Harassment Training? I Don’t Need That, I’m too Important

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Joseph E. Murphy, JD, CCEP, CCEP-I
Compliance Strategists

An article this week in the Wall Street Journal about the culture in Steve Wynn’s firm offered some interesting insights. In the article it was reported that managers discouraged complaints about harassment by Wynn or looked the other way.  Where did this tone come from? According to a lawyer for a party involved in litigation between Mr. Wynn and his wife, when Wynn was asked in a deposition about the Wynn Resorts’ policy that all employees receive regular training to prevent sexual harassment, he responded, “he didn’t participate because he didn’t need it.”

OK, how many are shocked that a senior executive would say that? “Hey, I’m big and important, so I don’t need any training.” We aren’t going to stop harassment or any other form of company misconduct unless someone has the guts to challenge the top dogs.  You can’t have ethics for the little folks, and “I’m too busy, I know all this” for the top ones.

Here is a suggestion for everyone involved in compliance in dealing with harassment.  Don’t inflict any training on the workers unless and until the very top people have it first.  Don’t train the front line employee until the CEO has sat through and participated in the training.  The CEO does not need the condensed, “executive” level.  The CEO needs the most intensive training.  With no smartphone, iPad, phone calls or interruptions.

And my advice to the Judiciary, now trying to respond to having a circuit court judge resign after allegations of years of harassing conduct?  Sure, go ahead and train everybody.  But first, train the Justices of the Supreme Court.  Train all the Circuit Court judges. There is no surer way to send the message.  In fact, there is no other way to send the message, period.

If your company or organization can’t or won’t do this, then it is not serious about compliance.

2 COMMENTS

  1. As usual, Joe has identified the single biggest reason sexual assault and harassment are flourishing throughout our culture: the bosses don’t give a rip and many are participants or, at the very least facilitators through vocal denial and forcefully silencing those who do know, including some in compliance.

    The places we might look for some advanced help on this issue are silent or infected with the problem. Universities are huge examples. I was attending a meeting at one of America’s largest Universities recently, in the president’s office with his top staff to discuss the pervasiveness of aggressive behavior on campuses and essentially the failure of their defensive measures, putting victims in charge of their own safety. Just before the meeting began the president leaned toward me and said, so everyone could hear,” You know Jim, the girls are really asking for it.” My response was,” Let’s delay the start of the meeting so you and I can have a conversation in your office.” As I got up he started the meeting. I have not been invited back.

    Churches and religions are totally defensively will preoccupied. The media seem to focus far more on the perpetrators than the victims. And when a victim does come forward the first question they are asked by the media and the attorneys for the accused is, “Why did you wait 30 years to come forward?”

    Businesses seem confused. Recently one of the largest American manufacturers of pet foods had to recall a million pounds of animal food contaminated with a euthanasia agent. The reputation management solution they chose to their image problem was to offer to donate the contaminated food (presumably for a substantial tax deduction) to animal shelters across the country. Huh? One cannot make this stuff up.

    Had this company been allowed to make the donations, their PR advisers would likely have entered their communication program in national PR/marketing/ CSR award competitions.

    This is one devil of a problem. Recognizable civil and or moral leaders have yet to emerge. Current social movements, #meToo, Timesup, Black Lives Matter, Student activists from the Florida High school murders (an incipient movement without a name.), need focused, determined, credible and media savvy leadership to survive.

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