Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Sometimes I really wonder about HRC

Human Rights Campaign
The Human Rights Campaign had an ally in President Obama and direct contact with the administration. The real test for HRC — and Chad Griffin — comes now that we have a president who does not seem to support the unique interests of LGBT citizens. During the campaign Trump took several positions on every issue including those affecting us. For example, on one hand he said that Caitlyn Jenner could use the bathroom of her choice in Trump Tower yet he was a vocal supporter of North Carolina's HB2. Then there is Pence and that cabinet.

I am not, and have never been, a gratuitous basher of HRC. While I think that the organization is less effective than other LGBT advocacy organizations, HRC is Gay, Inc. — like it or not. GLAAD, by the way, is one of the most effective at meeting mission goals. GLAAD also has the luxury of being very narrowly focused. HRC tasked itself with a very broad mission which is less easily managed.

Today, HRC has a blog post titled: “Spicer Press Conference Raises Serious Questions on Administration’s Commitment to LGBTQ Equality.” Spicer was unable to answer a question yesterday about whether or not Trump was going to rescind Obama's executive order requiring federal contractors to be nondiscriminatory on the bases if sexual orientation and gender identity. Did it require Spicer's press conference to become concerned about Trump? During the campaign Trump's only promise was to keep us safer than Clinton. To the best of my knowledge Trump had no LGBT outreach in the campaign or the transition and now has none in the administration. While he made no promises to us he sure as hell made promises to the Christian right and they have more votes on the surface than we do.

While Log Cabin did not endorse Trump Gregory T. Angelo keeps making excuses for an administration that seems hostile. Angelo claims that the administration solicited a white paper on the federal contractors executive order. That sounds like BS to me. I suspect that a low-level transition staffer agreed to accept Log Cabin's memorandum. Where it went from there is anyone's guess. The 41 page paper is terribly executed (I'm considering a separate post). Suffice it to say that the paper offers little reasoning for the benefits of the EO other than demonstrating Trump's friendliness to LGBT Americans. So what? The true benefit (and unstated in the paper) is bringing the best people to taxpayer funded projects. The benefit of that to Trump is projects that are on time and at, or below, budget which makes him look good.

Angelo has also claimed that HRC is unwilling to accept Trump's outreach and that they have “an open line of communication” with the White House. What outreach is he referring to? I haven't seen any. I am extremely skeptical of any serious communication between Angelo and anyone of consequence in the administration. Moreover, there is nothing to hold Trump accountable to insofar as LGBT issues are concerned.

Log Cabin has neither clout nor money and they do not really represent the LGBT community. By default, it is up to HRC to advance our interests. There are a number of obstacles that they have in dealing with a presumably hostile administration. I am told (with no confirmation whatsoever) that Chad Griffin hates his job. That is a very poor starting point. Beyond that, Griffin is more politician than manager. HRC does have a very capable Chief Operating Officer in Joni Madison and she is a manager. She also holds the title of Chief of Staff which is rather pretentious in essentially elevating Griffin's position. HRC has other elevator assets. For example Robert Falk who serves as general counsel.

In contributions HRC was flat at about $28 million for both 2014 and 2015 and had a loss in 2015 of $900 thousand. The HRC foundation realized a 21% increase to $14.5 million in 2015 and was cash positive. I am concerned about HRC's growing working capital deficit. However, as a function of revenues it is still quite manageable.

The organization reported 322 employees during the year. That doesn't mean that they employ 322 people. If someone leaves and is replaced that's two employees in the gross count. They also reported 297 independent contractors. That is a very large number of people. They really should hire an org-dev consultant to figure out what all these people are doing. And, no, I am not available. PTSD renders me far too crazy to be effective. Over-staffing, by the way, does not improve overall productivity. It results in deteriorated communications, lower morale, poorer planning and less accountability.

What concerns me most about HRC, however, is the culture. For the sake of comparison, SPLC is three times the size of HRC and they are so wonderfully easy to work with and communicate with. I loathe trying to deal with HRC and avoid doing so. It is so terribly insular. Some of the managers seem to be arrogant and paranoid at the same time. Assistants have assistants to screen telephone calls. It is a collective attitude. I cannot envision a positive experience for a lower-level Trump staffer to get to any meaningful individual at HRC. Part of this is style differences. I am a very different type of manager. What seems to be missing at HRC is leadership which is different from management.

Through various people (and without necessary confirmations) it seems that HRC does not have formalized management development and organization development programs. Senior level managers are friendly, passionate and understand the issues. What they don't seem to understand is how to effectively manage. Opportunities for advancement seem limited and there are complaints of hiring friends rather than promoting from within. It is easy to see how they could be extremely effective with a friend in the White House. Now that that is not the case we will have to see what they can accomplish. Griffin joined HRC in 2012. He has never known the kind of adversity that someone like Trump might create. While Madison was a board member and volunteer for a number of years, she is relatively new (May, 2016) as an employee.

I hope to be proved wrong on both counts.

Nothing would please me more than to write a post describing the accomplishments of HRC through, and with, the Trump administration. I would love to be wrong about Trump. I would be elated. I would love, even more, to be wrong about HRC but, at the moment, I am highly pessimistic.

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