Saturday, May 26, 2012

Generation X and the Narrowing Career Path


10:25 AM Wednesday May 23, 2012 

Melissa, a talented Gen X'er, is given a promotion that puts her in direct contention for a key senior spot. Although her Boomer colleagues are offering their congratulations, Melissa finds herself feeling vaguely uneasy. She is reaching a point in her career where the path seems to be narrowing suddenly and precipitously. There look to be very few options for the next possible step. Her enthusiastic and supportive Boomer boss has presented the promotion as the next step on an inevitable path — her "final hurdle" before taking on his job.
"I'd better be cautious," she mused.
Why does Melissa feel uneasy?
I suspect her concerns stem from a desire to keep multiple options open. Many X'ers tend to be very wary of putting all their eggs in one corporate basket. They don't like to be pigeon-holed or pushed out on a limb of specialization — with the inherent danger of a whimsical corporation sawing that limb off behind them during the next restructuring. One of their highest priorities is keeping their options open and their skills diverse — to be as self-reliant as possible. And they don't like it when Boomers assume they're interested only in the "obvious" career path choice.
The genesis of these concerns lies in the experiences Melissa would have shared with other members of her generation when they were teens in the late '70s, '80s and early '90s, times of economic uncertainty and domestic social change.
X'ers' teen years were a time of major corporate restructuring. The psychological contracts between employers and employees, established through the '60s, were being ripped apart as large scale lay-offs accompanied the re-engineering and downsizing initiatives of the '80's. I think it's a safe assumption that there is no one in their 30s today who, as a teen, did not know some adult who was laid off from a corporation where he or she had planned to spend an entire career. The sense of unease when it comes to corporate commitments is an almost universally shared view among Generation X.
On the home front, many X'ers also lived through a significant shift in the social fabric. In the U.S., for the first time since war efforts, women entered the workforce in major numbers — mom was home for many X'ers when they were small and went to work during their teen years. Some of the impetus for women working outside the home came from rising divorce rates — during X'ers' teen years, divorce rates in the U.S. rose from 20% to 50%. They were first generation labeled "latch key kids" — home alone in the afternoons, leaning on their friends for companionship and support.
These teen experiences combined to leave most X'ers valuing self-reliance — and placing the ability to control their own destinies as a very high priority.
What steps might Melissa take to feel more comfortable?
For many X'ers, the fundamental mistrust of institutions is causing many to dream of leaving corporate life. Some of the most popular programs in MBA curricula today are, in fact, classes in entrepreneurship.
But those who stay in corporations can create broader options, as well. If you're feeling boxed in, begin by identifying at least six positions in the firm that you might like to hold in the future. For each, understand the skills, capabilities and experience that would be required to take on the position. Are there ways that you could gain some of these skills as part of your current role — perhaps through closer collaboration with another group in the company or volunteering to be part of task force? Is there a key skill that you'll need to gain through education? Most important, let the organization know that you'd like to develop your skills more broadly — and enlist support in achieving your goals.
Your preferences are likely to be different from those of the Boomers who held similar positions a few years ago. You need to play a role in helping the organization understand that your goals may be a bit different. Most corporations will be delighted to help you develop a broader set of skills — if they understand that's what you want. 

To change professional behaviors, move up in your organization and/or land a position contact:
CB Bowman, MBA, CMC, MCEC at Executive Leadership, LLC 908.509.1744;

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Value in Conducting Thorough Background Checks on Executives By: Thomas Fox

Ed. Note-today we have a guest post by Scott Lane, President of the Red Flag Group.

