Visa applications

Staying on the topic of HR and yesterday’s post, here’s a comment from Bardon:

We do outsource visas, not sure if that is in the HR bag. We use a well know international firm for this, the McDonalds of visas and right now I am thinking that we will be getting our Canadian mob to use them as well.

Visa applications and work permits do fall under HR, but not all manage the process competently. The best I saw was in Russia where the company I worked for had a small team of HR women dedicated to nothing other than renewing the quotas and applying for work permits for the thousand-odd people we had on site. They even arranged the medicals for each person. That said, it took them a few years to get the system working well; incentives were provided by new laws imposing heavy fines on any company caught employing people on a business visa.

The worst I saw was a Malaysian friend of mine seconded to the UK for 6 months by a giant multinational and expected to enter the country as a tourist and work on that. HR didn’t even mention the issue of a visa, but when I asked him about it he made inquiries. HR’s response was that as a Malaysian he shouldn’t need a visa to enter the UK. It seems HR professionals involved in sending people on overseas assignments are not always aware of the difference between a tourist entry visa and a work permit.

The laziest I saw was when I was sent to Australia. My company had a full local HR department who’d decided to outsource visa applications to an agency, presumably being too busy to do the administration themselves. The agency contacted my colleague and me, directing us to the government visa page where we could find the application form along with an instruction to fill it in and send it back to them. So it was left to us to work out what visa we were applying for, what company addresses to put, what durations, etc. My colleague spent several weeks trying to assemble documents proving her grandparents’ birth dates before I eventually wrote a blunt email to the agent asking why this was necessary for a 6 month assignment. He wrote back and said it wasn’t necessary, because we were only on a 6 month assignment. I have no idea what my company was paying this agent on top of their own HR staff, but their added value insofar as visa applications went was nil. In fact, it might even have been negative: they gave us advice on how to renew our initial visa which turned out to be completely wrong when we turned up at the immigration office.

From what I’ve seen, outsourcing visa applications can work well but you need to get the right agent. And if it’s really important and you have a lot of people who can’t be relied upon to do it themselves (e.g. manual labourers), you might be better off keeping it in-house.


Advance-booked appraisal scores

Allow me to pluck excerpts from two comments from beneath my post on HR robots. The first from MJW:

To get into senior management/exec ranks they need patronage. Ability and tacit understanding is not so crucial as decisions made may destroy the organisation, just not immediately, anything likely to cause immediate damage should be routed to an underling who understands what they are doing. If the senior manager/exec knows what they are doing it’s a brucey bonus, if they don’t it doesn’t matter, the ‘managerialist’ approach treats the business does as a black box administered by generic techniques.


Rotating senior managers/execs through posting for ‘for experience’ is mainly done to boost CVs so their patron can elevate them if/when opportunity to put one of their clients in place emerges. It also helps to diffuse accountability and protect both client and patron.

The second from Fay:

Managers were informed by HR that they could no longer rate employees as “outstanding”.

These two comments are actually talking about the same problem. The golden boys and girls who are fast-tracked to senior management need to give something back to their patron that they can wave around as proof their prodigy deserves such rapid promotion. The best thing they can offer besides hours of grovelling to senior management is an “Outstanding” score on their annual appraisal – the highest level. If the prodigy scores Outstanding in successive years, the patron can point to it when haggling for his golden child to take the next plum position, and use it to fend off their detractors. This got to the point where the golden children would be pretty much guaranteed to get an Outstanding score, no doubt due to pressure from the patron on the manager doing the appraisal. Perhaps that’s not even necessary: most managers are fully aware if they have a golden child in their team and get with the programme of not doing anything which might upset their ascendancy. Who knows, they might need to call in a favour sometime in future?

This was working well until someone decided a few years back that too many people were getting Outstanding scores. With brown-nosing so ubiquitous and modern managers wanting the love from their team they can’t get from their wives, pretty much everybody was scoring well on the appraisals (it’s also quite hard to mark someone down if they turn up and merely do the job). Hell, even I got reasonably good appraisals. So they tweaked the system and decided only a certain percentage of people could get an Outstanding score.

