LOL: “We have ZERO TOLERANCE….”

 

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We see it over and again: An organization is accused of egregious instances of sexual harassment, racial discrimination, bullying at work, or similar mistreatment. The allegations are reported in the media, accompanied by the standard organizational response:

We have zero tolerance for this kind of behavior.

Zero tolerance. Got it. You guys are right on it.

At times, I’ll read a “zero tolerance” response in a news item and know that the organization in question practices anything but that.

Oh, these places might have zero tolerance splashed all over their employee handbooks, but in reality they don’t take it very seriously. Until they’re caught, of course.

I’m not an empirical researcher, but I’ll hypothesize that the zero-tolerance-on-paper organizations are frequently the same ones who invoke the rhetorical (not legal) “bad apple” defense when wrongful behaviors arise, i.e., we regret that a bad apple might have behaved in such a manner. As I wrote in 2017:

But all too often, when I hear or read of an organizational leader or spokesperson invoking bad apple-speak, I feel like I’m being conned. Bad behaviors are typically enabled, endorsed, and/or empowered by bad organizations. Often it’s clear that the situation suggests a pattern and practice of abuse or wrongdoing. Even in situations where the key abusers are few, many other organizational actors looked the other way or tacitly enabled the mistreatment. And sometimes it’s simply a lie, a cover-up for a whole harvest of bad apples. 

Building and maintaining an organization that embraces human dignity is not easy. It takes good leadership and values that are practiced, rather than simply preached. By contrast, although zero tolerance may be an impressive-sounding phrase, all too often it is invoked in situations suggesting that the hard work of creating a healthy, fair-minded, and inclusive organization remains to be done.

3 responses

  1. I think there is a sense upper management and HR feel that if someone is targeted, they did something to deserve it. They wouldn’t want to do the hard.work of verifying if the accusations are true. Sadly, I have found they are often behind the bullying and will actually put a lot of effort into trying to get rid of an employee they seem trouble.It seems a company is only as strong as its worst employee, and in many situations, the people at the top are the worst employees and that trickles down to everyone else.

  2. On Sat, Jul 4, 2020, 3:42 AM Minding the Workplace wrote:

    > David Yamada posted: ” We see it over and again: An organization is > accused of egregious instances of sexual harassment, racial discrimination, > bullying at work, or similar mistreatment. The allegations are reported in > the media, accompanied by the standard organi” >

  3. In my practice as a Head Teacher it is always MY professional practice to create an environment where people are valued, behavior encompassed by ISM is challenged. It is hard work but the Mana of another must be left intact …this is a strategic management value of our overarching management organisation. It becomes a way of life, of being. But racism, judgement, passive agressive behaviours are rife….so you’re always “on” ….I mean the zero tolerance statement is a little like ……I’m not a rascist ….BUT ……” statement. There’s much work to be done. Can’t tolerate that feeling of being affronted by the arrogant behaviours of ppl who ooze privileged ignorance …. throw some casual racism into a joke/some sexist shit usually too ….who assume everyone else thinks like them ….. it AIN’T okay. We DON’T ….think like that. Rise to the challenge and call them on it ….find support.

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