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The Fifth Question

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Over the last two days we gathered around the family table for the Passover Seder, the meal where the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt is retold each year. One role for the children present is to ask the four questions at the appropriate time during the Seder. The questions revolve around why this meal, this Seder, is different from the other meals typically eaten during the rest of the year. And around those differences the story of Passover is told.

This year I added a fifth question for the family present. “Do we live in evil times”? To me, emotionally, this year feels like the spring flowers will curl up, turn black and shrivel, that the grass will stay brown, the blue sky will stay obscured by clouds, that the trees will remain bare. In addition to the darkness settling over the land, I expect cattle to perish, locusts to decimate crops, waters to run red, boils, disease, hail and death. Yes, I have a nagging feeling that we can all expect various plagues to continue, at least for the short term. What brings me to this state of pessimism?

The United States has seemingly, willingly, thrown away its somewhat exceptionalism role. We have thrown away our morality, our leadership, our values, aspirational as they were, but at least the aspirations were there. The aspirations of our current federal leaders include greed, corruption, abuse, racism and worse, all of which can only be achieved by denigrating the pillars of society that has made our country great, science, a free press, a fair judiciary, and a congress with actual oversite powers. Corruption, fiscal abuse, nepotism, blatant racism, intimidation of the most vulnerable among us, the thirst for power at any cost now run rampant. As a country we have embraced the worst fears, the worst instincts of tribal, primitive mankind.

ICE, it is now hard to imagine them as anything more than thugs, grabs people off the streets, separating mothers and fathers from their children and dumps them without money, without identification, without a method of communication and without due process in foreign lands.  Who is attracted to work like this? Here is a passage about one person who was so treated with the name altered. “…attorney worked very hard to file all the necessary papers and reach out to the ICE officer to make a case for a stay of XYZ’s deportation. The officer took a few days to get back to the attorney and before the process was complete, ICE had already approved his removal from the country.” “XYZ was not allowed to gather his belongings, to say goodbye to his family, to make a phone call to them and the family was not notified by ICE that this would be happening. The only way they knew was because the attorney called the ICE officer who said that XYZ was already in transit to Mexico. Last night they received a call from XYZ for the first time since he left New York. ICE brought him over the border into Mexico and left him. XYZ has no ID, no cell phone, no bank cards and no money. When I spoke to XYZ’s child last night he was not sure how his father was going to get to the village he is originally from.” This person has worked as a janitor for the last 20 years, putting two American children through college. He has paid all of his taxes and has had a clean record. What ever happened to only going after bad people? Another lie.

The EPA, the agency that is supposed to protect our environment, to protect our health has now officially sworn off science. After all who would want to know if a chemical is carcinogenic, before you decide if it needs regulation. Clean air emissions are about to be loosened as are standards for cars. Not to mention that the head of the EPA and his daughter accept a very fancy apartment in a tony part of Washington for $50 per night from an energy industry lobbyist.  Corruption and greed is rampant, ignorance is celebrated.

The interior department is destroying our national monuments, our national parks, our heritage for the sake of mining companies and for drilling opportunities. The head of the interior department has sworn off of diversity, after all his logic goes, just hire the best and diversity will take care of itself, expect that it never has. Just today an opponent of the endangered species act has been given oversite of that very act. That is like having war mongers running the State Department – wait, that is happening as well.

The education department is pushing for vouchers in a plan that completely flies in the face of what the founding fathers wanted public education to be. Public education that they knew was critical to the long-term success of our democracy. Benjamin Franklin is turning over in his grave.

The list can go on and on. In fact, you can barely go one day without some sort of scandal cropping up with this administration.  Russia attacking our democracy, Saudi princes with undue influence and claiming that senior administration officials are in their pocket (officials who only got their positions through nepotism rather than any kind of ability), collusion, corruption, threats, intimidation, money laundering, the NRA accepting foreign money aimed at determining the outcomes of our elections (a criminal offense), organized crime, lies, propaganda, voter suppression, gerrymandering, the attempt to silence those whose job it is to speak up, it is impossible to keep up with the growing and expanding list, and it feels like the plagues of Passover are raining down on our heads.

