What your company can learn from Bill Cosby’s recent woes.


I think it goes without saying that the last few months have been hard for Bill; his questionable actions over the past 3 decades coming under public and legal scrutiny has forced his hand to cancel tour dates, appear before attorneys, and may wind up costing him the remainder of his career if the allegations leveled against him turn out to be accurate.

So, how can your company possibly glean any relevant knowledge from all this?

Well, it all comes down to how Sexual Harassment can affect not only your reputation, but snowball to damage your very livelihood. Let’s look at how a consultation and subsequent training seminar can help avoid all of that.

Let’s think about a worst-case scenario and work our way from there, shall we? Imagine you are a small business-owner that has just become aware of a possible incident involving one of your managers and their subordinate; you got the random email from your GM stating that there might be a problem because they received a complaint from a new employee that their shift leader was using demeaning language and consistently finding ways to rub up against them. When the GM took it upon themselves to ask a few questions, the shift leader immediately stated that they had never done anything in that manner and never would. The GM wants your advice on how to proceed because they are afraid they might have given away too much info, as the new employee has already began “losing motivation” and the shift leader feels they might have to be let go.

What are the possible outcomes of this type of scenario and, more importantly, how far down will this rabbit hole go?

As Mr. Cosby’s issues have shown us in startling detail is that, when allegations are leveled against a person then it is human nature for others they have wronged to speak up as one voice.

This means that, if the shift lead in question is guilty of these actions, there is probably a good chance it isn’t the first time. It might have happened with other employees, or even worse, customers for the length of their tenure. As soon as the truth is out, expect others to come forward. This means that the single instance you thought was happening could spiral into a full-blown class-action scenario.

As a business-owner, you have to mobilize and make sure that you are proving the issue is being taken seriously and something significant is being done, otherwise you can expect a lawsuit and unless you are made of money, as possible total loss for your small business. Lawsuits are expensive, but the damage to the reputation of a small business can easily spell disaster. The more popular you are, the more instances this could produce and the more eyes are on you, just look at Mr. Cosby for the cautionary tale of how digressions of the past can destroy your future.

 

Now, let’s talk about how utilizing a consultant can help turn this powder keg into a learning experience and ultimately give you a sense of peace for your business’s future.

In today’s business world, there are many paths to take but how many of those can you afford?

First thing that needs to happen is you will need to put an investigation together, the more objective this is, the better. If it is done in-house, then there is always the underlying feeling that the people turning over stones will ultimately answer to you to keep their jobs, this will create an unintentional sense of bias and could invalidate your findings against a proper prosecutor. Conversely, consultants can provide that unbiased, objective investigation you need to find the truth. If the shift leader is guilty, then the consultant should also be utilized to make sure the termination is done properly and documented thoroughly, because it may become evidence later.

After utilizing the consultant to figure out if the allegations are valid, regardless of findings, the best thing you can do is try to prove you are taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again, this will protect you in the long run.

Again, a consultant can prove invaluable here by hosting mandatory Harassment training sessions with all employees; it may seem like common knowledge, but the right presenter can make the information interesting, engaging, and memorable. Let’s be honest, do you know of anyone on your staff that has the knowledge, background, and reputation to be able to do this effectively? If not, then a consultant is your best bet. These sessions are what you need to make sure this doesn’t happen again and they should be repeated about once a year moving forward if you are adding new employees or promoting managers with any regularity. You should also be making sure Harassment and Fraternization are clearly defined in your employee handbook, another thing which the HR consultant can assist. This is the last step to making sure you prove that you have taken proper measures to keeping this sort of thing from happening.

Don’t let the mistakes of one of your subordinates cost you your business. Prepare for the worst, anticipate mistakes, and do more than hope for the best…make a plan.  

 

~Jeff

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