We really need to talk about Harvey, or should that be all the Harveys.
With all the press coverage over recent weeks, anyone would think this is a unique situation. The only factor that is unique is that it has come out. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to have a Harvey in any workplace. However, what is surprising is the number of allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the time-period – almost 30 years of abuse.
It is important to remember that everyone, (including Harvey Weinstein) is innocent until proven guilty. That said the sheer number of allegations, including alleged rapes, does not look good.
Given the level of abuse and the period this must have been an open secret in Hollywood; basically, people knew and did nothing, turned a blind eye, or in some cases facilitated it. To the facilitators – you share some of the guilt; you played a part in enabling the behaviour and covering up.
Now that his fall from grace has begun a long line of people has formed to say how terrible it all is – a large number of these people probably already knew or at least strongly suspected. You also have to ask what his brother Bob was doing to correct or stop his brother – apparently nothing.
So, moving away from the personal to the organisational.
The reputation (and possibly followed by the finances) of the Weinstein Company is in tatters. There are third parties who see this as a good investment opportunity, which it probably is. Though a significant part of any investment is going to be a long and committed re-branding exercise. This can’t be window dressing and must be meaningful.
Despite all the woes an opportunity exists to change things for good. The name must go and Bob with it – a nice pay-off and a comfortable retirement in Florida beckon. Swiftly after that, a female head must be recruited. There are plenty of talented female executives in Hollywood, and it must be someone not tainted by previous association. After that some female board members who equally know what they are doing, just as examples – Arianna Huffington and Meryl Streep, but to be honest there is an embarrassment of female executives that can be recruited – at a price – basically pay them the same as the fat white blokes.
The possible lesson to be learnt from this for other organisations is not to let these situations develop in the first place, and if they do, deal with them swiftly and decisively. Otherwise, one person can damage the reputation of an organisation, and the future of the organisation can be imperiled by the actions of just one person.
Where someone is a founder or a director, the situation becomes very difficult, but not impossible. It is then the duty of other founders, directors or non-executive directors to act to save an organisation. By act, we mean deal with the problem (the person), not pay-off the complainants. Dealing with them will frequently mean removing them; a talking-to will not suffice as the risk remains while they are under the same roof.
Of course, they may just go on to do the same somewhere else, but to be brutally honest that is not your problem – you have fulfilled your duties, stabilised and saved the ship. Importantly, you have also sent a message to your staff and colleagues that this will not be tolerated. Plus the staff that complained should be retained and not punished in any way – this will earn you their utmost respect and loyalty – and the same will go for your other staff.
Leaders lead from the front and set the example – they don’t sweep stuff under the nearest carpet.
Finally, these situations can develop when the HR department looks the other way or facilitates the abuser, a similar situation occurred at Uber and more recently Tesla. A proper HR department intervenes and acts early, in some cases risking fall-out with senior staff in the process. For this reason, the head of HR should be a board-level post, and the person should report direct to the CEO and the rest of the board.