Part 3: "Your Group". Re(s/v)olution (4/1a)   Series Home

This is where it gets interesting.

Are you ready for truth? And I don't mean just the truth, but truth in general. That's because it's usually a two-way street. It is all too easy to look at a problem and see a solution that works for you. Potentially, something where someone else is at fault and they have have to do the work and you don't have to do anything. Sometimes that's the case. It often is not. To illustrate this position I'm going to use a very common real-world situation with a very popular topic. Harassment in the workplace.

Are you ready for the truth?

Let's say a company or organization, we'll call them Problem Central, or PC for short, has been getting reports of harassment from several employees around two individuals in a key department that generates a lot of revenue and a majority of PC's profit. As the HR director, you gather this information and feel that there's evidence of misconduct, so you approach the executive team with options. One is to "terminate for cause". Another is to approach the offenders with a plan to rehabilitate. PC can also to choose to do nothing. The first two options are the most sensible solution. None of them are the likely path.

More than likely the company is going to take their time. They'll tell the people who have made the claims that they're working on it. They'll also say it's not easy. These are lies. They're hoping it goes away. An when I say "they" I don't mean HR. HR has it's heart and head in the right place. Regardless, "they" hope that the mere suggestion of impropriety gets the offenders to improve. They also hope that having made their reports that the recipients will be satisfied enough with what "might" happen. If not, the reporters may become frustrated with the lack of action and either give up or move on. Not sure this is the likely corporate reaction? Ask around.

What management teams really do is the thing that no one wants to talk about. PC doesn't want to fire the employees because they're worried about their organization. After all, they're not in the business of keeping employees happy so to speak. They're primary objective is to create a product and/or perform a service while obtaining the ability - revenue/sales, donations, votes even with the subsequent compensation from taxes - to do so as this is the same in profit and not-for-profit concerns, and even government agencies. You may think this is more prevalent in the business world. It isn't. Employee morale is mostly the same anywhere; something you need to do to support your goal, a necessary evil. Hence, that's why HR is still largely administrative versus strategic. If an organization feels that what they do may be jeopardized, then they're going to push back on the cause that's driving that risk. Human Resources provides that buffer and may even become a scapegoat. "We can't just fire people. We need to follow policy". That's another lie. They can.

This is a truism in all facets of life. Victims seldom get their day in court. They hear about plea bargains that are generally followed up by some type of recidivism. Welcome to America, although this is or will be the the case everywhere. It's where we're at in our evolution, except, rather than physical survival, it's becoming social survival. Do I sound cynical? Perhaps. Or maybe this is all spot on.

But wait. It is even worse.

If we're all being honest, there's a lot of inappropriate behavior in most organizations that is tolerated on a regular basis. It goes on a spectrum from inappropriate and unprofessional to being downright abusive. Some are marginal offenders. Some perople are actual predators. And if we start to draw the line we need to do that fairly. We can't just make some accountable. Everyone needs to be held to the same requirements. The point here is that a lot of people will get caught up in this new implementation of responsibility. You may need to fire half your staff. No organization can do that and expect to continue to exist.

And here's the last part.

You know that executive team I was talking about? Well, most of them got there because they push the envelope. After all, that's how they became successful. They bend the rules, step on some toes, and engage in questionable moral and ethical behavior to get to the top. So in order for our ficticious PC company to implement a company-wide plan to eradicate undesirable behavior, everyone is going to become a candidate for review. Every single person. And I'll suggest here that this thought alone scares the hell out of a lot of c-suite people. This is true for a government agency. This is true for congress. And really any leadership team. They don't really want a solution because they may very well be part of the problem in multiple ways.

To Self: "Who's guilty? Shit, I may be."
To The Suite: "Hey, let's really think hard about this plan. Will it work? Does it make sense? I have a 'feeling' that it may not be in our best interests."

And when the executive teams says "best interests" they mean their own personal interests, not the company's, because, in the end, it is in the company's best interest to stop misogyny and the like. Productivity and quality will soar while presenteeism and conflict will drop. Complete workplace civility could transform any corporation or organization, but that will probably ony happen when the board of directors pushes for it. And a very bold and courageous board they will have to be at that. If this social change - and that is what we're really talking about - is going to happen in America, business is where it's going to start. Change needs to have an economic incentive or else it doesn't happen. That's capitalism. That's America. That's life.

Keep in mind that this is just one sliver of the problem and it presents the dilemma of how do we come up with a solution. The truth is that there are no programs in place to fix this problem. Generally, people are fired when their poor behavior is egregious, and then they move somewhere else. hey become someone else's golden child all over again until their poor behevior catches up to them and they get pushed out once more. Sometimes it's with another company and, if need be, in another state. If getting work is hard they may reform a little to maintain employment. Survival is a big motivator. But if they're good at what they do then they can continually find new work. We call them consultants or contractors. And executives. And if they're really bad they'll do what others have done and we'll call them entrepreneurs. They'll start their own company in which case you don't have a choice but to tolerate their poor behavior. Don't believe me? If this is not part of your story, ask around. Way too many people have experienced just this type of situation.

And this is just the offender and reformation part of the equation. Where are these people coming from? Well, as I've shown earlier, they're not turning 18, getting some switch flipped on and engaging in this behavior. No, they've been working on it for years. And unless they're a drug addict or homeless or a criminal, they'll accrue decades of negative reinforcement with great defense mechanisms, shoring up a way to get away with their unacceptable ways. They are expert at being unaccountable.

Let me leave you with this final point to bring the problem glaringly home. While I use the HR and the workplace to illustrate the problem, it is prevalent everywhere, because it is not a workplace problem. It is a negative aspect of our society and culture which we are starting to talk more about but, around which, we have few, if any, ideas. Those in power take advantage of those who are not and it starts with their path to the top. If time really is up, then you need to make sure your solution includes going to the source. You need to work with the primary caregivers, the day care providers, the elementary school teachers, even all the peers who enable this behavior either tacitly by not speaking up or directly by rewarding it. What you'll probably find is that those who suffer and complain the most have the most power to prevent the problem in the first place.

And on that happy note, in the final segment, we'll look the real solution as well as discuss how bad the problem really is. Because it's a lot more than harassment and it's a lot more endemic than you think. It's pervasive and ubiquitous. And I'll show you how that is and what that means in our exciting conclusion.

4Sight     Terms of Service  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us  |  © 2019