Michael Brown

Director People Interaction Design

“I’m convinced the workplace provides one of the most effective platforms for addressing the divisions in our relations with each other. The workplace is the one place where people of different backgrounds and experiences are guaranteed to gather, almost daily.”

Why I Do What I Do

As a man of color, I possess the relatively unique experience of starting my professional career in an entry-level employee relations position at a Fortune 500 company and ascending the corporate ladder to one of the highest levels of leadership in the area of employee relations. I’ve seen many traditional approaches to workplace diversity fail miserably.

Unfortunately, in most workplaces today, a man of color in senior management is still a rarity, and I want to do something about it.

I am particularly passionate about restorative justice, criminal justice reform, and improving workplace diversity for underrepresented minorities in the legal profession and the highest levels of the criminal justice system. I had the personal experience of being selectively prosecuted, and pleading to the lowest level felony, and one I’d never heard of, “misprison of felony” (which I later learned has been abolished in many common law countries and is otherwise usually classified as a misdemeanor).

As a man of color with a legal education and knowledge of how the justice system relates to defendants of color, I had to consider whether I would risk financial ruin defending myself against the federal government, and risk 5 years of incarceration, or plea to misprison of felony. Unfortunately, the most daunting consideration I had to critically evaluate at the time was that I was a man of color, and how that would play if I went to trial and asserted my valid legal defenses. At sentencing, the Department of Justice mentioned my law degree as a factor for the judge to consider against me at sentencing, and I served 6 months in federal prison.

I want to help the legal profession increase diversity in the leadership ranks of the profession and the criminal justice system so that in the future, a person of color does not have to consider the color of their skin as being the most critical factor to consider for pursuing or receiving justice.

“I feel that Mike really stood out with his messaging on DEI, the emphasis of inclusivity. Personally, I felt like his delivery landed well and he had everyone’s attention.”

Program Participant
Mid-sized Firm, Program on Inclusivity at Work.

Experience

Working in employee relations for 30 years and participating in competitive baseball for 20 years prior, starting in my youth, I interacted with thousands of people under live fire. I learned how well-managed interactions among diverse people could deliver winning results and build meaningful, genuine, and productive relationships (and sometimes lasting friendships).

The success I enjoyed in both my sports career and my career in employee relations was largely due to my ability to mobilize diverse teams around significant challenges and opportunities to achieve winning results. Both careers honed my ability to effectively manage team interactions across differences.

In my career, I dealt with all manner of people-related and business issues, heavily focused on executing employee relations in highly populated industrial workplaces. My work included collaborative negotiation and leading the development and implementation of diversity awareness training for over 60,000 employees. My work also put me at the leading edge of team-based manufacturing in a union-based environment; having led the union-management task forces that ushered in a team-based manufacturing system in the organization where I served.

I led national strategy for defining and shaping team member and team leader roles and team interactions for over 60,000 employees across several thousand teams in over 20 U.S. manufacturing facilities, helping to shape and refine the company’s manufacturing capabilities. Our successful transition to team-based manufacturing served as a model that other companies from around the world benchmarked.

Education

My education includes a JD from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, a BA from the University of New Mexico, and years of being part of winning sports teams, including four years in NCAA Division 1 collegiate baseball.