What this meant was the patrons in senior management advance-booked these scores for their golden children and issued instructions to the middle management that no mere pleb could score Outstanding, regardless of actual performance. I was in the room when this was announced and I twigged straight away what had happened and started laughing (it’s not like it would affect me). But a lot of people, especially those who probably deserved the highest appraisal grade, were absolutely livid and rightly so. For fun I asked our department manager how any appraisal system worthy of the description can eliminate an outcome before it’s even started, and all I got was a pathetic shrug and bleating that “this is what management have said”.

It seems that with Fay’s anecdote, this wasn’t only happening in my company. What made it worse is the quota system made it necessary for managers to assign bad appraisal scores to people as well. I was a ripe target for that but I could tell my manager had no stomach for the sort of battle he’d have if he tried that on me, so we tacitly agreed I’d get a middle-ranking score. Instead, he hauled in the quietly spoken Asian bloke and spent two hours coming up with one excuse after another as to why his performance had been rubbish that year.

Welcome to modern management, and modern HR.


HR robots to replace HR drones

One of my observations through my career has been that HR, in the main, is either a remote bureaucracy which might as well be staffed by Martians or a rather dim soul whose jaw hangs half open and does whatever management tells him or her. In the larger companies it’s been the former that prevailed, to the point many HR tasks were outsourced to an office in another country and everyday issues were governed by bulky procedures written by unknown authors who probably couldn’t say what the company does.

This probably doesn’t matter so much when it comes to stuff like contracts, payroll, and holidays but increasingly such personal matters as career progression, recruitment, and even appraisals are getting handled by people who don’t appear to have ever seen the operational side of the business. I’m of the opinion – which might be completely wrong – that businesses which outsource basic human management duties which used to be intrinsic to a line manager’s role are going to end up as bloated, unwieldy bureaucracies filled with unthinking drones who know all about the hierarchy’s latest wheeze but no idea how their activities contribute to the bottom line (assuming they do). As I’ve discussed on here before, I reckon smart, ambitious young folk will start avoiding the behemoths in favour of smaller, more nimble organisations – or they’ll start their own and work in the gig economy. My move into HR was in large part about bridging the gap between operations and HR in order to help a small company grow without creating a sprawling HR bureaucracy which sends anyone capable running for the exit.

I was therefore probably the wrong person to attend a presentation by an HR specialist in a major consulting firm, who wanted to tell us how automation, computers, and AI is going to revolutionise how companies manage their human resources. Now some of it is obvious, such as the aforementioned contracts, holiday approval, etc. and is ripe for automation. But I was rather surprised to see some of the functions which workers currently detest being handled by an HR drone who might as well be a robot are soon going to be done by an actual robot. One example he gave was a version of the MS-Word paperclip answering questions from an employee about their career aspirations and suggesting suitable training programmes. I can’t imagine any ambitious employee with an ounce of self-respect interacting with an automated chat bot to obtain career advice.

One of the biggest complaints I used to hear from my erstwhile colleagues was about the career management system. You’d be assigned someone who doesn’t know you and, if they’ve read your CV, doesn’t care about anything which occurred before you showed up on their doorstep. Most of the time they have no expertise in the positions they are trying to fill, nor the knowledge to appraise an individual’s skills. My career manager had worked her whole life as a translator before being put in charge of the careers of dozens of project engineers and managers. The thing is, it doesn’t really matter: in many large companies, particularly oil companies, the golden boys and girls are hand-picked early on and their careers carefully managed with plum postings while everyone else is just a pleb who gets slotted in wherever they fit, or don’t. For the vast majority “career management” is simply a charade to convince people they have a chance of promotion and recognition. This is why it’s managed by the cheapest person they can find, and it might as well be done by a robot. The same is true for annual appraisals: it’s blindingly obvious to everyone that managers and employees just go through the motions, and treat the whole thing as a painful admin exercise which must be completed before Christmas after which nothing changes. They are becoming increasingly automated, and eventually will be fully so. You can imagine what value an automated employee appraisal system adds, aside from ticking a compliance box that they get carried out. And if companies are going to automate recruitment, I can’t see it bringing an end to the laments of department managers who are kept out of the process and sent candidates that are hopelessly unsuited to the position.

