Early in my career, my first management crisis came in the form of a sexual harassment claim brought forward by a female employee against one of her male counterparts.
It was a shock as I had never experienced or dealt with such an issue. I was concerned about my employee's safety and well-being. I was equally worried about the potential impact on our corporate culture. We were a small team of 16 people and still in the process of forming. I knew that this would be difficult to keep under wraps and that the blowback could be significant.
Luckily, our VC had surrounded us with a tight-knit group of advisors. One of them happened to be a former human resources executive and human rights, attorney. My advisor imparted some sage advice and the semblance of a process to perform an investigation. I was fortunate to have access to such resources.
The process was daunting because I was nervous, and I didn't want to make a mistake. I cared for these individuals, and I knew that this would have an emotional impact on them. After a thorough investigation and careful review and scrutiny by my advisor, the claim brought forward was not harassment. The employee who had brought forward the charge of harassment was not happy with the results.
Two weeks later, I was back at square one with a new claim involving the same individuals. Again, I conducted an investigation and the results, although the same, I uncovered the root cause of the issue. As a result, I terminated both individuals' employment and felt it best that they leave the company.
My experience isn't uncommon for entrepreneurs and executives. In a recent study published by Statistics Canada, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 8 men are affected by harassment in the workplace. Sadly, as more harassment cases surface in the workplace, most executives are ill-equipped to face the matter or are blatantly unaccepting of the turmoil in front of them. Let's sweep-it underneath the carpet or tuck-it in the closet.
To help Brash Words' audience understand harassment and the process that follows through an investigation, I decided to pull in an expert, Mary Ann Dunlop. Mary Ann is a consummate professional who gets HR and the complexities around organizational design, personalities, and growth.
Mary Ann, thank you for joining the show and for helping us pull back the covers on a juicy topic.
If you have any questions or ideas for an episode, drop me an email by visiting the contact page.
Don't forget to keep an eye out for Episode #4, where I'll be interviewing The Corporate Yogi Julie Zuzek.