I’ve been meaning to share Rick Bell’s superb post at Workforce Management‘s Ethical Workplace blog (link here), urging employers to take seriously behaviors that all too many dismiss as “gray areas” or “borderline”:
• The “familiar” physician who makes suggestive remarks to patients and staff.
• The prominent partner who kisses an associate and makes “friendly” but personal comments about her husband’s ethnicity.
• The utility executive known for a frosty demeanor and dismissive gestures in meetings held to review project issues and problems.
• The surgeon who yells at colleagues but never uses “illegal” racial, sexual or ethnic language.
All too often, Bell concludes, they end up costing organizations in big ways:
Over the years, I’ve run into leaders who have behaved poorly and then witnessed the disasters caused by their conduct: patient abuse and medical errors, financial collapses, environmental disasters, massive legal risk, safety lapses and the loss of vital and talented team members.
Bell urges employers to rename these gray areas, using terms such as “hazard” and “danger” to convey their true significance.
What bad organizations have in common (among other things)
Legal eagles will note that many of these behaviors do not often lead to the filing of lawsuits. And bad organizations often adopt a mindset that if it’s not obviously illegal, it’s not worth incorporating into training programs, including in employee handbooks, and addressing forthrightly when complaints arise.
Of course, some of these situations will elevate to liability risks. Equally important, they are costly behaviors that do not necessarily show up on the scorecard or stat sheet, to borrow sporting terms. Instead, they eat away — often quietly — at employee morale, loyalty, productivity, and retention. The “bottom line” impact may be difficult to quantify, but only the ignorant pretend there is none.