Punk Rock HR Question: The Good Ol' Boys Club

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From a Troubled Reader.

She needs advice on how to deal with The Good Ol’ Boys Club — and she came to the right place.

Hey Laurie, I need your help with something. I know I should be happy that I have a job in these troubled times etc. etc., but this is really eating at me.

My workplace has been short staffed by various illnesses and incidents for nearly two years. I have gone home way past sundown and come in on the weekends. A promotional opportunity has come up and instead of opening it up to everybody, the powers that be have decided to award it to the lowest-level employee in our office, no interview required. He never stays late, comes in early, or does more than the bare minimum of what’s required. He plays golf on the weekends with a VP of our corporation. I can think of at least fifty of us, with advanced degrees, experience, women, minorities, and individuals over forty that would have qualified for and put in our dues for such a position.

I guess what I want to know is, as a woman, and a minority: how do you cope when you work twice as hard to get half as far?

Bigotry and sexism are intolerable. I’m so sorry to hear that you’re dealing with this, and I have a million suggestions for you. Unfortunately, none of the solutions are easy because this situation isn’t easy. In order to affect change in your organization, you need to speak up, ask questions, and demand accountability. In the best economic times, it’s tough. In the middle of a recession? It can mean career and financial suicide.

You don’t have to take this lying down, though. Here are some basic ideas off the top of my head.

  • For starters, you can talk to your supervisor. I know, I know. You feel like you can’t.
  • You can talk to someone who has influence with your leadership team. Ask for advocacy. Express your concerns about the lack of opportunities for women and minorities within your organization.
  • You can send a letter to your leadership team — anonymously — and share your concerns.
  • You can contact your corporate headquarters or a parent company if one exists.
  • You can write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. You can contact the media. Anonymously or not.
  • You can write an anonymous blog about what you’re experiencing.
  • You can unionize.
  • You can get a lawyer.
  • You can bring your concerns to the attention of the EEOC to see if you have a claim.

How committed are you to change? How committed are you to workforce equality? How badly do you want to get out of there and leave this behind? Those are all questions that you have to answer.

As I advised in the case of sexual harassment, I think it’s better to use the company’s time & resources to find another job. Let the marketplace speak. If enough talented people walk away from the company, it will fail.

Know this: you’re not alone. I’m sure many readers out there can sympathize with your situation and will have great (and possibly contradicting) advice.

Let’s hear what everyone has to say and keep us posted on how you’re doing out there.

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