A few weeks ago Hollywood was rocked by revelations of Harvey Weinstein’s serial sexual misconduct…including alleged rape. The powerful Weinstein Group saw its brand value and legendary reputation plummet overnight. Now the list of people accused across multiple industries is growing day by day. The Wall Street Journal just reported that Fidelity Investments, one of the world’s leading financial firms, dumped two of its high-level executives because of complaints of sexual harassment. A celebrity chef, a former president, high-ranking military officers, Silicon Valley heavyweights…the list goes on.
But I predict that what has come to light so far is just the tip of the iceberg. So the question you need to ask yourself and your team is whether your own organization is “Weinstein-proof.” Do you have policies in name only? Or do you proactively foster an environment where every employee feels safe coming forward to lodge complaints when they experience or observe wrong behavior? Unless you have healthy corporate DNA permeating your organization, this kind of intolerable treatment of employees will destroy the company like a deadly virus.
Here’s my perspective on what needs to happen to change the corporate DNA if your organization isn’t “Weinstein proof.”
1) Exhibit Zero Tolerance for Bullies and their Enablers
People in positions of leadership who could have stopped it knew for decades about some of these actions now making headlines. But these bystanders didn’t speak up because of a lack of moral backbone, or a feeling that it wasn’t their responsibility.
That’s not leadership, that’s cowardice and culpable complicity. If anyone in a position of leadership is informed about an allegation of sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct, they must act on that information. They have to ensure that there is a thorough investigation.
When those leaders fail to act, I believe they are just as guilty as the offender because they are supportively complicit. Organizations may declare that they have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment. But for that to be true they have to have zero tolerance for any leader or supervisor who allows this kind of culture to persist.Change the corporate DNA if your organization isn’t “Weinstein proof.” #CorporateCulture Click To Tweet
2) Be Courageous, Knowing Others Understand & Support You
High-powered leaders who abuse others do not go unnoticed within the organization. Either people experience the abuse personally or observe it happening to someone else. Unfortunately, an imbalanced power structure within the corporate DNA will allow those who wield the power to use it as leverage over less-empowered employees.
Many women who have alleged abusive treatment by Weinstein, for instance, were afraid of losing their jobs or being blackballed throughout the industry if they lodged an official complaint. Oftentimes women press their case and then lose…adding insult to injury.
It is your responsibility as a leader to have the courage to stand up against entrenched systems that protect wrongdoers while punishing those who try to do the right thing. Women want to break through the glass ceiling, and at times like this both men and women must have the courage and conviction to stand up in solidarity. Then and only then will this kind of cultural shift happen and everyone in your organization, regardless of their position or title, will feel safe, protected, respected, and empowered.
3) Cultivate a Safe, Healthy Organizational Culture
It is everyone’s responsibility to challenge behavior unbecoming of a leader…even if the wrongdoer is a CEO or board member. Otherwise how will employees have full trust in their HR executives and supervisors? How will they believe in your mission statement and brand? The answer is that they won’t. Your organizational DNA will suffer from a chronic disease of mistrust, apathy, disengagement, and lack of accountability.
Essential organizational DNA impacts every aspect of your company’s reputation, performance, and productivity. So make sure the impact is always a positive, progressive, performance-enhancing one. The way to protect your employees and your company from these kinds of horrible Harvey Weinstein repercussions is to proactively create a positive, “see something – say something” culture. Everyone has to feel comfortable coming forward to speak out. But the second part of this equation is just as important in my opinion. Everyone should feel absolutely uncomfortable not speaking out when they observe behavior unbecoming of a leader.