I stuck my paw in the air and asked whether increasing the already giant chasm between flesh-and-blood workers and HR is a good idea and got an interesting response. Firstly I was told that companies aren’t stupid and they wouldn’t do anything which would harm their operations and upset their staff. That HR functions have already been taken away from line management and given to remote, sprawling bureaucracies ought to give lie to that statement. The second was that the move to automation and AI will free up HR resources to concentrate on those more important, human-related tasks. What those were we weren’t told, but I made the point that unless HR actually knows something about the job the workers do, freeing up resources won’t help. HR is not short of resources, they’re short of knowledge and competence. I’m not sure this remark went down very well.

I suspect what’s happening is this. The consultants have come up with very clever software which they’re now flogging to big companies, whose HR directors see a way to reduce costs, get rid of annoying admin tasks, and boost their prestige by being owners of a fancy IT system. Senior managers in big companies are suckers for big tech solutions, which is why there are fleets of high-end Porsches in the car parks of consulting companies. They’ll adopt this software and fire a few drones, but they won’t save costs. Firstly, many HR departments exist to provide jobs: a proper business review would have got rid of them regardless of technological progress. Secondly, the HR personnel who are now free of the admin burdens will turn their attention to more pressing matters – such as sexual harassment trainings and diversity workshops. I’m sure this will cheer the workforce up no-end.

The one thing missing from this architecture was any solid link in knowledge and experience between HR and what the company actually does. Apparently workers were consulted by the designers of these systems, and I daresay in some cases this was done properly and good feedback obtained. But the whole thing looked to me like a top-down, Soviet-style project where clever people sit in a room and design a system to serve tens of thousands of people they’ve never met and couldn’t even describe, and they’ve done it so brilliantly it can be applied anywhere regardless of industry. And the difference between what this and what we have now is it removes every last trace of human contact and understanding. How will this turn out, do you think?

It’s rather ironic that the new era of human resource management, in which whole ranges of human behaviours, desires, and emotions are supposedly considered, is reckoned by experts to be best managed by an algorithm. I waved my paw in the air again and pointed out there’s somewhat of a contradiction between saying businesses must become more touchy-feely as Millennials join who want to feel special and valued from the outset, and mass-managing all personal issues with a robot. But someone piped up and said they were a Millennial and they didn’t care who processed their payroll. Which is true, but they might care who – or what – decides you can’t change department, alter your workload, or complain about how your boss communicates with you.

I daresay these automated HR systems will become the norm in large companies, increasing the gap between them and those outfits which actually do the productive work in any given industry. And they will be yet one more reason for smart, ambitious young people to avoid huge corporations and go somewhere smaller, or work for themselves.


Admins who don’t admin

A reader sends me a job advert. Look at the bottom:

Simply apply through seek today with your CV. Once we have reviewed your details we will ask you to apply online through our Johnson Controls job portal. You will then be contacted by the Branch Manager as appropriate for an interview. Good Luck!

So if HR like the look of you, you can do their admin work by putting all your details into their database. Presumably they’re too busy to do it themselves, what with all that diversity coordination and training Kiwi fire protection specialists require.

You see this with a lot of what are laughably called “support functions” in companies: they exist mainly to deal with administration but write their procedures in such a way the admin burden is put back on the workforce. I’ve worked in a company where the travel department – made up of 20+ people – made each worker get quotes from three different travel agencies and complete a ream of forms which they would then review and possibly approve. When I worked in a smaller company you’d email the travel girl with some basic details and any preferences and she’d do the rest. I also worked in a company where the contracts department made the engineers write the entire contract, after which they’d staple the general terms and conditions to the back of it. I worked in another place where every year my career manager would ask for my CV, which she already had but she wanted it in “the new format”.

People talk about AI robots replacing HR and other admin functions, but from what I can tell that won’t be necessary. If it’s replacing existing brain power, a reprogrammed food processor would suffice.


Pink Petro

Via a follower on Twitter, I came across an outfit called Pink Petro. I first assumed it was something to do with the gay lobby, but it turns out it’s an organisation purportedly aimed at boosting women in the oil industry. The first thing that struck me is this outfit is going to run into trouble if it encounters some proper lefty feminists; they’ve been trying to shed the “pink for girls” maxim for decades.