Internet giant Yahoo! has now been forced to undertake another extensive search for a Chief
Executive Officer to help salvage its underperforming business. Today it was announced that
Scott Thompson would be stepping down from his recently appointed position at the
company in the wake of allegations surrounding the accuracy of his education record. The
scenario that Yahoo! is now in serves as a reminder to organisations of the importance of
conducting thorough background checks on new senior executive appointments as a means of
avoiding potential shareholder disputes and detrimental publicity.
Not long after Scott Thompson was appointed CEO of Yahoo! in January 2012, rumours
began circulating about the authenticity his academic credentials as detailed on his CV. Mr
Thompson’s CV listed an accounting and computer science degree from Stonehill College in
the United States. Daniel Loeb, the boss of the hedge fund Third Point who own 5.8% of
Yahoo!, claimed that Mr Thompson had not in fact graduated with a degree in computer
science. The discrepancy in Mr Thompson’s record was deemed to be the result of an
“inadvertent error” by Yahoo!. Mr Loeb initiated a number of inquiries on behalf of other
shareholders as to how Yahoo!’s vetting process had not picked up that Mr Thompson never
graduated with a degree in computer science.
This case divided opinion as to the seriousness of Mr Thompson’s misrepresentation,
particularly as his performances in previous roles had earned him considerable acclaim.
However, Yahoo! had exposed themselves to potential litigation by using Mr Thompson’s
degree information on regulatory filings, and the ongoing discussions about his background
continued to be a distraction from becoming established in his new role. So much so that the
decision has been made that Mr Thompson is to step down as CEO. Not only will Yahoo!
now have to undertake another expensive and time consuming search for his replacement, his
departure also comes at the expense of other existing directors who were responsible for his
employment. More so, over the past number of weeks Yahoo! has been the focus of
considerable media attention for all the wrong reasons, and its board’s reputation to make
decisions in the best interests of all stakeholders tarnished.
This is certainly not the first time a company has suffered the indignity of having to replace
senior executives. Last year the chief executive of InterContinental Hotels Group’s Asia-
Pacific operations, Patrick Imardelli, resigned after it was discovered that he had
misrepresented his academic record on his CV.
This issue could have been addressed if companies:
• Conducting a detailed background check to ascertain the overall accuracy of an
individual’s CV including all previous work and study credentials
• Detailed research into the person’s profile in International media in each of the
markets where they have lived, carried on business or managed people
• Interviews with other colleagues, business associates, and previous employers to
address the overall integrity of the person in all markets in which they have worked
• Interviews with the person to assess their understanding of compliance and legal risks,
their approach to ethical and integrity issues and their answers to a series of
hypothetical corporate situations posing ethical challenges and testing their responses
along the way
• The conducting of psychometric testing based on integrity issues to assess
independently the responses to certain situations
Background screening and integrity assessments should be an essential part of the hiring and
promoting process. This is important with all new employees, but even more so with those
moving into senior positions. The incident involving Mr Thompson will for some time
remain a blight against Yahoo! in the eyes of some of its shareholders, but they will no doubt
adopt screening measures to heavily scrutinise all candidates in the future. Whilst
undertaking extensive screening operations can be time consuming and costly, it is not as
damaging to an organisation as disharmony amongst shareholders when it is discovered that a
recently appointed individual’s credentials are false.

If you are looking to increase your income, move up in your organization or land a position contact:
CB Bowman, MBA, CMC, MCEC at Executive Leadership, LLC 908.509.1744;

Legal Alert: EEOC Permits Transgendered Worker to Proceed with Title VII Claim By: Ford & Harrison LLP

[author: Carolyn Lam]
Executive Summary:  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently issued a decision stating that discrimination based on transgender status or gender identity constitutes sex discrimination under Title VII.  The decision allows transgendered individuals to file workplace discrimination charges with the EEOC.  See Macy v. Holder, Appeal No. 0120120821 (April 20, 2012).
Mia Macy, a transgender woman who presented as a man, had a telephone interview with the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' ("ATF's") Walnut Creek crime laboratory for an available position.  Macy was informed that the position was hers if she passed her background check. 
A few months later, Macy informed ATF's Director that she was transitioning from male to female.  Subsequently, ATF informed Macy the position she sought was no longer available because of budget cuts.  Macy later discovered that ATF had hired another individual for the position.
Macy filed a formal EEO complaint with the AFT, alleging discrimination on the basis of her sex, gender identity, and sex stereotyping.  The ATF's EEO office accepted Macy's complaint on the basis of sex and gender identity stereotyping.  However, the ATF refused to process her gender identity stereotyping claim under Title VII and EEOC regulations, stating that gender identity discrimination claims cannot be adjudicated by the EEOC.  Instead, the ATF stated that Macy's gender identity stereotyping claim would be processed under the ATF's "policy and practice."  Macy filed an appeal with the EEOC, arguing: (1) the EEOC had jurisdiction over her entire claim; and (2) by separating her claims into "sex discrimination" and "gender identity stereotyping," ATF had essentially dismissed her gender identity and transgender discrimination claims.
EEOC Determination:
In response to Macy's appeal, the EEOC found that claims of discrimination based on transgender status:  (1) are cognizable as sex discrimination claims under Title VII; and (2) may be processed as EEOC charges.
According to the EEOC, Title VII's definition of "sex" encompasses both biological differences and cultural and/or social aspects associated with males or females.  The EEOC cited to Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins in support of its determination that an employer discriminates on the basis of gender whenever it treats an employee differently for failing to conform to gender-based expectations.  490 U.S. 228 (1989).
The EEOC reversed the ATF's final decision declining to process Macy's entire complaint under Title VII and EEOC regulations and remanded the complaint to ATF's EEO office.
Employers' Bottom Line:
The EEOC's position on this burgeoning cause of action will lend strength to plaintiffs who seek to sue for gender identity-related claims of discrimination.  Employers can expect courts to cite to the EEOC's opinion when evaluating claims from transgendered employees and employees suing for sex-based stereotyping. 
If you have any questions regarding this Alert or other labor or employment related issues, please contact the author, Carolyn Lam,, who is an attorney in our Birmingham office, or the Ford & Harrison attorney with whom you usually work.

If you are looking to increase your income, move up in your organization or land a position contact:
CB Bowman, MBA, CMC, MCEC at Executive Leadership, LLC 908.509.1744;