Category Archives: Employment policies

Rex Tillerson’s First Speech at the State Department: Lessons for Employers

Lessons for Employers

The U.S. State Depart­ment has about 70,000 employ­ees. Rex Tiller­son was con­firmed as Pres­i­dent Trump’s pick for Sec­re­tary of State, and yes­ter­day was his first day on the job.

So Tiller­son spoke yes­ter­day to hun­dreds of State Depart­ment employ­ees to intro­duce him­self and talk about their shared mis­sion.

I was impressed by the speech, and I thought the speech could give a lot of guid­ance to man­age­ment about the mes­sage that com­pa­nies and gov­ern­ment agen­cies should com­mu­ni­cate to their employ­ees.

Here are my thoughts on what Sec­re­tary Tiller­son said that should be viewed as exem­plary:

  1. Tiller­son expressed humil­i­ty. He was Chief Exec­u­tive Offi­cer of Exxon­Mo­bil, one of the largest cor­po­ra­tions in the world (which prob­a­bly has even more employ­ees than the State Depart­ment), but he described him­self as “the new guy” that need­ed the help of the employ­ees.
  2. Instead of brag­ging about his decades of exec­u­tive expe­ri­ence in the oil & gas busi­ness, he charm­ing­ly recount­ed his wife’s mes­sage that his career at Exxon­Mo­bil was a “41 year train­ing pro­gram” for his new job at the State Depart­ment.
  3. He showed respect to his new employ­ees. He stressed their extra­or­di­nary col­lec­tive expe­ri­ence and exper­tise. He not­ed that the employ­ees had an aver­age 11 years at the State Depart­ment, and he said he had been there for 45 min­utes.
  4. He stressed cores prin­ci­ples such as that all employ­ees would be treat­ed with respect.
  5. He focused on the shared mis­sions, includ­ing keep­ing employ­ees safe and advanc­ing the inter­ests of the Unit­ed States.
  6. He stressed account­abil­i­ty and a need to ques­tion old ways of doing things to look for ways to bet­ter accom­plish the mis­sions.
  7. One of the over­ar­ch­ing mes­sages was respect, both in rec­og­niz­ing the exper­tise of the employ­ees and stress­ing the need to treat employ­ees with respect.
  8. It would be hard to find a bet­ter mes­sage, com­ing out of a fan­tas­ti­cal­ly hos­tile elec­tion, to try to ral­ly employ­ees around a shared mis­sion.

So employ­ers should watch the speech for the prin­ci­ples it reflects.

Rex Tillerson’s Speech at State Department

Here is a link Tillerson’s speech from the State Department’s YouTube chan­nel, and you can watch the speech in the embed­ded video win­dow below:

The disastrous consequences of the N-word in the workplace. Just ask Dr. Laura!

Okay, this arti­cle has noth­ing to do with Dr. Lau­ra Sch­lessinger and her “rant” in which she used the N-word repeat­ed­ly on her radio pro­gram when respond­ing to an African-Amer­i­can caller. But the ensu­ing con­tro­ver­sy (see arti­cles for and against Dr. Lau­ra), and her deci­sion to end her long-run­ning radio pro­gram, high­light the extra­or­di­nary sig­nif­i­cance of the N-word term in Amer­i­can soci­ety.

The West Vir­ginia Supreme Court recent­ly dealt with the N-word in a case that high­lights the great risks for employ­ers when that word enters the work­place.

In PAR Elec­tri­cal Con­trac­tors, Inc. v. Bev­elle , — W. Va. –, — S.E.2d –, 2010 WL 2244096 (June 3, 2010) (per curi­am), the West Vir­ginia Supreme Court dealt with a claim of a racial­ly based hos­tile work envi­ron­ment under the West Vir­ginia Human Rights Act, and con­clud­ed that the West Vir­ginia Human Rights Com­mis­sion was jus­ti­fied in find­ing for the employ­ee. The deci­sion was unan­i­mous. Click here for the WV Human Rights Com­mis­sion’s deci­sion which was affirmed by the WV Supreme Court.

A Sin­gle Day, With the N-Word Again and Again

PAR Elec­tri­cal was build­ing “giant tow­ers” for a high volt­age elec­tri­cal trans­mis­sion line. Richard Wayne Bev­elle was hired by PAR Elec­tri­cal on March 22, 2005, and, after work­ing as a “ground­man” assem­bling the tow­er bases, was assigned to load heli­copters with parts to con­struct the tow­ers (this heli­copter job was described as a “gravy job” by the Human Rights Com­mis­sion). Mr. Bev­elle is African-Amer­i­can.

Con­tin­ue read­ing The dis­as­trous con­se­quences of the N-word in the work­place. Just ask Dr. Lau­ra!

WV Supreme Court rules that employer’s policy and prompt action protected it against liability; Colgan Air v WV HRC; 10/25/07

West Virginia Capitol Building at Night Octo­ber 25, 2007: In Col­gan Air, Inc. v. West Vir­ginia Human Rights Com­mis­sion, 221 W. Va. 588, 656 S.E.2d 33 (1977) the West Vir­ginia Supreme Court addressed claims of harass­ment (based on reli­gion and nation­al ori­gin) and retal­i­a­tion under the WV Human Rights Act, W. Va. Code § 5–11-1 et seq.

The plain­tiff was a pilot, Rao Zahid Khan, who alleged that his co-work­ers sub­ject­ed him to fre­quent deroga­to­ry and insult­ing com­ments about his nation­al ori­gin and reli­gion (he was Ara­bic). The West Vir­ginia Supreme Court ruled that Col­gan Air (a) was not liable for harass­ment because it had poli­cies and pro­ce­dures pro­hibit­ing harass­ment and took swift and deci­sive action after learn­ing about the harass­ment, and (b) was not liable for retal­i­a­tion because Col­gan Air ter­mi­nat­ed the employ­ee (Mr. Khan) for a legit­i­mate and non-dis­crim­i­na­to­ry reason–he failed to pass a manda­to­ry FAA pro­fi­cien­cy test for pilots.

Con­tin­ue read­ing WV Supreme Court rules that employer’s pol­i­cy and prompt action pro­tect­ed it against lia­bil­i­ty; Col­gan Air v WV HRC; 10/25/07