So what is Pink Petro?

Pink Petro is a global community of energy leaders and disruptors committed to busting the diversity gap and creating a new, inclusive future for energy.

Ah yes, the diversity gap:

The energy industry ranks second to last when it comes to gender diversity, with a workforce that’s just 22% female.

Firstly, so what? Perhaps 22% female participation is the optimum balance? Secondly, how many of those 22% are in admin and overhead positions? Judging by the makeup of the Pink Petro management, it seems to be dominated by over-educated power-skirts from HR and marketing with very few having any engineering or technical experience. Do energy companies really need more of these?

The whole thing looks to me like a racket aimed at enriching the founders by shaking down companies for sponsorship and hoodwinking young women into paying to listen to feminist boilerplate. Naturally, like all good SJWs, they claim to be working for the greater good:

3/4 of industry employees are 50 years of age and older, meaning the need for talent is now.

I’ve been hearing this lament for at least 12 years (see also here and here). The fact is oil companies have no idea how to recruit, largely because they’ve taken the responsibility away from the technical management and handed it to sprawling HR bureaucracies filled with the sort of people who now are running Pink Petro. Amusingly they say they are “disruptors”, as if those who bang the diversity drum while climbing the greasy pole of giant multinationals are non-conformists. You’d see more disruption in an abbey full of Trappist monks.

The need for change is now. That change requires a new way of thinking that focuses on community, connection and purpose.

Do you reckon you’ll hear “new ways of thinking” in a conference organised by this lot? In their next one the headline speaker is Randi Zuckerberg, who is rich and famous due to the efforts of her brother Mark. That’ll inspire young female engineers, I’m sure.

Funnily enough, I actually know one of the keynote speakers and have worked with her. By all accounts she’s a very good senior manager, although the myth built up around her probably wouldn’t stand up to serious scrutiny. I know lots of men who worked with her who said she was a great boss, as well as a good personal friend to some. But I recall a young woman who worked with her who told me that while she was a good boss, she made it very clear that all achievements on the project must be hers and hers alone: nobody else could take any credit. She also said that if challenged she could quickly turn childish, making personal remarks which anyone with experience would recognise as overcompensation for insecurity. This was particularly the case with young, ambitious women who crossed her path. That said, this was some time ago; hopefully she’s changed since then.

So what’s the conference about? Well, you tell me:

The Pink Petro HERWorld Energy Forum is an innovative experience that addresses new frontiers in the energy industry where business, workforce, innovation and policy intersect. Powered by creative disruptor, Pink Petro, our forums are hybrid in-person, digital simulcasted experiences built on a firm belief that energy education is changing and needs to be accessible to everyone, everywhere in classrooms, the field, office, and the C-Suite.

Are you any the wiser? The only effect that word salad had on me was to make my teeth grate at the term “C-Suite“. I first heard it during one of my lectures a few weeks back and it makes a firm’s senior management sound like a bunch of status-seeking egomaniacs whose first order of business is safeguarding their own power and privilege. Does anyone know how long this term has been in use?

HERWorld is proud to boast the contribution of women and minorities in energy. Seeing is believing. For us it’s not about talking about diversity, it’s about socializing energy by tapping the diverse faces and voices in our industry.

Because nothing will boost the prestige of women in the oil industry like paragraphs of woolly guff from a bunch of power-skirts with MBAs from Ivy League business schools.

Since the forum’s inception, our focus has been to put a focus on reverse-representation. Most industry events include 95%+ male speakers. HERWorld reverses that and does better. We include women and minorities in our panels and keynotes (on average 85%) and have over 20% male attendees.

I know lots of very good female engineers working in the oil industry, some of whom do face difficulties because of their sex (see here, for example). Women in the oil industry would be better served by rewarding competence and delivery rather than sheep-like compliance, bootlicking, and an ability to enthusiastically embrace every idiotic management directive. Self-serving, discriminatory outfits like Pink Petro might be able to charm or scare the PR managers of major companies into sponsoring them and have HR managers singing their praises, but they will do nothing to help normal women navigate a career in the oil industry. On the contrary, they are more likely to do them considerable harm.


