This is the time of year that predictions are made and data is shared about what the strategic and operational goals are for the upcoming year. Although management firms spend an inordinate amount of time and money collecting this data all year long for these much-coveted reports, there is rarely anything earth-shattering about what CEO’s, business leaders or professionals have to say about where their focus will be in the new year. The usual banter will be about increasing engagement, improving candidate experience, technology, finding the best talent etc. As you can see, nothing really shocking.
However, 2017 has been illuminating. I wanted to say “different”, but that would mean that what I am about to share is new as of this year and it isn’t. In fact, what I will share is the result of something somewhere in the archives of time that started off as a snowball and is now an avalanche of end-of-the-world proportions crushing souls and careers to boot. This thing I speak of is the erosion of integrity and values in business.
2017 is the first year in my existence where just about every month there has been some company, company head or public figure who has come under scrutiny for either illegal or unethical practices. There have been so many “sorry’s” and “apologies flung around this year that it is becoming nauseating and unbelievable. The travesty in it all is that people who knew that all of this unethical and illegal behavior was the very thing that contributed to the fame, fortune and prestige always knew the things we see playing out. They were just waiting and hoping that the rest of the world would see it someday. So what has changed this year? For the first time ever and for reasons unknown to me, people were willing to believe the stories otherwise known over the years as individual gripes, “crazy talk”, imaginary happenings, urban legends and conspiracy theory this year. Suddenly, what was always in the shadows and dark got its much-deserved light via social media, blogs, livestreams, and a lot of bravery on the part of people who chose to break their silence.
In a lot of ways, this year has been one huge coming-out party and not in a good way. Whether it is our government and the corruption of the day or the growing list of sexual harassment and assault charges following the Harvey Weinstein debacle, it has not been a good year for US companies and more specifically humans as a whole. The latest debacle is set at Huffington Post. According to an article published yesterday by Gizmodo, Arianna Huffington ignored sexual harassment claims made by workers in her New York office while she was still running the company. The article goes on to state that one such former managing editor whose sexual misconduct was known to her also garnered a transfer to HuffPost India as a result of an HR investigation. How an investigation that leads to the proof that an employee of yours is engaging in sexual misconduct doesn’t result in a termination is beyond me.
Without diving too deep into this particular story, I prefer to examine the over-arching narrative of CEO’s and leaders, in general, both men and women who consistently overlook, engage in, and embrace unethical and illegal practices as a means to secure opportunities, line their pockets and the pockets of their shareholders and investors. I would be lying if I said I had never encountered leaders or employees behaving unethically who somehow managed to keep their jobs, lives, and lifestyles intact. It has disgusted me. I often spoke up about it only to be met with “Well you know it is John Bae. Yes, he is a jerk and misogynist, but he brings in a shit ton of money for the company, so we have to tread lightly”.
Frankly, I am glad 2017 raised a proverbial mirror to all of the things that make us suck at being human. Now, that we all know and finally see what we all knew was commonplace in business how do we move forward in trust? Can “building trust within my organization” really be on your scorecard when your foundation has been flooded with the truth and is now crumbling as a result? Can you genuinely accept that accolade for best company for women when you have investigations sitting on your desk overlooked and predators collecting checks on your dime? Can you really call your company culture “diverse and inclusive” if you secretly donate operating budget to the KKK or 45’s ongoing campaign? Note: “Diverse” and “inclusive” is maybe not appropriate if the latter applies.
Suddenly, no company, CEO or person is safe from the truth. Your money, prestige, and power are on a timer and the time is nearly up. The only thing leaders should be thinking about going into 2018 is integrity. I’m not sure where along the journey, so many decided that money trumped having values, meant destroying lives and doing it with a smile. Now is a time to ask your employees to blow the whistle internally before the public has its way with you and your brand. It is time, to be honest, and say sorry because you mean it. It is a good time to make amends and provide whatever you must to make it right with the people who show up daily to impact your bottom line.
Everybody needs to take one long hot shower to wash the filth of 2017 and before off and start anew in 2018 with a focus on treating employees, customers, and citizens of this world with the dignity they deserve as a matter of being a fellow human. It may cost you revenue. You may piss off your board of directors and investors, but isn’t it time for “good” to make a comeback?
As I peruse my social media accounts and watch the range of issues and concerns plaguing the minds of the masses, one thing stands out. It is this new reality of people being bothered by everything and nothing all. Let me explain. People love kitten photos and will wage an all-out war on someone who harms an animal – yet will remain silent if later faced with an update on another black child being killed in Chicago. They rant about a lack of manners and etiquette at the gas pump or in the supermarket, but fail to see how their political or racial rants may be just as lacking in the aforementioned.
While it’s not my job to tell people what they should or should not concern themselves with, it appears to me that we give much more credence to the mundane annoyances we all experience and actively choose to be “unbothered” (as the younger generations say) with facts, integrity, human life and any other virtuous elements that define and illustrate our humanity or lack thereof.
I have heard of friends who were unfriended from posting too many times about the deaths of black kids or the #blacklivesmatter movement, yet they were perfectly acceptable to remain in everyone’s timelines when they posted exploitative twerking videos of people behaving poorly or providing outlandish comic relief.
Double standard much?
