Dear Mr. Monk,
I own an auto parts business in Tupelo. I have seven employees who get along real well. I usually hire someone by word of mouth. So, they’re likely friends of friends, or relatives of friends.
Last week someone walked in with a resume. No one knew him, and I didn’t feel comfortable about offering him a job, even though I had one open. Also, I think a few of the guys would have trouble working with a black man. Do you think it’s good strategy to rely only on word of mouth to find prospective employees?
Ted in Tupelo
That strategy, Ted, is illegal. And, worse than that…it’s wrong.
There may be ways, with a good lawyer, to do an end run around our laws. Following laws, however, is not enough. Our laws represent our society’s need to identify right and wrong behavior. But human behavior is complicated, and can’t be completely prescribed by lawmakers.
I can make it easy for you. Right and wrong can be answered most always by asking yourself if you would like to be treated the same way. A concrete example: your business fails, and at age 59, you go looking for a job. Would you like to interview with a 30 year old who feels uncomfortable with old guys?
Your business fail? If the laws and ethics are too complicated for you, you might consider the effect of hiring friends of friends who guarantee little difference among your employees. That is a recipe for failure.
I suggest you hire the black guy, the woman, the senior, the guy in a wheel chair, because your team will be better. Your business will change not just because there is variety in your work force, but because you’ll have a variety of skills, attitudes, ideas, and influences.
In the Church of the Free Market parlance, variety is profitable.
Comfortable and legal are not enough.