Progressive Organizations Standing on Their Own Ears

Progressive Organizations Standing on Their Own Ears

Two months ago, Netflix canned almost 300 employees.  The action came with a tweet from the streaming and production company’s leadership pointedly saying,

As employees we support the principle that Netflix offers a diversity of stories, even if we find some titles counter to our own personal values. Depending on your role, you may need to work on titles you perceive to be harmful.

If you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you.

Unsurprisingly, those out of a job tended strongly to be the most “woke” among Netflix employees.

This article in The Intercept expands (far too much) on the reasons woke staffers tend to be lousy employees.  Put simply, they have a way of sabotaging the goals of the organization by fighting private micro-battles that suck in ever more employees, become ends unto themselves and leave no time for anything else.  To the exasperation of management, those employees (or volunteers) are unable to grasp what many view as basic facts – that the organization has a mission, that the mission takes priority over perceived interpersonal grievances and that managers can in fact require employees to work in furtherance of that mission.  The Netflix tweet above is a none-too-subtle reminder of exactly those facts, but its most salient feature is that, apparently, it had to be said.

The Intercept piece is intolerably long and flabby; its information could easily have come in one-quarter the space.  Still, coming as it does from a left-wing publication, it offers important insights into the world of progressive non-profit organizations that seem to be devouring themselves mostly behind the scenes.  Major organizations like the ACLU, the Sierra Club, the Guttmacher Institute and many others have, according to the article, been “torn apart” by conflict pitting leadership that seeks to advance the organization’s mission against staff members who prefer to allow golden opportunities to pass unseized while they concentrate on workplace racism/sexism/transphobia/etc. perceived only by them.  In that conflict, staffers are winning, again and again brandishing their Lilliputian power.

For example, the Guttmacher Institute fought itself to a standstill, hired an outside consulting firm to investigate and learned what was likely obvious from the start:

Those staff have a point of view. Complaints were duly investigated and nothing raised (sic) to the level of abuse or discrimination. Rather, what we saw was distrust, disagreement, and discontent with management decisions they simply did not like.

But neither that investigation nor the report did anything to relieve management-staff tensions.  Quite the opposite.  Elevated conflict resulted in organizational paralysis at a time when, following publication of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, the abortion rights organization should have been in high gear.  Thus did woke issues trump other woke issues.

Many leaders of progressive organizations, speaking anonymously, are clear about the problem.

“To be honest with you, this is the biggest problem on the left over the last six years,” one concluded. “This is so big…
“So much energy has been devoted to the internal strife and internal bullshit that it’s had a real impact on the ability for groups to deliver,” said one organization leader who departed his position…
“My last nine months, I was spending 90 to 95 percent of my time on internal strife. Whereas [before] that would have been 25-30 percent tops,” the former executive director said.

The article is in part a treasure trove of quotations from leftist leadership like the ones above, bemoaning the fact that leaders have no control over staff.  That raises an obvious question: why don’t they?  Why don’t employees understand from the start that they’re there to promote the ends of the organization and if they hamstring it with endless petty grievances, they’ll be shown the door?

There’s a universe where people are on the outside, focused on power and leveraging power for progressives in Congress. Instead, they’re spending resources on stuff that is totally unrelated to governing. Nobody says, ‘Hey guys, could you maybe come and maybe focus on this?’”

Or, better yet, “Hey guys, either do your job and do it well or we’ll find someone who will.”  After all, it’s not as if there’s not a large reservoir of young college graduates who’d love to have a job at an organization that promotes their values.  If you’re strongly motivated by, say, abortion rights, wouldn’t you rather work for Guttmacher than for Starbucks?  Is anyone in charge at these places?

[M]ost of the foundation-backed organizations that make up the backbone of the [Democratic] [P]arty’s ideological infrastructure were still spending their time locked in virtual retreats, Slack wars, and healing sessions, grappling with tensions over hierarchy, patriarchy, race, gender, and power.

Of course they are.  It’s no surprise that people whose thoughts of “hierarchy, patriarchy, race, gender and power” occupy their every waking moment and inform their entire worldview should bring those thoughts, and the feigned indignation that inevitably comes with them, to work.  Those thoughts and that worldview are the precise reasons they seek employment at places like Planned Parenthood, Guttmacher, the ACLU, etc.  So those various leftist organizations unfailingly employ the very people who will make realizing organizational goals the hardest.

Decades ago, there was a daily comic strip in my hometown newspaper called “Fred Bassett” about, well, a Bassett Hound named Fred.  One day Fred was in a panic because he found himself suddenly unable to move.  At first he thought he’d “seized up,” but was soon relieved to discover that he was simply standing on his own ears.  Removing his front feet from his ears solved the problem and all was well.

It’s a lesson a dog can learn.  Can the woke?

This article originally appeared at The Word of Damocles.


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