Leaders at Visa and Nike apparently failed to know female employees complained of misconduct, discrimination, and a “bro culture” but now have a culture change on their radar. After many female senior leader departures, Visa CEO Alfred F. Kelly, Jr. met in May with women executives about advancement issues and inappropriate behavior they’ve experienced. Visa has also just created a Women’s Advisory Group. At Nike women, who’d said they’d been marginalized and sexually harassed with no action taken, initiated a survey. The survey results were left on Chairman, President and CEO Mark Parker’s desk. Subsequent investigation into behaviors resulted in 11 senior executives resigning or losing their jobs.
2018 isn’t our first rodeo for diversity and inclusion. The business case for diversity has been made, reiterated with new data for gender diversity and there are even CEO testimonials on business impact. The human case for diversity has been evident for decades. However, it seems in change and uncertainty — where innovation, collaboration and conversations about new ways of seeing and doing are badly needed — there is an even greater dependence for some to surround themselves with “people like us” and act out unacceptable behavior to gain dominance and control over others. When unchecked by leaders, any sense of belonging by those harmed – and those watching who know it could also happen to them — is destroyed.
First-hand information is the most useful.
- Most CEOs need to get out of their offices more often to evaluate if their sense of reality is corroborated by what they hear and see. For example, what might Nike and Visa CEOs have known far sooner if they’d practiced managing by walking around (MBWA) and had a series of random skip level meetings to listen and learn?
- As town meetings can inhibit some from asking questions, CEOs might encourage questions through an internal blog. They may find their time well spent scanning comments and arrange with the internal communications team the best way to handle CEO responses.
- Once a quarter, CEOs could initiate an open door policy for a few days, and encourage direct reports to do the same, to encourage two-way exchanges.
- CEOs need to send Human Resources and their direct reports a clear message that they want unfiltered, accurate information about how complaints and problems are being handled – particularly those that address whether employees feel safe, have experienced intimidation, harassment or exclusion and how issues of fairness and respect are being addressed. Presumably someone from the CEO’s office is on the company’s diversity committee to give feedback on how issues are being addressed there.
Using information to strengthen culture
Speaking at a global business ethics symposium on diversity and inclusion this month, State Street Corporation’s Chief Diversity Officer Paul Francisco indicated that a lot of implicit bias happens in workplaces when people are under stress. He advised slowing down to ask oneself if a decision is being made with the right context and facts or just because it feels easier.
How feedback is given, support provided and values linked with behaviors influences a workplace environment.
- Research indicates some managers are uncomfortable giving feedback. In addition to getting tips from Human Resources, here are additional suggestions. It’s important that employees receive constructive support and encouragement so they know what they are doing well and have specific suggestions for improvement. For employees violating policies, consequences need to be clear and consistent.
- Managers should ask employees what support they need. Getting employees’ ideas in each team can help managers understand how to support team members and encourage them to support each other. This fuels a spirit of community and identifies values most important in that team.
- Values need to be cultural building blocks with behaviors identified. Nike is an example of a company whose mission and 11 guiding principles are heavily brand driven. The principle, “Do the right thing,” needs elaboration especially in light of Nike’s current crisis. Elaborating on what is meant by that principle could serve as an opportunity for teams to discuss how that should show up in how they treat each other.
BlackRock’s Managing Director and Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion Jonathan McBride has said his goal is for the company’s 14,000 employees to have a sense of belonging. He is actively discouraging employees from surrounding themselves with people “just like them” because “it creates risk, hampers resiliency and lowers performance.” McBride is using survey questions to get more data on employees’ sense of belonging to the company, team and global function.
Information provides insight and ideas for leaders to build understanding, strengthen culture, learn from mistakes and work together with employees to create a sense of belonging and safety so employees are motivated to do their best work.
It isn’t altruism, just good leadership.