Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Do it today!

What every leader MUST DO!

EVERY LEADER knows someone who has been harassed or abused.

Let that sink in for a moment and then allow me to repeat myself.

EVERY LEADER knows someone who has been harassed or abused.
It may be racial; it may be sexual; it may be something else.
In your defense, you may not be personally aware of the specifics.  But I can guarantee you that someone you know, probably someone who works with you or for you, has been the object of unwanted and unwarranted verbal, sexual or physical harassment and abuse. It is endemic in our culture.

Social media has made it even easier and more pervasive.  But social media only builds on a solid foundation of ignorance or tolerance of these kinds of activities that have existed for far too long.


I am speaking to men especially, for two reasons.  The first is that most positions of leadership are still male dominated.  The second is that most offenses are committed by men. 


You must start in your sphere of influence.  Everyone must know that there is a new sheriff in town.  Zero tolerance is the only acceptable level of conduct and everyone is deputized to call out offenders.  I understand that there is a risk associated with believing all accusers.  But there is a greater risk of overlooking claims and thereby perpetuating unacceptable behaviour.

Obviously this should start at the top.  Many organizations have had long standing policies in place.  But it is clear that too often these policies have been in place but not in practice.  Witness the increasing number of men in executive positions who are now coming under public scrutiny. 

Their signatures are on the policy.  Their hands are on something else.

Where do you start?

1.    Acknowledge that this behaviour is unacceptable in both principle and practice regardless of who is accused or who the accuser is.  There are no levels at which situational ethics or morality changes the facts.

2.    Develop a policy that encourages full disclosure of any violations and that also removes ‘whistleblowers’ of any fear of retaliation.  This assumes that information brought forward is truthful and verifiable so as to prevent attempts to discredit or defame simply out of revenge or anger.

3.    Communicate this policy to every person in the company.  Make it clear that no one is exempt from the expectations that the policy defines.
Clearly this is an HR initiative.  But without the implicit validation from you as the leader, it may lack the gravitas that it requires to be believed.

In my opinion there is no greater or more urgent priority.  Simply put, companies that fail to adequately step up will be penalized by both the law and by societal response.  Protecting your most important assets seems like a ‘no brainer’ but actions speak louder than words.
May your actions rumble like thunder!

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