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I dearly hope that the current, explosive story around Harvey Weinstein and his behavior will show that we have finally developed the courage to address the issue of sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace. These sort of attacks exist in all industries and in far too many companies throughout the world and continue to occur each day due to our inaction.
It is truly sad that it has taken this long for the issue to finally reach a crescendo, but the attacks themselves, along with the threats of retaliation used to hide them are a frightening scenario for anyone. Current culture seeks to deny or dismiss sexual assault charges instead of taking the simplest steps to investigate every attack and accusation. We simply want the problem to go away and will demean, deny and damage anyone who dares raise the issue.
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This must change. We must begin to start with the belief that sexual assault and harassment does happen and investigate immediately when such behavior is brought to the attention of co-workers, company management, and/or the human resources departments.
I particularly have been dismayed at the actions of various HR departments and their staff as accounts continue to filter out. They have uniquely abandoned their co-workers to abuse and harassment when they should have been protecting them. For me, any HR personnel who dismissed or denied abuse reports should be summarily fired. They should be acting as ombudsmen for company workers and not as enforcers and apologists for their company. Those HR personnel who behave in that way have failed in their role to the highest degree.
Tomorrow I want each HR department to review every sexual harassment report they have received in the last 5 years or more. Look at each of those reports with the knowledge of what has been reported this week. It is my guess that you will find at least some of these people were treated very badly and you now have a lot of explaining — and action — to do.
First, Believe them enough to listen.
Then Take Action.
Do not dismiss.
Do not deny.
Do not seek to damage.
Start with belief!
In business, as a principal figure in any company, if you ignore reports of sexual abuse or harassment, you are culpable. And, you can and should be held to account along with the person performing the harassment or assault.
Additionally, we must also understand that any others who knew of these attacks — outside of the victims themselves — are also culpable in the coverup and continuation of these assaults. Through our inaction they have allowed countless others to suffer attacks and harassment that we could have been prevented. That may be a hard message for us to hear, but it is a true and it is an important message to take to heart. We lacked the will. We lacked courage. We lacked action. We looked at ourselves and found ourselves wanting. We must do better!
We also need to see the Weinstein affair as a call, an opportunity, a mission to seek out others like him and finally investigate what has been seen as an “open secret” in many industries, businesses and corporations. Let us no longer hide behind these “secrets” but rather investigate and prosecute at every possible level. We can use this current situation as a fulcrum for our courage to raise us all up.
Our denial and fear have overridden our courage for far too long. Perhaps, with these latest events as a guide, our courage has found a rallying point from where it can grow. Let us all work to make it true and once again engage “the better angels of our nature.”