The insanity that has gripped our nation is not limited to our shores. It is impacting many other countries. For instance, it now seems that Brexit, which will separate Britain from the EU and weaken Europe was also influenced by Russia. After all, with a weakened USA, where we are at each other’s throats, and a weakened EU who is left to stand in the way of Russia putting the USSR back together? Of course, many of the countries that were part of the USSR have no interest in returning to that system of repression and tyranny – but Vladimir has other ideas.

ENOUGH!

And along come some children. Children who saw 17 of their classmates killed by a semi-automatic weapon which is very similar in design to one designed for the battlefield. Designed for use by the military. A weapon whose only design impetrative was to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible. These children, like the children of Passover are asking questions. Their first question seems to be “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” And like the children of Passover, when the answer is not satisfactory for them they continue to ask questions, even as those questions become uncomfortable for those used to “tradition”. The reason the children at Passover are the ones to ask the questions, is because they are the ones that will create the future, the children are the ones that will determine whether Judaism will survive for another generation, just as the children of America will ultimately determine whether our democracy survives as well. Impeachment may or may not happen. Prison sentences may or may not be handed out. It is the children and their questions that ultimately matter the most. The questions must be asked. The questions must be answered to the satisfaction of the next generation.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

April 1, 2018 at 9:02 pm

Unsupported by Evidence

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These myths continually seem to arise in the workplace. The one that especially attracted me right now is that chaos in an organization is somehow good for productivity and effectiveness. Of course it isn’t. Jeff

Jeffrey Saltzman's Blog

I was recently on a panel at a local meeting in NYC of Industrial Organizational Psychologists and after much discussion I made a statement. I said that as a field we have almost completely and utterly failed at bridging the gap between the science and research that we do, the evidence-based and experimental knowledge that we gain and those who are out there in the world writing about people at work or organizations in the lay press, or those in organizations, making day-to-day decisions about them which affect both the organizations and the people within them. After all most of the information about people at work is just “common sense” isn’t it? And I am a person and I work, so I guess that makes me an expert.

Unfortunately, much of that “common sense” is not supported by the facts and in some cases the facts support the opposite conclusion…

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Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

March 6, 2018 at 1:08 pm

No Fear

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The Largest Number Of Scientists In Modern U.S. History Is Running For Office In 2018 – Huffington Post – 2/3/18 -Hopefully the start of a rollback to the current administration’s notion that ignorance is good and science can be ignored.

Jeffrey Saltzman's Blog

Humans are fearful creatures. We can’t help it, we evolved that way to help us survive. When a pre-technological human was kneeling by a stream to get a drink of water and there was rustling in the nearby trees, the human assumed that the unexpected noise was a potential threat and immediately took up a series of defensive moves. The assumption of threat is called the intentional stance, and is the idea that until proven otherwise, the human assumes that the noise was not the mere rustling of the wind, but rather that the noise was created by some creature or agent, potentially a creature or agent with intent, perhaps with the intent to eat you or cause harm. Even today, we very often assume intelligent or purposeful intent to what are random or statistically meaningless events. The assumption of intelligent intent means that a random or statistically meaningless event…

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Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

February 4, 2018 at 9:09 am

Lies, Lying and those who Listen

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With the abundance of lies coming out of Washington and the seemingly nonchalance reaction by much of the electorate, it is good to revisit how people get acclimatized to the act of lying.

Jeffrey Saltzman's Blog

Something smells. Did you ever walk into a room with a fairly strong smell, but then after a while you fail to notice the odor? Your sense of smell comes from a combination of your nose and brain working in unison. The receptors in your nose fire, which ones fire depends on the specific smell, and sends signals, which are interpreted by your brain. A human can become acclimated to a constant smell after it has been detected by the nose, and analyzed by the brain, a process called sensory adaptation.

A recent study by Neil Garrett and Tali Sharot at the University College of London shows that small lies can become big lies in a somewhat similar fashion. In a nutshell, people were induced to lie (in a self-motivated scenario – meaning they did not have to lie) and as they lied they underwent a functional MRI, which monitored…

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Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

December 19, 2017 at 7:22 am

Behavior Attitude or Attitude Behavior

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If you wonder how good people can shift their attitudes to those that would previously be anathema to them, he is one possibility. But of course the reverse is true as well. If can can positively change behaviors, attitudes often follow.

