Neil Foote, President & Founder, Foote Communications
People who live in glass houses need not cast stones. Well, that’s the phrase that’s echoing in my head as we see yet another journalist fired for “inappropriate behavior in the workplace.” Add to the list NBC’s Matt Lauer joining CBS’ Charlie Rose, not to mention Fox’s Bill O’Reilly and the late Roger Ailes. It’s an understatement to say that this is all too troubling. These allegations cut right at the core at the role of the journalist and the character of a workplace environment. Transparency and credibility are just two of the tenets that are supposed to separate trained journalists from citizen journalists and random bloggers.
For media companies and quite honestly, all of corporate America, the reckoning day is here because the curtains have been pulled back. Thanks to President Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and the list goes on and on of men who have been accused of or admitted to sexually assaulting men or women in their work places. The data speak for itself. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center, a 19-year-old group dedicated to addressing the causes and impact of sexual violence, reports that women are victims of 80 percent of the rapes and assault in the workplace. The 2016 Equal Employment Opportunity’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace reported that “roughly three out of four individuals who experienced harassment never even talked to a supervisor, manager, or union
representative about the harassing conduct.” The common bond of all these victims is “fear and retaliation.” That means too many people in newsrooms and throughout the halls of corporations are living in silence. That’s why the #MeToo campaign has opened the doors for so many individuals to share their personal stories that they have kept secret for so many years.
Now, is the time for change. It’s time for executives at media companies of all forms and for companies of all sizes to be brave, be bold and transform their cultures.
Here are three strategies:
1. Learn. Listen. Act. Executives of these companies must sit down with all of their employees and HR executives to assess the complaints filed that may have been pushed aside because they were seen as trivial or filed by unhappy employees. This is a legal issue, and this is a brand management issue. In this era of social media, Glass Door and other job board sites where current and potential employees can instantly post about their experiences, companies have to realize they are on full blast. Their ability to recruit and retain quality talent could be jeopardize if they do not do anything.
2. Executive development. Companies must promote more racially, ethnic and gender diverse executives to the C-suite. In its “Women in the Workplace 2017 Report, McKinsey & Company writes “If entry-level women were promoted at the same rate as their male peers, the number of women at the senior vice president and C-suite levels would more than double.” Diversity at all levels is critical, but we know that decisions and actions made at the top of the corporate ladder are passed down. If the C-Suite is behaving in a certain way, then they are sending a message about what is acceptable behavior throughout the company.
3. Innovative training. The buzzword now is companies agreeing to hold sexual awareness training. Really, has home-training and commonsense about how we act civil toward each other regardless of race and gender disappeared? Training is good, but it is a knee-jerk response to what is an overall culture of aggressive behavior that has become accepted and ingrained for decades. For the sake of their brands, every corporate executive in media or otherwise has an opportunity to reengineer their corporate environments that lead to greater transparency – and in the long run, greater credibility and better places to work.