Who should we blame for poverty, debt, obesity & ROBOTS?

Poverty, debt and obesity are complex and serious societal issues with multiple potential causes and no simple solutions. That’s why society looks for easy targets to blame.

Robots are also complex and serious, yet in a dramatically different way. Depending on the perspective, robots are either credited for creating awesome solutions or they are blamed for being evil humanity-lacking machines.

Before I delve into these issues, I feel the need to provide the following disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist, health-care provider, financial advisor, sociologist, economist or technology specialist, and have no academic or professional credentials related to any of the topics in this article, especially robots.

Wal-Mart, McDonalds, Taco Bell and KFC causes poverty

Practically everyone I know who has had to work for a living, started in a low paying job. For me, it was a paper route at 11, followed by babysitting throughout my teens. There were a few seasonal, short-term or holiday jobs sprinkled in by the time I started working in retail consistently from 17 through my 20s.

During my time in retail, my work schedule spanned every possible hour of the day and night and every possible day of the week including weekends and holidays. Spending several exhausting hours serving customers or stocking shelves on late-night, early morning and graveyard shifts came with the territory. There was nothing glamorous about any of that work and for sure none of it was lucrative. That was my motivation to continue my education and pursue a more professional career path. 

Though all (legal) jobs are noble, it was common-knowledge that food service, hospitality and retail employers provided low-skill workers an entry point to build from so they could eventually earn more than minimum wage. Obviously, that isn’t always as easily done as said. And in my case, even though I wasn’t officially below the poverty line, it took way longer to make career or earning progress than I would have liked.

While I completely believe that anyone working hard and doing the best he or she can with the hand they were dealt should be able to earn a fair or “living” wage, I don’t necessarily agree that it is fair to point the finger at businesses paying low wages as a cause of poverty.

Visa, Mastercard, Discover, AMEX and Nordstrom causes debt

I got my first credit card when I was 17 years old. Not because I had Kardashian-ish closet envy, but my mom thought I should start establishing credit as early as possible. She co-signed a department store credit card application so I could start doing just that. With the one low-limit card, along with my part-time job earnings I was able to apply for major credit cards on my own once I turned 18.

Now just because I had this new found financial independence didn’t mean I went on wild shopping sprees. Actually, I was always a frugal and conservative spender and had no interest in making purchases that I couldn’t pay off right away. There’s nothing exciting about living within your means (especially if those means are modest), but it sure is less stressful than trying to keep up with the joneses. In most cases, I only used credit as a convenience or for major non-consumer dept expenses such as education, vehicles or housing.

If someone buys too many Jimmy Choos or Minolo Blahniks he or she shouldn’t blame a piece of plastic.

McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Nabisco, Frito-Lay and M&M Mars causes obesity

When I was growing up, junk food was popular and prevalent. We gobbled up crap like crocodiles devour wildebeests. Questions like: “Would you like fries with that?” or “Would you like to super-size your order?” were always answered with “HECK YEAH!”

But it was rare to see any chubby, chunky, portly, stocky or FAT kids. If anyone did put on a few unwanted LBs, he or she simply slowed down the calorie intake and revved up the physical activity level. There weren’t piles of laws or meddling politicians monitoring serving sizes, vending machine options or menu ingredient lists. All of this was left up to individual product makers and consumers to decipher. 

For the most part, people instinctively knew whether what or how much they were eating was considered healthy and not. Some may refer to this as common sense and personal accountability.

If someone eats too many burgers or donuts, that isn’t the drive-thru’s fault.

Taleo, iCims, Kenexa, SuccessFactors and Bullhorn causes bad candidate experience

Like most on this site, I’ve experienced my share of HRIS, LMS, ATS, CRM tools and technology. Some quite primitive and rudimentary, and some with more bells and whistles than a Mardi Gras parade. 

The one constant with any of these or their counterparts, is that the end-user creates and controls the user-experience and user-interface. When these solutions are hoisted upon companies by vendors, they are usually not evaluated from that end-user experience perspective.

The decision-makers or those holding the checkbook, are often lured in by fancy and impressive functionality that may or may not enhance efficiency or effectiveness of what that tool is expected to deliver. However, that never crosses the mind of the ones being romanced by the robot. Just think about all of the big bucks this new robot will save the company, Mr or Ms C-something proudly smiles.