Shifting Sands

Via a reader, this is a good blog post which deals with several topics I write about on here, i.e. the degree to which large companies outsource expertise, the bureaucratic burden of compliance, people working in the gig economy, and the role of HR. Some quotes:

Today, Human Resources costs have gone up so much that small companies are outsourcing their HR tasks to service contractors.  If you’re a small company, perhaps around the 50-employee mark, the amount of time required to ensure compliance with the many laws interferes with the other things managers need to do.  As a result, they hire HR service companies to ensure they’re meeting all the regulations.

In the case of big engineering/manufacturing companies like the one I’m retired from, they will probably only keep the people who are their technology leaders as full time employees.  There will be fewer new graduate engineers hired: big companies were typically where new grads went for their first job because they’re too expensive for a small company to make productive. Perhaps those companies will soon be a few percent long-term employees, maybe twice that percentage in promising young engineers, but the majority of the “heavy lifting”; the jobs that require experience and the engineering judgement that experience brings, will go to contract engineers.

You may have heard this referred to as “the Gig Economy”; you don’t have a full time position anywhere, but you have a handful of part time jobs that you do as needed.

Go and read the whole thing.


Google’s self-inflicted wounds

A reader sends me this story:

A Google executive has left the company with no severance after he was accused of sexually harassing a young female job applicant by inviting her to Burning Man and asking her to take of her shirt for a massage.

Google parent Alphabet confirmed on Wednesday that Rich DeVaul had left the company as tensions heightened over how they handle such matters of sexual harassment allegations.

He was accused of telling a young female hardware engineer during her job interview that he and his wife were ‘polyamorous’.

DeVaul invited the woman to visit the Burning Man festival with him the week after her interview. The woman said she took her mother along because she thought it was an opportunity to speak about the role.

She claims DeVaul asked her to take off her shirt for a back rub when they were at the festival. She refused initially but agreed to a neck rub after DeVaul kept insisting.

Polyamory? Burning Man? Strange, because he doesn’t look the ty…oh, wait:

Of the group of people who inspired my book, which loyal readers will know is in part about a polyamorous community for whom Burning Man was an annual pilgrimage, the men were overwhelmingly working in IT. During my research, the ever-reliable Daniel Ream pointed out that while not every bloke working in IT is a deviant, the sort of people who are into polyamory will gravitate towards IT. The degenerate in the photo above is a walking polyamorous Burning Man stereotype. While I don’t wish to engage in victim-blaming, I find myself asking what sort of woman would go to Burning Man with this guy having been propositioned in an interview, and bring her mother along?

The woman said she took her mother along because she thought it was an opportunity to speak about the role.

Do IT people usually involve their mothers when invited to speak about a professional role? And that her mother was willing to go to Burning Man at all, let alone in those circumstances, says rather a lot about the family.

And this brings me onto my wider point. Regular readers of my blog will hardly be surprised that an ultra-woke polyamorous man with green hair turns out to be a rampant sex-pest. If he hasn’t spent the past decade identifying as a male feminist, I’d be amazed. Yet these are the sort of people Google actively recruits and promotes, based on their adherence to the ever-evolving SJW scripture, while firing anyone who commits heresy. The world’s largest tech company has made a point of hiring people with severe mental issues who parrot the correct political mantra, and has absolutely no idea what to do about the inevitable result. Here, via Tim Almond, is the BBC:

Staff at Google offices around the world have staged an unprecedented series of walkouts in protest at the company’s treatment of women.

The employees are demanding several key changes in how sexual misconduct allegations are dealt with at the firm, including a call to end forced arbitration – a move which would make it possible for victims to sue.

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai has told staff he supports their right to take the action.

“I understand the anger and disappointment that many of you feel,” he said in an all-staff email. “I feel it as well, and I am fully committed to making progress on an issue that has persisted for far too long in our society… and, yes, here at Google, too.”

Like some medieval religious cult, the self-flagellating priests think the problem is they’ve not flagellated themselves enough. By hand-wringing, pandering to extremists, and recruiting the mentally unstable they’ve fostered an environment where major HR issues are inevitable. But because they’re so far up their own backsides, they can no longer identify the problem, let alone solve it. That’s why they have to pretend this problem of green-haired polyamorous managers taking interviewees and their mothers to Burning Man exists everywhere.

