#MeToo has ignited a national conversation on bettering the workplace. The silver lining is that surfacing situations earlier increases the likelihood of proactively working out underlying problems before they result in lawsuits. However, long-term success lies in treating and building your culture as an immune system.
As author and Uber board member Arianna Huffington recently shared at USC, “What happened at Uber was a failure of culture… You can’t change human nature, but strong cultures identify and resolve problems quickly.”
Here are some practical actions you can take to diagnose and build your corporate immune system:
- Start with a temperature check. According to University of British Columbia Professor Jennifer Berdahl, Ph.D., environmental contributors to rising complaints have these attributes in common:
- Competitive and cut-throat – information and emotions are not shared
- Definite in and out groups – lack of general belonging
- Lack of work/life balance – badge of honor to work longer hours
- Athletic/physical performance is prized
Get feedback from employees and honestly assess how behaviors and messages are being interpreted as an initial measure of health.
- Evaluate your communication channels. Raines Feldman defense attorney Beth Schroeder said that frivolous lawsuits may gain merit when plaintiff’s say I didn’t trust HR..I never read the employee handbook…I didn’t know where to report my concern. To get to resolution quicker, Schroeder developed Kendr—an HR reporting app where employees can text their concerns and remain anonymous if they choose. The premise is that the short-term risk of increased complaints pay off in long-term gains of avoided lawsuits. The bottom line is to make sure your employees know how to report concerns and build employees’ trust in HR to come forward.
- Deal with serial offenders swiftly and transparently. Investigate complaints quickly, thoroughly and impartially. Be as transparent as you can when the investigation is complete. And if someone is a serial offender, remove that person from the company.
- Set a foundation of personal accountability. Often serial offenders deny, attack and blame the victim. Additionally, complaints without merit tend to come from individuals who lack personal accountability. Start scoping, training and communicating on radical candor (honesty delivered with compassion) and how to have crucial conversations. Reframe conflict as an opportunity to learn and grow relationships.
Taking these actions is the beginning of your journey. Building a corporate immune system is simple but not easy. With diligent effort, you’ll see an improvement in positively resolving issues before they bubble up into costly lawsuits.