That’s why nothing ever changes. Not the product, not the way it is implemented and not the way it is configured. Garbage in garbage out is the standard operating procedure. And, everyone on the corporate side seems quite content.

Meanwhile, job seekers, applicants and candidates bemoan and badmouth these behemoth brands more than union organizers build backlash against WalMart. Bad candidate experience is just the beginning... 

Talent-shortage, blame the robots!

Skills-gap, blame the robots!

High unemployment, blame the robots!

Discrimination, blame the robots!

Black-hole, blame the robots! 

Views: 2131

Comment by Matt Charney on April 3, 2014 at 10:36am

@Kelly - this post is awesome.  I think Google and SEO are the cause for the problem with stupid writing, so thank you for an intelligent, honest, funny and awesome read.  And by the way, I blame the comp department for poverty and debt.

Comment by Keith Halperin on April 3, 2014 at 3:58pm

Thanks, Kelly. I think things have improved over the years-

Where we now say: "Who's to blame? The robots!",

it used to be: "Who's to blame? Keith!"


Comment by Kelly Blokdijk on April 8, 2014 at 1:14pm

@Matt - thanks! Hope you are having fun indulging in exotic food and drink

@Keith - I always suspected YOU were to blame 

Here's a groovy robot infographic (you know how much I love those) by HireRight 

Please include attribution to www.hireright.com with this graphic.

Meet the Robots Reading Your Resume - An infographic by HireRight

" target="_blank">HireRight Robt Infographic

Comment by Steve Levy on April 8, 2014 at 1:36pm

Ass-holes, blame the robots...

Comment by Recruiting Animal on April 11, 2014 at 2:25pm

Kelly asked me to give her a badass review and I will. You start off by saying that many problems are rooted in complex issues and then you proceed to contradict that throughout your article which screams, "The phony victim is to blame. You are wrecking your own life and business."

But back to the introduction. After you say that many social problems are complex you wander into a statement about robots and a ridiculous disclaimer. Then, after you've already lost my interest, you start to say something substantial.

If you had only ditched the intro and launched right into your attack on stupid people who cause their own problems you would have elicited a gut reaction from the start.

"Americans, stop whining. You are wrecking your own lives. And I'm going to tell you how you're doing it. 

1. You eat too much. In my day, when you started getting fat you cut back. Don't blame the fast food companies.

2. You're abusing your credit card. I was smart about credit since I was a teen. Why can't you be like me? Don't blame the credit card companies.

3. You want to be the boss? Start at the bottom. It's tough but I did it. Don't blame your low-paying job.

4. If you buy software, can't you make sure that it's easy to use? Especially when it's the gateway into your company. Why do you have to be so stupid? And don't blame your supplier. If you'd tried it yourself, you'd know there was a problem. Everyone else does.

And, finally, Kelly, you should have separated number 4 from the rest of the article. It's about business rather than an individual life and three topics are plenty. Four creates a loss of focus.

Instead you try to make your speech about individual responsibility and foresight

Comment by Recruiting Animal on April 11, 2014 at 2:29pm

That last line was left in by accident from an earlier version of my critique.

Comment by Kelly Blokdijk on April 11, 2014 at 5:16pm

@animal. Thank-you for adding your comments. Yes, I did request your critique because you have a distinct perspective and willingness to express what you like and what you don't.

I know not everyone enjoys constructive feedback, but on sites like this we expect our ideas or writing style to be challenged. To me it is much more satisfying to get meaningful input than "nice article" or no comments at all.

We all have our opinions, but most of the time we hold back or only share the most delicate or PC versions. In a way I think that is what I was doing in this article. I thought about writing a more "direct" version, but felt the need to explain myself through personal observations on these topics. The disclaimer was meant as a commentary on the fact that most people who write about ANY topic have minimal, if any, expertise, but often present information in such a way that it gives the impression they believe they are in a position of authority on the matter. 

I actually like your version much better. It gets the point across much more succinctly.

Then it also made me think about how you are always begging your guests for STORIES and once they start telling stories you get bored and tell them they are wrecking your show. It seems like this is the written version of that situation. Verbose, meandering and convoluted...

Thanks again for taking the time to read and provide feedback. I appreciate it! Have a happy weekend ~KB @TalentTalks 


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