Staff involved in Thursday’s walkout left notes on their desks telling colleagues: “I’m not at my desk because I’m walking out with other Googlers and contractors to protest sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency, and a workplace culture that’s not working for everyone.”

These are not the actions of functioning adults. And besides, the managers are drawn from the ranks of people who are exactly like those walking out. Even if Google fired every manager tomorrow, they’ll be replaced by dysfunctional millennials who will act in exactly the same way. These people were recruited as perfect fits for the corporate culture they are now protesting.

They have also made formal demands to Google’s management. They are:

A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequality

A commitment to end things which by any objective measure don’t exist. Things haven’t got off to a good start, have they?

A publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report

This will read like the product of an algorithm taking stock phrases from The Huffington Post while mixing in a few generic “corporate values” available from any good PR agency.

A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously

This almost certainly exists: the trouble is, Google recruits psychopaths and promotes them as managers, who are then given control over said process.

The elevation of the chief diversity officer to answer directly to the CEO, and make recommendations directly to the board of directors

So diversity will become separated from HR? How’s that going to work? And what’s diversity got to do with sexual harassment?

The appointment of an employee representative to the board

Didn’t these used to be called unions? It’s going to be interesting to see what a unionised workforce thinks of Silicon Valley’s hiring practices.

An end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination for all current and future employees

With forced arbitration being:

Forced arbitration, a common contract clause for Silicon Valley workers, demands any disputes are dealt with internally rather than through other methods such as the courts.

I’d have thought this amounted to a denial of one’s statutory rights, but given it’s California I suppose anything is possible. What is amusing is we had the YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki publicly denouncing James Damore for wrongthink and Google CFO Ruth Porat weeping over the election of Donald Trump, all the while presiding over employment contracts which would look familiar to a 19th century Kentuckian mine worker.

Rather than ratcheting up the self-flagellation to levels not seen outside extremist cults, Google needs to get a grip by firing the bulk of its senior management and replacing them with sensible people who put in place policies which make the firm more like a serious corporation than a playground, thus changing the culture to one in which sane adults flourish while the mentally ill and perpetually aggrieved don’t get through the main gate. Their complete drip of a CEO can start this process by resigning on the spot.


Offshore Clerks

Back in the days when I had a career and was running a team of engineers, a job request landed on my desk regarding the replacement of a valve in the depths of an offshore platform. According to the process, this request was born from a problem identified by the offshore operations and maintenance team, who then discussed it with their onshore counterparts to consider what should be done and with what priority. The offshore team consisted of the Offshore Installation Manager (OIM), the field operations supervisor, the maintenance supervisor, the marine operations manager, plus a whole host of operators, technicians, maintenance personnel, and safety officers. Onshore, the team comprised a production manager, a deputy production manager, a maintenance manager, a safety manager, plus a load of engineers and other support staff. All were involved in the discussions surrounding the problem – the valve was seized – and they decided to replace it. Were it a straight-up replacement it would have been handled by the maintenance team, but because they wanted to move it to a different location nearby, it became an asset modification and needed engineering to get involved. As per the process, every manager and supervisor both onshore and offshore had to sign off on the request for engineering support, and each was given space to append their discipline comments to the form. These managers and supervisors were mainly western expats between 35 and 55 years of age, and considered some of the best the company had to offer. For this reason they were well paid.

So the request lands on my desk, I look at it for a while, then turn it the right way up, then call my lead piping engineer, a grizzled Scotsman who I’ll call Fred. Fred had more brownfield engineering experience than I could hope to acquire in three lifetimes, and I decided early on that he was someone worth listening to. I handed the request to Fred and asked him to take a look, and a few days later we sat down and discussed the job. Fred said the valve was enormous, it was very heavy, and the area it was in very tight and congested. It was therefore going to be a rather difficult job, but not impossible. However, he said he’d know a lot more if he could get out to the platform and take a look for himself.

