It’s hard to see any news today without noticing that accountability for past bad behavior is happening at record speed. Although it might seem like it’s about politics, at the core, it’s really about abuse of power. One person or institution has it, another does not. Minorities and women are often at the “does not” end of the equation and so the stories and events over the years have piled up to a tipping point and collectively we are finally saying “no more.” It’s not about evening the score or making false comparisons or justifications, it’s about acknowledging abuse that has been allowed for decades.
It’s incumbent on leaders in the workplace to create and provide a “safe” place to work for all of those for whom you provide employment. If we start with the Golden Rule – “do unto others what you wish to be done to you,” it’s pretty simple. To follow the Golden Rule all you have to do is ask yourself, “would I want someone to treat me this way?” If the answer is no, then you must not tolerate it from anyone, period.
As the leader, you set the tone, and you set the values that will be lived in the workplace. Any variation from the stated values creates a new “lived” set of values that can often be at cross purposes from your stated values. The minute this happens, unintentional culture is created. The leaders are the only ones who can stop it by calling out bad behavior that is contrary to the values of the organization – publically and forcefully. No exceptions, no waivers, full stop.
I believe it’s rare that a leader starts out wanting to abuse his or her power. I think it’s like the frog in the slowly warming pot of water. It will eventually die because it becomes acclimated to the ever-increasing heat until it’s too late. If you asked a leader if they would condone using their power to elicit sexual favors from a subordinate, they would, of course, say no. But when it’s happening all around, when one little indiscretion leads to another, before long the pot is boiling and the opportunity to jump out has long passed.
Look at your organization, look at your policies and procedures, look at your values and most importantly, view them all through the lens of the Golden Rule. Do the employees feel safe? Do they feel they are being treated fairly? Do you live the values of the company every day? If the answer is yes, you have nothing to worry about. If the answer is maybe, sometimes, or no, then you might have a problem. Time to do a reset and do the right thing for your company, for you and for your people.
As the old saying goes, “we are what we tolerate.” Make sure you know what that is.