When I took this topic on, I thought first “what would people expect a 50 something white male to say about defending themselves against #METOO?” Would they wonder if I had enacted too many episodes of Mad Men and now wondered how to cover my tracks, and would they be looking for tips and tricks on how to do the same? But those who know me will more than likely read this and wonder what a father of three daughters in their 20’s and 30’s – all of whom are in the workforce – would say.
Many times the cliché has been used that the best defense is a good offense, and in this case, I tend to agree. I’m sure there are a very large number of people – many of whom we would expect to be the last to suspect of sexual harassment or discrimination – who are guilty and now that they see hordes of injured women voice their anger, want to know how to turn their past deeds into dust they sweep under a rug and hope that it never comes to the light of day. I’m sure that there are many folks who have called their attorney lately to fess up as if their attorney was a priest who would absolve them.
But truth be told, those sins that have been committed deserve the light of day. Those women who labored for 2/3 of the wages their male counterparts received deserve to be made whole. Those women who were pressured into compromising situations just to get or keep a job, deserve to have their dignity restored. The #METOO movement is partially about the restoration of dignity, partly about these monologues from Mad Men seeing daylight, and partly about saying never again will women be forced to endure what they have in the past.
So onto the topic – how to defend yourself against #METOO. You might want to go back and first review your notes from kindergarten and take a refresher on the golden rule. Another tip, and one I told my girls growing up – be careful about what you say or do and make sure it is something that would not embarrass you if your grandmother learned of it. So in short, the best defense is to behave properly and treat others fairly. To act with transparency and show dignity and respect to others.
But much that anyone reading this post should consider is not necessarily related to their own personal behavior, but about the behavior of the people in the companies that we lead. And that is where best practices come in to play.
Every organization should provide a voice for the injured, and by a voice I am talking about a hotline solution that allows employees who have been wronged to inform management so that the issue can be addressed and resolved. Those sexual abuse hotlines need to be available in a variety of forms – from call centers to web forms, text to email, and the confidence that an employee can walk into HR or even their supervisor’s office with a grievance and expect fair treatment and resolution. They must support the need for anonymous reporting to protect employees from retaliation as well.
That means that it is not just a sexual assault hotline, but a process behind the hotline to ensure a fair and transparent investigation that is both rigorous and consistent. The way an employee is treated in Los Angeles should not differ from the same allegation being handled in Des Moines. This is known as case management and needs to be collaborative and boundaryless. A boundaryless solution supports localization of language to not allow culture or geography to impede an investigation.
A company should look at analytics all the way up to the board level. How does your company compare to your peers? How about to the world in general? These benchmarks will help you guide your training and awareness programs to hopefully head off issues before they arise. That same information will help you guide policies to create the culture and climate you want to have.
I used to warn clients that there are three ways you never want to find out that you have an issue in your company – see it on the front page of the paper, watch it on the 6 o’clock news, or have a subpoena delivered. Let’s add a fourth, having women compelled to stand at your door with a #METOO sign. Get your culture and climate under control, make wrongs right fairly and consistently, and be the best you can be.
J Rollins is the co-founder and CEO of ETHIX360. At ETHIX360, our goal is simple, to provide an affordable, flexible and comprehensive answer to employee communication and case management on issues related to corporate ethics, code of conduct, fraud, bribery, EH&S and workplace violence. To learn more about ETHIX360, please visit www.ethix360.com, or follow us on twitter @ethix360.