I usually insist on a site visit by discipline engineers on any brownfield job because the drawings, even if properly updated to as-built status, can never give you the complete picture. 3D scans and PDMS models are very useful, but everything must be verified with a site visit. For all you know, someone’s built a temporary structure right in the area you thought was free; temporary modifications in the offshore oil industry have a terrible habit of remaining in place until the facility is decommissioned. Some managers are only too happy to have engineers visit the site to allow them to discuss the precise problem and proposed solutions with the operators, and some OIM’s insist on such a visit. But often visitors are not welcome offshore due to a lack of bedspace or seats on the helicopter. In this particular case, it was easier to get an audience with the Queen than get a guy offshore as the accommodation was permanently full of essential personnel who couldn’t be spared for a single day. However, I’m a stubborn sod and I refused to move forward with the engineering until Fred had gone offshore and looked at the job in person; I was of the opinion that if the OIM cannot accommodate an engineer for a couple of days, the job can’t be that important. I learned that management don’t like it when you put it like that in meetings.

So eventually Fred got his offshore visit, much to the annoyance of the offshore team. When Fred got there and had undergone the usual safety inductions, he stepped out of the living quarters to find the operations area like the Marie Celeste. He walked around  the whole platform and barely saw a soul, but when he went back to the living quarters and stuck his head in the offices, he found it stuffed to the gills full of people. It stayed like this for the whole two days he was out there. In the company of the most junior operator on the platform Fred descended into the bowels of the platform and found the valve that was seized. It really was huge. He spent an hour or so down there, taking measurements and working out what could be done. He then went back to the living quarters where he was summoned to the meeting room by the OIM and asked to present his findings. Around the table were all the senior people on the platform, who lived there 24/7 for 4 weeks at a time.

Fred began. “I think we need to look at a repair, rather than replacement.”

He was immediately interrupted by the OIM. “No, we have decided it is better to replace it.”

“Replacing it is going to be very difficult,” said Fred. “It’s a huge valve and…”

The maintenance manager cut in. “Yes, it is big but it needs to be replaced.”

“Then that will be a lot of work,” said Fred. “And I’m not sure how you’re going to get a cutting torch down there.”

“A cutting torch?” said someone.

“Yes,”  said Fred. “The valve is too big to fit out the entrance door, even if we dismantle it. The valve body won’t fit.”

“Are you sure?” asked the OIM. “I don’t think so.”

“Okay,” said Fred. “A show of hands, please. How many people around this table have actually been downstairs and had a look at the valve?” The room fell silent. Everyone looked at each other. No hands went up. “Okay, well I have and I’ve measured the valve, the valve body, and the size of the hatch and there is no way we’re getting that valve out without cutting it up, and that won’t be easy down there. So I recommend we dismantle it and repair it in situ.”

So what’s my point? The situation described in this anecdote might not be typical, but it is certainly not unusual either. It is almost inconceivable that an oil company would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars per month to have people sitting on an oil platform (with all its inherent risks) who limit their interaction with the facility in order to do bureaucratic tasks which could just as easily be done onshore, yet it happens. It is common, especially in big companies, to have an organisation staffed by ostensibly experienced and qualified people who are well paid, but simply decline to do their jobs. Instead, they busy themselves with other activities, often under the direction of a manager who never properly understood what they should be doing in the first place. It’s what happens when an organisation’s processes become divorced from the goals they are supposed to achieve, and managers are rewarded solely for following the process regardless of outcomes.


More on Women at Work

Via Tim Almond, this Tweet:

There are a few comments which could be made here. Firstly, what’s the women’s body language like when they talk to the men, especially those they find attractive? How does it differ from when they are flirting? I’ve noticed if a pretty young woman wants something from a man she doesn’t know – information, help with something, a favour – she’ll turn up the charm to 11 and approach him in a way which (quite deliberately) mimics seduction. Most tone this down when they have some experience in a professional environment and get to know their colleagues (it generally only works on strangers), but these women are 18-22. I expect a good few of them have spent their entire lives smiling coyly, pouting, and twirling their hair in order to get something and haven’t yet learned this isn’t what you should do at a professional event. You can be damned sure they showed up wearing their most flattering clothes, makeup, jewellery, and shoes which made them look taller. They’ll tell you dressing up makes them feel good about themselves, which is only true if other women like how they look. The trouble is, if women think they look good then so will men, and that brings me onto my second point (which Tim Almond makes on Twitter).

