In October, we’re looking at several topics around harassment, abuse and intolerance, and how to tackle these in the workplace.

 

Leaving No One Without A Voice

 

If you’ve been inspired this month by Lt. Gen. Jay B. Silveria’s shining example of tackling intolerance, you may want to take a look at the LinkedIn article by WorkInConfidence’s co-founder, Tim Martin, on why he founded SpeakInConfidence, the cornerstone service of the company.

Tim and Neil set off “To ensure no one in any organisation in the UK went home unable to raise a problem, concern or idea”. We believe that idea is more relevant today than ever.

Read Tim’s article here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/our-idea-leaving-one-without-voice-tim-martin

 

Uber:  How Not to Mend A Car Crash

 

Staying on the theme in this month’s newsletter of setting our sights higher and tackling abuse and intolerance in organisations, we would suggest Uber is far from a textbook example of how to tackle things head-on. In fact, we would go so far as to note it seems to have got itself into a bit of a car crash.

You will probably recall that eight months ago, Uber engineer Susan Fowler accused Uber managers of sexual harassment and sexism in her blog.  Since then, Uber has sacked 20 employees after an extensive investigation into sexual harassment.  All well and good, and meeting the challenge head-on, you may say.

New Uber HR Director Liane Hornsey ended up in a three-way social media spat with Ms Fowler and Tracy Chou, a female software engineer and diversity advocate.  This is not something we know well enough to comment on.

The car crash came, however, with Ms Fowler’s comments to the Wall Street Journal:

“The Susan Fowler blog was very difficult for this company,” she told The Wall Street Journal. “We did 200 listening sessions. I made it very clear that every single email from every single employee would be answered by me in 48 hours. Believe you me, I sat up until 4 a.m. every bloody morning answering thousands of bloody emails.”

Not everyone who approaches you with a whistleblowing case will have a genuine grievance.  Not every grievance will be, by its nature, whistleblowing. However, it is pretty clear that there was a systematic problem in Uber and many of the grievances will have had merit.  To be as dismissive as “thousands of bloody emails” … “every bloody morning” from the head of HR suggests a culture still dismissive of whistleblowers and lacking genuine remorse.

Of course, that may not be the intent but when staff, some at least who have been on the receiving end of serious lapses of proper behaviour at work, go to the trouble of raising concerns, they deserve a more respectful response. Unless and until organisations get this right we will continue to see recurrences of the levels of poor treatment and disrespect (to put it mildly) that have plagued so many.

A far better response from Ms Fowler would have been:

“We are truly sorry that we let our employees down so badly, and failed to spot serious and legitimate concerns for some time.  

We are trying hard to learn from our mistakes and make sure nothing like this ever happens again.  We did 200 listening sessions. I made it very clear that every single email from every single employee would be answered by me in 48 hours.  

I was so keen to honour this that I sat up until 4 a.m. every morning answering thousands of emails, and I am glad I did.  Thank you for taking the time to write and for helping us make our company better and stronger by having the courage to speak up.  Our staff are our greatest asset and in future, we will always strive to ensure you can easily raise concerns, problems or ideas.”

When Your HR Department is Getting it Wrong – Who is Getting it Right?

 

Continuing our theme, a recent CIPD article noted just how hard many organisations are finding getting equality right. The article noted that:

  • Just a third (32 percent) of HR managers report feeling confident they are not prejudiced when hiring staff, according to a controversial new study.
  • Close to half (48 percent) admitted bias affects their candidate choice.
  • Around three-quarters (74 percent) of respondents reported witnessing discrimination during the course of a recruitment process.

The full article is worth a read and can be seen here.  You really have to ask the question though: when your HR department is getting it wrong – who is getting it right?

Of course, the first step to solving a problem is recognising you have that problem, so hats off to the CIPD for recognising it on a macro basis.  Have you got the means in place to check you are getting it right?

In case you are wondering, “why bother with diversity?” – apart from your legal and moral obligations, if you have not already read the accompanying blog and seen Lt. Gen. Jay B. Silveria’s talk, which encompasses the power of diversity, it’s well worth a look.