I get it! We can’t be all world news, politics, and serious causes 100% of the time. I completely get the need for mindless activities. On this fact alone we may agree. However, there is some serious stuff going on in the world at the moment. I wonder if we would be better off if we all took a few moments from our day to acknowledge the relevance of the human interests of our time. What if we spent fewer moments concerned about the minuscule annoyances we experience day-to-day like no Wi-Fi or an inconvenient flight? Would we then have the time, empathy and energy to digest the societal concerns that require our attention?
By the way, this doesn’t just extend to the digital realm either. I encounter far too many people who are complaining about a plethora of situations and injustices. Again, we all complain. The bigger question is: what is the value of complaining and how does it impact or change what is bothering us? It doesn’t change anything. In my humble opinion, we need to be so bothered by the atrocities of the moment that we actually do something about it. It’s called activism and right now we have a lot of people passionate about being right and uneducated in the facts that inform our reality. The result of this is: an alternate realm of reality where everything that truly matters becomes a nuisance and the things that have little societal or moral value wins the hearts and minds of the masses.
Indecision is a decision. Inaction is an action. Sometimes silence feels like the safest bet when you are trying to decide whether you should risk your reputation to assume an unpopular position. The problem is you are gambling away your values and morals too. It is quite the dilemma, but worth evaluating.
I recently chatted about Feminism in 2016 on my Periscope show “Ask Czarina Live™”. I shared the perils of being a “me” generation and the limits of “social media activism”.
Watch the episode below and share your thoughts about my concept of “being bothered by everything and nothing at all”. I want to hear from you.
Every year, I like to find a different way of celebrating my favorite day: my birthday. Since I am turning 32 next month (I know…awww…), I’ve decided to share 32 revelations I have had during the course of my life about everything from life in general to business. Think of it as daily inspiration for you and therapy for me. It is a challenge for me, because I don’t think I have ever published a post everyday in the entire existence of The Aristocracy of HR. Plus, I recognize that while I am fairly generous in sharing on social media and here, I have only just scraped the surface on sharing who I am when I’m not pontificating how HR and Business can do better. Let’s use the month of March to get to know one another better. I hope at the end of the month, you walk away with something you can use in your own life or business.
Day 6 of 31- Dishonesty
When I look around I see a barrage of lies at every turn. I don’t know if people are lying more now or if it happened more before my time, but it seems to be a societal epidemic. If it’s not Brian Williams fudging the truth about being in a helicopter that was shot down during the 2003 Iraq invasion- it is the stories like something I heard this morning about a woman who claimed to be raped by a black man. She made the claim and hours later recanted stating that she was not raped by a black man and doesn’t know why she lied. We have attention-obsessed people buying followers on Twitter to make it appear that they are more popular and well-known than they are. There are those on LinkedIn skewing their experience to be seen as experts or more credible in their industries. Don’t get me started on those in business-particularly at the top. People lie. Sometimes it’s harmless and other times harmful.
Think I am just blowing hot air? According to a study conducted by Mattitiyahu Zimbler and Robert S. Feldman of the University of Massachusetts, 49% of leaders felt it was occasionally necessary to lie during a business negotiation. How does that make you feel going into your next business negotiation? It seems the truth is no longer a societal and business imperative, but instead an accessory that we adorn ourselves with when we choose.
As a society we have decided that there is a convenient time and place for truth. Some will contend that there are instances where withholding the truth is beneficial to a person or group of people. For instance, heads of states don’t report every threat that they receive to the public. To do so, serves no purpose for them and as for society they would be creating chaos and speculation for nothing. Instead, they often report the threats that are credible and pose imminent danger to the public. Is this dishonest? Well yes, telling the truth would mean they would tell us everything in the moment as it happens. When I worked in Corporate America, it seemed dishonesty was rampant. Leadership would say there was no money for raises, but you would find out Jim and Jennie got bumped up $10,000. There would be whispers of a layoff and if you asked anyone in leadership they would say “no”-only to have a memo about a reduction-in-force sent to all employees several weeks down the line.
In my humble opinion, people should be upfront and truthful with one another. For some people, knowing that others lie to get ahead creates a false sense that they should do the same. This leads to people being leery of anyone or anything prior to evaluating it for credibility and validity.
My real issue is with deception. Deception is quite different from lying. It is defined as a deliberate withholding of information, so that the full truth of something is not revealed. In the case of Brian Williams, the issue is he has been entrusted to report the facts as a journalist. Secondly, the 2003 Iraq Invasion is a sore spot. Many families lost loved ones and we are all still paying for its enormous price tag. Given all of these facts, it was incredibly irresponsible and inconsiderate of him to make the claim he did. With the 20-year-old white woman who claimed to be raped by black man, not only did she waste police resources that could have been used elsewhere- she could have sent an innocent person to jail with her stupidity. In both cases, there was an intention to deceive others. Perhaps, some subconscious want to be revered and/or pitied was at play as well. It just seems to me that there should be repercussions to deceit.
None of us are perfect. I believe being deceitful or telling half-truths should not be part our moral fiber. I don’t wake up every morning conjuring up ways that I can lie to get ahead in life or business. Ultimately, I understand that anything I stand to earn while lying about my capabilities would be rewarded only in the short-term. I’m not sure what should become of Brian Williams or this woman, but I know that the old saying: what’s done in the dark, eventually comes to light is true. I just wished more people realized it and attempted to live with more integrity than what I see going on.
Czarina’s Lesson: True longevity and trust comes when you serve up the real deal.