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?
For some starter tips on cleaning house, revisit an Aristocracy of HR throwback: The Untouchables: Why you should stop salvaging bad employees at every level.
To say there is a lot going on in the world right now is probably an understatement. The current events of the moment are so cumbersome and so complex that for many it has become emotionally and physically taxing.
The interesting thing about the emotion piece is that most of us are walking around unable to muster up emotion for anyone or anything that doesn’t directly affect our own lives. That is to say that we would rather lose ourselves in the joy of Beyonce’s pregnancy or the latest You Tube video of someone making a fool of themselves in an effort to ignore and/or not fully participate in the more pressing issues of the moment. As an avid watcher of the hit show: The Walking Dead, I am more and more convinced that our story – like the show will never be about the zombies or the villains who destroyed humanity; but rather the human beings that were so out of touch with reality that they allowed it to happen.
Of course there will be the bunch who say: “I can enjoy pop culture and be just as socially vigilant as the next soldier”. Sure you can. I will not deny you your joy. Lose yourself. However, I will wager you that the people dying in Aleppo have no distractions; nothing to divert their attention from the daily horror of their own lives. The biggest diversion those poor people have is the pain of losing loved ones, the periodic pleas over social media to save them, and the hunger pangs plaguing them for weeks at a time.
Do you think the people of Flint, Michigan have the luxury of caring about pop culture or the latest viral video when they are going on their third year of having lead-ridden water to drink, cook, and bathe with?
What freedom to divert attention do the people of Pinellas County, Florida have as 95% of their students continue to fail reading and writing with a white-run board of education who prides themselves on incarcerating young black children for minor offenses?
Enjoy your diversions, your bubbles, and all of the things that make you comfortable and happy daily. I simply hope that the freedom to enjoy those things is never taken away from you. I hope you never have to become invisible to a whole society of people who value their diversions more than your well-being.
I hope that you never encounter an injustice so horrible that people leave you to cope in deafening silence, because they are afraid to lose what little has been afforded them.
By all means, keep your head down at that job where you can’t seem to make strides, but affords you a regular check. Keep your mouth shut so as to not stir your friends, family and professional network – I’m sure they will all come to your rescue should misfortune befall you.
Personally, I cannot keep my head down. I will not keep quiet. I have watched enough atrocities to know that I am quite fortunate and at any moment it can all be taken away from me. Nothing that is granted is indefinite. I know enough to know that I cannot cure all of society’s ills, but I know that to not step up and lend a hand is a moral sin.
As we all continue to watch many of the constructs of society and government crumble before us, we need to ask ourselves whether we are going to be proactive and do our part; or wait until misfortune hits closer to home to snap out of it and into action.
Please know the goal has always been for each of us to be so wrapped up in self-preservation, survival and distractions that we remain oblivious to all of the underhanded things going on right under our noses.
If you want to know what’s going on you merely have to stop and pay attention to what is going on and the connectivity of each event. Enjoy the glimmers of beauty still present for our enjoyment regularly; but please also recognize that your ability to enjoy those moments is a privilege many do not have.
Ultimately it is your choice to stay abreast or to live in ignorance. Choose wisely.
Image courtesy of Flickr.
I have just recently gotten into House of Cards. I didn’t think I was going to enjoy it as much as I do, but I am. As I have shared with my friends, it is filthy goodness. I’m on season 2 and if I’m honest – each new episode ignites a greater disdain within me for politics. You may be thinking it’s just a show- but I will wager that sometimes art imitates life.
Watching The Underwoods and all of the other gremlins in this
fantasy world Washington D.C. has reminded me of my own run-ins with politics at work. Let me be abundantly clear, I hate politics with a passion. I’m a straight-shooter and I call things how I see them. I never understood why I needed to be “fake friends” or put on appearances with people to get something I needed to do my job.
“Be a little more flexible, Janine.” “Don’t get into any disagreements with hiring manager Joe, just do what they want.” “You need to increase the amount of accounts you lunch per week.” “Making this claim will not bode well for your career.” This is just a short-list of politically-motivated demands made to me over the course of my career.
Every time I was faced with a new demand, my message was the same. Don’t bring your politics around me. Now, I’m not insinuating that some situations don’t require more diplomacy and/or the ability to negotiate. However, I take issue when every decision, meeting, or new initiative feels like I need a war plan and armory to prevent my own demise.
The Un-Political Worker
I am flexible when the situation warrants it. I refuse to be fearful about what I can and cannot say when I am charged to work towards a solution with internal and external customers. It feels dirty to wine and dine people who you know are terrible for business; but you do it because their dollars and coins account for a substantial amount of business. Moreover, don’t threaten my career with a smirk and seemingly pleasant epithets that I have to decode later – only to find out you are out to get me.
Newsflash: most workers want to come to work and do what you ask of them. Here are some things you need to know about the un-political worker:
- We care about the mission and vision. We don’t care about agendas. Your mission and vision help to provide clarity around the purpose of your staff’s work. It is your “why” and their “why”. It is a global narrative for why the business exists in the first place. Agendas are personal and based on self-interest. They aren’t usually clear, because they aren’t rooted in following procedure or moral steps.
- Colleges and Universities don’t teach the art of manipulation. There’s no rule book in political environments. Actually, let me rephrase that. There are written rules to please the masses and then there are the unspoken rules that get made up as you go along. Your employees aren’t interested in having to be manipulative in every situation. In fact, many of them were never formally trained in this skill. Stop insisting that they add this to their professional repertoire.
- Your employees don’t care about politics. You hired them to do a job and they can do it. Recognize that politics in the workplace is a system. It’s a system you created based on your agendas and what best serves the financial, professional and business interests of a certain group of people. Rarely, do the politics in the business serve all of your employees. I have never worked somewhere when I suddenly realized: “Wow, the politics in this organization have really boosted my career and put me at the top of my game.”
It is often said in House of Cards, that there are winners and losers in politics. That is certainly true. The thing is, I don’t want any casualties in my business. I want everyone who puts in the work and effort to win. I think most employees would prefer those cards over your messy politics.