On Mon, Mar 7, 2016 at 4:05 PM, Oliver Keyes <ironho...@gmail.com> wrote:

> On Mon, Mar 7, 2016 at 1:57 PM, Pine W <wiki.p...@gmail.com> wrote:
> > Employees have some rights too, including the right to organize and the
> > right to quit. Good employees quitting may be a sign of problems with
> > management.
> >
> > In WMF's case, many of the staff have plenty of employment options
> outside
> > of WMF, which is all the more reason to select a WMF ED who has good
> people
> > management skills in addition to a wide array of other skills.
> >
> I'm sorry, but that's simply not true. I'm highlighting this not to be
> harsh but to correct a pretty serious misunderstanding with the nature
> of the WMF's employee base, one which I think is partially responsible
> for a lack of proper understanding of precisely how scary, stressful
> and frankly amazing the dissent over the last 12 months has been.
> Take the number of WMF employees. Pretty much all of them are good,
> smart, qualified people for the work they do, so clearly they could
> get awesome jobs elsewhere, right?
> Now, split out all the non-engineers. Our programme and education and
> grants teams are fantastic; so are our administrative teams. But their
> prospects aren't as great as those for engineers simply for the reason
> that there is literally an entire industry, one of the few ones with
> continuous growth, built on the existence and recruitment of
> engineers. It's a lot harder to get a new job if you're outside that
> group.

Perhaps I'm more of an optimist when it comes to job prospects for
non-engineers because I happen to live a short distance from
the Gates Foundation and a few months ago I looked over their job
postings. It seemed to me that quite a few people in WMF's Community
department would be good fit at Gates. I also believe that the
US Government, school districts, and UN agencies would be interested
in some of the people who work in the WMF Community Department.
I'm not saying that I *want* WMFers to leave, just saying that I'm
more of an optimist that people from the Community team could
indeed find jobs elsewhere that are aligned with their skill sets.

> So now we've got engineers. Still a pretty big chunk of the
> organisation. Cool! Now remove anyone on a H1B visa. See, if you're on
> a H1B and you quit, you're instantaneously no longer in the country
> legally. Ditto if you're fired. The only way around it is to convince
> a second employer to hire you, and file to transfer the petition over,
> while still _at_ the first employer. Otherwise, bzzt. You quit, you
> were fired, either way, get out of our country please.

That is indeed a problem. While I suppose that my statement remains
correct that H1B engineers can get jobs elsewhere, it's certainly
a big downside if they're effectively deported before that happens
when they'd rather stay in the US.

> So that's US-citizen or resident engineers left. Let's scrap from that
> people outside the default stereotype of engineers as 20-something
> people without dependants. If you're someone who does have dependants
> or responsibilities - children, a partner not working, elderly
> relatives - well that makes finding a new job a lot harder. Not only
> do you have less energy and time in which to do it, because you're
> looking after these people, you have to find a job that's as flexible
> on when you work your 40 hours as the WMF is, otherwise you risk
> running into some serious collisions with your out-of-work duties. And
> heaven forfend if you're *having* a kid or have serious medical
> conditions because not only do you have to deal with that, any gap in
> employment is potentially financially crippling since you're now
> without medical insurance.

My understanding is that outside of the 24/7 work environment at
startups, particularly in large and now-old tech companies like
Microsoft and Google, work-life balance is an aspect that those
companies try to support and to a degree they use it as a
recruiting incentive.

> Okay! So: "many of the staff have plenty of employment options outside
> of WMF". And by that we mean: employees who are US citizens or
> residents, have no dependants or serious medical issues, and work in
> an engineering-centric role, have plenty of employment options outside
> of WMF. Which is, in practice, like: Mikhail. Mikhail has plenty of
> employment opportunities. Congrats to Mikhail.
> The rest of us? Various amounts of "seriously boned". I know staff who
> did not speak up because they were scared of losing medical coverage
> or, worse, being forced out of the country, if dissent was reacted to
> with firings. I know people who did speak up *despite* being subject
> to these risks. This perception that many staff have many viable and
> good options they can just jump to if stuff gets bad glosses over the
> fact that, actually, the vast majority don't. The fact they chose to
> do something even in those conditions is amazing.

As I pointed out on Lila's talk page, my understanding is that employees
have a legal right to speak up in some circumstances. My impression as
a non-lawyer is is that some actions of Lila's may have exposed WMF
to civil liability for potential violations of employment law, and were IMO
ill-advised from the standpoint of good management practices. (I welcome
rebuttals from anyone who has facts to the contrary; I make that statement
only as a guess based on the limited but troubling information that I
have). The actions of staff who tried to make their concerns heard are
commendable, and I hope that staff members will find a way to recognize
other staff for their integrity.

> The idea that we have a "right to quit" is not a justification for
> selecting an ED with empathy and sympathy and a soul. The idea that
> there might be turnover is not a justification either. The
> justification is that it would be hideously unethical for us to
> appoint people we know or suspect might make living people miserable.
> It is not a practical question, it is a *principle* question. And if
> we have to justify our principles with retention rates, they're no
> longer principles.

I think that we agree. Personally I had some off-list conversations with
Lila that led me to believe that she had good intentions, and I certainly
hope that no on felt that she lacked empathy. In any case, for the next
ED, I hope that people skills will be carefully considered as a part
of the hiring process.

To emphasize this point, I'll pile on to comments that others have
said that it's impossible for one person to have enough knowledge
about everything to be a one-person show. A team effort is required,
and to recruit that team and facilitate that team's functioning well,
people skills are a necessity.

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