Jeffrey Saltzman's Blog

One consulting project took place in a very remote corner of South East Asia. We were there to do an employee survey whose aim was to improve organizational effectiveness. There were several thousand employees at this remote location and the employee base was a mixture of local tribes, tribes from other parts of South East Asia and American expatriates. This location was probably the closest I would ever come to living in a small American town circa 1950, as the company had reproduced a facsimile complete with schools, infirmary, bowling alleys, theater, golf course, grocery stores, and barber shop with a stripped pole in front, country club with Olympic sized pool and cafeteria/mess hall. There was street after palm tree lined street of bungalows in which families lived and there were guest bungalows for visitors. Each bungalow had a screened-in front porch in which you could rock in comfortable wicker…

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Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

October 21, 2017 at 4:07 am

Dreamers – note to staff

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Tomorrow, is likely to prove to be a critical day for DACA children, or Dreamers as they are called. These are undocumented children who were brought to the USA by their parents at an average age of 6. They grew up here, went to school here and many are now working here. You would be very hard pressed to distinguish most of them from any American kid, for the USA is the only home they have a memory of and the only home they know. There are almost 800,000 of them. The current US administration is likely to cancel their protection from deportation and they will be at risk for being deported to their parent’s home countries. Collectively today it is estimated that they contribute close to 500 billion dollars to the USA economy and 25 billion dollars in Social Security and Medicare payments. But the reason to be against this action has nothing to do with the amount they contribute to our economy and everything to do with what is the morally proper action to be taking. These children committed no crime. They took no action against our country. They should be considered an asset rather than a liability. They register annually with the government and pay a $500 annual paperwork fee. This action which the WH will likely take tomorrow is reprehensible, and it will destroy the lives of 800,000 people who were brought here by others, through no actions of their own.

Today as the CEO of OrgVitality, I added my name to the list of other CEO’s who feel the same way I do and are encouraging the WH not to take this action. The link below will take you to the full text of the letter. Other CEO’s who have added their names to the list include several of our client companies, potential client companies and suppliers  as well as two competitors. But I have to say even if none of the others had signed the letter I would have anyway. Thank you all for your time in reading this and your continued hard work and efforts. Jeff

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/01/the-letter-us-executives-signed-asking-trump-to-save-daca.html

 

 

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

September 4, 2017 at 9:52 pm

Are people your most important asset?

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After yesterday’s reveal of the true heart of the president, CEO’s who are in any way, shape, or form associated with this administration, on various advisory councils for instance, have to ask themselves, “how will you look your employees in the eye this morning and honestly tell them that they are an important asset for your company – that you value them?”

In normal times being asked to serve on a president’s advisory council is ego inflating (even for a CEO), is something that you can’t say no to, and is a great honor. But these are not normal times.  Those who continue to claim that maintaining that “seat at the table” in order to influence events are deluding themselves that they will have an impact. The backlash that will begin to effect their organizations as employees question why the relationship continues and as customers distance themselves from companies supporting this administration’s repugnant positions is only going to build.

But don’t take my word for it. Let’s look at some research findings. Over the years much research has been done on what enables an organization to legitimately excel. Some findings you should pay attention to:

  • All others thing being equal, a company with higher ratings on embracing diversity will outperform one with lower ratings
  • Employees are more willing to remain at companies and have higher opinions of companies that are seen as progressive on social issues, on environmental issues, on continuous improvement issues, on ethical issues
  • Consumers prefer to give their business to companies that are doing the “right things” and themselves want to be proud of the companies they associate with
  • Pride in one’s company drives a whole host of positive outcomes. Pride is driven by working for a company that serves a “higher purpose”, is a leader in its field, or is having a significant impact on its industry or the world. Being associated with regressive policies and practices will not foster pride.
  • Employee engagement, defined as a willingness to give discretionary effort, to go above and beyond to help the organization succeed, is often driven by a sense of being able to meet career goals and fairness of treatment, but also by respect for and other views towards leadership within the organization.

I could go on, but the point is, if you want your employees to believe you when you state that they are an important asset to the firm and you want them to have pride, to be engaged, and to act in a corresponding fashion, you must yourself act and behave in a manner that is worthy of their belief and respect.

 

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

August 16, 2017 at 8:08 am

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