daytime TV to relieve their pain and temporarily forget their situation. In hindsight, this maybe seen as the most heartless, unnecessary, and callous waste of human life and labor since the Great Depression, and no one noticed. You don’t see the blow back from events never happened. You don’t hear about the unhijacked airplanes that arrived at their destination on time, unharmed.
As of last year, 59% of the unemployed have stopped looking for work. Most of these people have been out of work for two years or longer. This is patently absurd. I’m sure the shortsightedness and selfishness of the Baby Boomer generation can shoulder much of the blame for that. These are the people who’s parents taught then how to shoot and how to fish before they were teenagers. These are the people who’s parents, tired from a long and protracted world war, taught their baby boomer children the ways of the corporate world as fast as they possibly could and then handed them the keys to power as they sauntered off to a well deserved retirement.
The mostly self-centered “me” generation boomers gladly took control and never looked back. Being basically narcissistic in nature, they never trusted that their children were capable of responsibility. That coupled with their lust for control meant that they held onto the reigns of power and control as long as they possibly could, denying their own Gen-X and millennial children their birthright, and essentially, cutting off the gen-xer’s most lucrative years. They looked around the office place, not trusting in the ability of their children to run the companies.
Having short-shortsightedly with their incredibly selfish focus wrecked the economy in 2008, nearly taking themselves out as well through their own piss-poor planning and ineptitude. They are now holding onto their positions of power as long as possible, refusing to retire, especially since through their political actions they had made their own healthcare unaffordable. Living in denial of their responsibility and of their inevitable death, they cling to any excuse they can to keep working. Not content on blocking a generation and a half from reaching success and achieving the American Dream, they now rob their grandchildren of their future through continued mismanagement of social security and the federal budget. This has caused even more of a crunch in the workforce further stiffing economic growth.
Refusing to acknowledge that they are largely to blame for nearly all of the issues and problems facing themselves and the world today, they are using their unrelenting grasp on the levers of power in the media to attack their millennial children. They blame their ungrateful children who are not buying the right products or watching enough television for the sluggish condition of the economy. A whole generation having wielded power and influence from the day they turned 18, they still don’t recognize their own responsibility for their situation. If we are not careful, they may well take down the whole American system with them on their way out.