I love and am thankful for all the innovations companies, especially the ones in the technology sector, have brought about in our lives. Some have revolutionized the way we travel and others, the way we shop. And most of them have started with a simple idea arising from a gap in the need and supply. One such story that I love sharing during my seminars is that of two young guys who got inspired to invent a cab-hailing app while holidaying in Paris and being stuck in the winter chill. It is inspirational how they converted a personal problem into a massive opportunity, not only for themselves, but also for millions of people, creating reliable transportation and employment avenues in the process.
But I also feel terrible and disgusted every time an incident of sexual harassment comes to light. In fact, so deep rooted is the problem that even some of the most admired and globally loved companies are struggling to deal with it.
While most women speak-up and don’t take it lying down, often times, the mechanisms in place within the company might be faulty. So sadly, there are still occasions where the employee facing such harassment has brought it to the notice of HR, but the HR in turn has been reluctant to take any action, citing reasons like how the offender is a “high performer” and how an “innocent mistake” might jeopardize his career. The complainant is still, usually, asked to simply change their team or be prepared for negative reviews.
It’s not until such cases come out in the media, social or otherwise, that the higher-ups take any note of it. While probes are ordered and committees are formed to investigate such complaints and mitigate the damage, one thing that we cannot escape is that Sexual Harassment at the Workplace is very real and a challenge we need to tackle head-on.
Personally, I hold very strong views on the issue and regularly advise companies and HR heads on how they need to understand and focus on ensuring that the evil of sexual harassment is treated no less than a terrorist attack and take every endeavor to wipe it out completely; on how to develop a strong culture from within to ensure it is eliminated from the system.
While I am sure no company wants to have sexual harassment at work, what usually happens in most cases is that there is never enough importance given to developing a strong corporate culture where everyone knows what the values of the organization are.
Imagine a child whose parents have only focused on the grades this child gets in math and science, but not on developing the inner values this child should have. So while this child is doing very well at studies, there is no sense of respect towards others or how to treat everyone with dignity and kindness. The child doesn’t know anything about the values of living a happy life filled with fun, games and laughter. What will happen to this child? What sort of life would this child lead?
This is exactly what is happening with a lot of new companies around the world – they have received billions of dollars in funding and their sole target is to grow sales and have numbers to show at the end of the quarter. Given this course of action, developing a strong culture first somewhere gets deprioritized or compromised.
Mind you, I too love super high sales numbers, profits and rapid growth, but I also recognize the value of having happy people who are working in the best environment that nurtures them to unleash their full potential.
There are companies today that have transformed the way we live, travel, work and socialize, but they might not yet have realized the power of having a strong culture. This is why, in all probability, an HR rep would think it is more important to give precedence to ‘performance’ over ‘behavior’, ‘respect’ and ‘dignity’. It is also most likely that such HR people would be a rarity in the profession, and not the norm, but one rotten apple spoils the entire basket.
If I were the CEO of a company where those in-charge had failed to take serious action, I would have taken the harshest action against such people. Incompetence and injustice should never be tolerated. Allowed even once, it creeps inside the culture like a vicious poison and causes it to rot.
In my experience, the companies that have faced similar challenges of sexual harassment have been the ones having a poor culture – a culture that ignores, tolerates and thereby allows such tendencies, as long as the profits are coming in. It may start with an “innocuous” Whatsapp joke, but soon slithers along to raise its ugly head and take a more sinister form.
Whenever I deal with such companies, my approach is always to change the mindset and the way people think. To begin with, the organization is made to identify what its core values are and these must ring true across the board. It is essential for the people to realize what values their organization stands for– right from the CEO to a temporary worker or an intern. It is crucial for the top leadership to grasp the risk of not having a strong culture. And that regardless of who the culprit is, sexual harassment has to be dealt as a dangerous threat to the entire organization.
To give an analogy, it is like an individual – we all have our core values and beliefs. So for someone, it might be that they are vegetarians and will never eat meat, no matter what, even if offered a lot of money. Or for someone else, it might be that they will never smoke a cigarette. Similarly, we all have certain values that are deeply ingrained in us.
When I was a little boy, I was taught that it is disgusting to even think about indulging in any act that would disrespect a woman in any way. This is a value that my mother instilled in me. I also learnt about Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge, two forces I love, admire and look to for guidance, and both are the female form.
When these ideas form my core values, it becomes impossible for me to disrespect women in any way. Every human being, regardless of gender, has free will and I learnt to respect that at a very young age. It is a part of my culture, something I believe strongly in and advocate to everyone around me.
Only when values are strong and clearly expressed does a culture grow and get ingrained in people.
The world’s greatest companies became great because of the clear values they have. So for example, every time you heard the motto “Don’t Be Evil”, you thought about Google. (Of course, it has now changed to “Do the right thing!”)
A strong culture with clear values is what can bring about a complete revolution at the workplace. Companies succeed in reducing attrition rates, substantially increasing happiness levels and giving a strong boost to passion by focusing on what is most important – values and culture first.
For all the companies facing similar challenges, now is the time to introspect, take a deeper look inside and start investing in creating a culture that will bring in lasting, long-term change filled with passion, happiness and a desire to excel.
I do hope that this Women’s Day, this conversation gets the attention it deserves and inspires companies and people all over the world to think about the problem and challenge of sexual harassment, so that we have equality, respect and freedom that is much needed in the workplace and beyond.
I would love to have you join the conversation and hear you on https://www.facebook.com/happionaire/ and https://twitter.com/YChabria
Find out How A Man With No Money Became A Billionaire:
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Yogesh Chabria is a world-renowned leader in the field of human potential. He is a #1 bestselling author, top motivational speaker, entrepreneur and founder of The Happionaire Way. His seminars, books, articles and video programs have influenced people from over 100 countries. It is his vision to have a world filled with happionaires. To be a part of this vision, visit: www.happionaire.com