Men are biologically hardwired to attempt to impress cute young women, and no amount of reeducation and social conditioning will eliminate this entirely. At the very least, it’s going to take time, i.e. maturity and focused efforts from both sexes to moderate their natural instincts to flirt and find a partner. Of course, the feminist approach is that women, even teenagers, are always highly professional and never flirt and it is men who need to radically change their behaviour and become monks. It’s all very well to say men and women shouldn’t flirt with one another in a professional environment, but when they are entering the workplace at the precise time their bodies are screaming at them to find a partner how can you possibly stop it? I don’t know what percentage of people meet their future partners at work but I know it’s substantial. As Tim Almond remarks, if a single woman meets a man she’s attracted to at work and he starts flirting, she’s not going to complain about unprofessionalism.

As I said in a recent post, paraphrasing Jordan Peterson who was engaging in a little reductio ad absurdum, if this really is the problem feminists are making it out to be, then perhaps segregated workplaces are the way to go; it’s either that or fight biology. Of course, the problem isn’t what feminists make it out to be. All that’s required is for common sense to be applied, e.g. by rooting out the genuine sex pests, banning employees from sleeping with their subordinates, and understanding that human nature, especially among youngsters, doesn’t stop because you’re wearing a lanyard with a badge on it.

Of course, it’s hard to apply common sense when a subset of women insist on being victims:

As women, we want to have it all — a career, a fulfilling social life, a satisfying sex life, a healthy family. And we are told that we can have it all if we just work hard enough, if we can just sustain the pressure long enough to become dazzling gems. Often, that means taking on extra responsibilities at home or at work, while sacrificing basic needs, wants, and important self-care practices.

In the United States, women are more likely to experience stress than men, and it’s largely a societal problem. Women are just expected to do more, and to do it without complaining.

Women are expected to land the great job, nag the ideal partner, maintain meaningful friendships, and keep a healthy body that adheres to narrow beauty standards.

As I’m fond of saying, one of the arguments against women working was they would not be able to cope with the stresses of the professional environment, and they are physiologically better suited to staying at home. Second-wave feminists vehemently opposed this, insisting women were mentally strong enough to cope with professional roles hitherto deemed only suitable for men, and they eventually got their way. Now here we are a generation or two later and modern feminists are complaining women’s lives are too stressful in part because of unreasonable work demands.

What is plainly obvious is that just as some men are unsuited to working in demanding professional roles, so are some women. But modern feminism insists all women have a right to demanding roles, and when the unsuitable suffer, the role must be changed rather than the person filling it. Of course, this doesn’t happen because there are enough capable women who don’t need the whole world dumbed down to make their lives easier, thus validating the concerns of the misogynistic dinosaurs of yesteryear. The result is less capable women becoming increasingly stressed, which is a bad thing but I’m struggling to see what any of this has to do with men:

Just think about how fathers are never guilted for focusing only on work and financial stability, while women are pressured to raise their families and provide for them financially.

Sorry, who puts pressure on women to financially provide for their families? It’s not conservative men, is it? Here we have radical feminists blaming the Patriarchy for the stress exerted on women by radical feminist policies.

If sensible professional women want to continue in their roles, their voices must prevail over those of feminists who are doing everything they can to set their cause back half a century or more. From what I can tell, they’re currently being drowned out.


A white middle-class view of diversity

I forget who sent me the link to this Spectator piece – apologies, whoever you are – but I liked this bit:

Diversity statistics, too, have a whiff of the five-year plan. Thousands of hiring decisions will be made in pursuit of diversity targets without changing social mobility at all. Because most measures do not measure ‘diversity’, but a white middle-class view of what diversity looks like.

In one prestigious organisation recently, a manager was recounting the impressive ethnicity figures for his department. His staff were half female, many of Indian origin. An Indian colleague smiled: ‘Um, you do realise that almost everyone is from the Brahmin caste, do you?’ To English eyes, the department was a model of meritocracy — to an Indian it looked like the crowd at an Eton-Harrow match.

It’s as if HR departments are crying out for someone, anyone, with a modicum of competence.