Many of you who are old enough to remember this quote will remember that it came out at the time of the first Earth Day. It was a call for improvement in the world we lived in at the time. I bring it up for you and a newer generation because I fear that we have met a new enemy and it is not environmental quality.
Read the newspaper or watch the evening news and you can't escape the circus centered around Herman Cain and his circumstances surrounding sexual harassment in the workplace while he was with the National Restaurant Association. Many of the local SHRM chapters hold an annual diversity and inclusion meeting, and management calls for more employee engagement.
So tell me how do you preach diversity and inclusion when your walk says that we accept employees to be less then people? How do we send the message that there a certain levels of behavior that corporate policy condemns and then we let management, co-workers and suppliers openly violate the stated corporate policy?
To get an eye-opener, subscribe to the RSS feed from the EEOC and see the barrage of charges that are behind the complaints. They clearly show a pattern within our organizations for treating employees as less than the individuals they are. Some of the charges spank of a long-ago workplace environment where employees were treated as property rather than human capital assets.
Consider theses examples:
- Well-known medical company decided that a pregnant worker did not belong working for the company as an area leader because it did not fit their image.
- Sears just got fined for age, sex, and race discrimination of a 40 year-old African-American employee.
- Companies who got rid of the troublemaker who reported sexual harassment but left the employee who who took the actions in place despite the problems.
To make matters worse, in many cases the person who made the complaint has shortly thereafter been dismissed from their jobs because of making the complaints. We conduct a seminar entitled, "Who Am I -- The Role of Human Capital in the Global Workplace" in which we talk about the new paradigms that come out of the work environment when employees are considered assets and not expenses.
One of those paradigms suggests that our human capital assets expect that they will work in an environment that is free from both harassment and violence. They expect that they will be treated as a valuable part of the organization they represent. As a member of management, you have the responsibility to ensure that the workplace is free of circumstances that could be considered harassment in nature, whether they are brought about by management, supervisors, fellow employees or outside vendors and customers. It is your duty to route out these behaviors when you see them.
If you need a real picture of the aftermath, consider what could happen to Joe Paterno over the charges that someone who worked for him was guilty of harassment against children who were under his supervision. Paterno reported it but it still could come back to haunt his career.
So the next time you hear about a complaint of harassment in your workplace be sure you take the following strategic efforts:
- Don't automatically dismiss the complaint under the belief that the person who the complaint is about would not do something like that.
- Completely investigate the complaint, talking to all parties involved and any witnesses.
- Document your findings without judging the outcomes.
- If the complaint is substantiated, take concrete steps to find a solution which will make it less likely that this kind of behavior will continue.
- Provide comprehensive training to both management and the rank-and-file as to what constitutes harassment in the workplace.
You have the tools in your hands to decide whether your organization is one of the best places to work or is considered a place where people go just for the pay. You decide whether the workplace is one that is conducive to professional collaboration devoid of pressure to do a job based on what you are willing to tolerate. In this hard economic climate we are in, employees who feel that they are less than valuable assets will not be inclined to stay as part of your organization.