By Joe Murphy, JD, CCEP, CCEP-I
The March 8 Wall Street Journal reports that Chief Justice Roberts is considering whether the Supreme Court should have a code of conduct to address things like harassment.
Herein lies a story about the misguided approach to harassment in the US. In the field of harassment, unlike pretty much every other area of compliance, there remains a belief that all it takes is a policy, some boring or ridiculous training, telling everyone to call HR if they see a problem, and then conducting an investigation if anyone actually calls. There has even been a move among local governments to make these anemic steps mandatory.
Missing in this: any attempt to apply the core management principles used in all other compliance areas. The Organizational Sentencing Guidelines offer an excellent template that could have been used but instead seems to be deliberately ignored. This weak approach to harassment compliance has made me wonder if people are really serious about ending the harassment, or just want to look good without doing any difficult work to make change happen.
So how could the Chief Justice even be asking this question? What compliance program would possibly work without leadership buy-in? If the top people don’t have to implement compliance program steps, then why should anyone else believe in them? And if there is any consistent learning in the compliance field, it is that those with power are the highest risk and need serious attention.
Should there be a code of conduct for the Supreme Court? Only if they are serious about sending a message that harassment has to stop. But if they just want to look good, then they can keep telling everyone else what to do without doing it themselves. Leadership is not about what you say, it is about what you do. The Court should act in the way it wants other courts and judges to act.
And while they are working on a code of conduct, how about taking a look at all the other compliance program elements in the Sentencing Guidelines. Those Guidelines are, after all, a product of the Judicial branch. If the Supreme Court showed leadership and applied the Guidelines’ compliance management principles in this compliance field, they could strike a meaningful blow against harassment.