Shattering the Business of Sexual Harassment
The phenomenon of transparency has led to a tectonic shift in how our culture responds to sexual harassment. For many of us, the surprisingly swift departures of CEOs, bankable celebrities, politicians and other big revenue makers indicate a tipping point. Why are actions like these so very new?
For many years, organizations have literally protected sexual harassment through settlements and non-disclosure agreements. Consider the message this sends to everyone. Time and time again, we have indicated that money is more important than human dignity or “doing the right thing.” It is time to shatter this practice and for any organization that is reluctant to do so, take a look at how quickly the entire public learns of illegal behavior. But, this is also the time for many women to stop participating in the old system of hiding the crime. I think of the many human resources executives and labor attorneys, all women, who have negotiated these agreements only to have the same executive become emboldened to continue. When we protect revenue generation over protecting our own people, it is time for everyone to know. That is not a threat, it is a simple outcome of modern living. Transparency will only grow. Technology has turned most everyone into a reporter.
I know how the old game works from personal experience. In my early 20’s, I came out of as a gay man. Coming of age in the 80s led to the realization that gays and lesbians had to make themselves visible if we were ever to have equal rights. I shielded myself from getting fired or picked on by always becoming the top revenue generator. But, while I was going down that road to fight for equality, other revenue generators have used that profitability cloak to protect themselves from getting fired or going to jail after a sexual assault. Consider for just a moment how perverse it is for any organization to behave like that. But, we have done this with well-thought-out risk management routines.
I praise the Board of Directors of Comcast for firing Matt Lauer on-the-spot. That one act perhaps signals a shift in how all studios respond to what is in essence, a crime. If we want all women and men to be protected from assault, we must end the practice of paying people off rather than showing perpetrators the door. And, with rapidly growing transparency throughout our culture, this is the time for human capital executives, labor attorneys, CEOs, business owners and board members to re-examine their values. At the beginning, ending all attempts to sweep challenges like this under the rug might feel a bit conflicted. But, consider the probability that we no longer have a choice.
In the last few years, so many women, who signed non-disclosure agreements that were foisted on them to keep their mouths shut have stepped forward to speak out. Think of the courage it takes to do that when they have been they have been warned of financial ruin. All too often, they are taking that stand because the perpetrator has done it again, sometimes with greater violence and harm. The days of protecting a bit of profit by hiding illicit behavior as more and more organization suffer staggering losses in reputation and shareholder value are coming to an end.
Live and work with nothing to hide.
A transparent world sees that.
We are better than we used to be.
Let everyone know that.
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