Power Without Oversight Creates Loss in Business and at Work

During the course of my HR career, I’ve been responsible for compliance at all levels of an organization. In order to authentically operate in that compliance role, my own compliance must be without reproach – I cannot abuse that role or its authority. The best way to demonstrate that integrity is my complete willingness to be subjected to oversight and/or audit in any way or at any time.

An important example of walking the oversight talk was and is consistently, voluntarily and proactively subjecting myself to the same accountability as any other employee, regardless of level, role or power (or lack thereof) in the organization. In a senior HR leader role earlier in my career, occasionally a new-hire Loss Prevention officer in the warehouse where my office was located wanted to wave me through as I exited the building for the day without inspecting my bags for potential stolen merchandise, because of my role as senior HR policy enforcer. “Look in every pocket and crevice, and take your time,” I would instruct the new hire. “It’s important that as many employees as possible see that I’m subjected to the same scrutiny as they are.”

When I was interviewed by a television news reporter last week asking me the common theme of recent harassment cases on the local and national level, the answer was clear to me in the context of more than 25 years of investigating, adjudicating and remediating workplace harassment incidents: this conduct is the abuse of power without any oversight.

Any ethical and savvy CEO or business owner invites oversight of their position of power especially in dealing with their employees. In larger companies (such as The Weinstein Company, or Uber), it was and is the Board of Directors’ responsibility to provide accountability and oversight of the CEO and their leadership team, even if the CEO is a founder and significant owner of the company. That oversight includes supervising the leader(s) and their conduct, and providing a due process for employees when it’s the leader engaging in harassment. For a male small business owner (especially an owner who employs mostly women and underage girls), submitting to such oversight is mandatory for the safety of everyone involved, as well as the sustainability of his business.

Bottom line: a workplace is not a playpen, or The Love Boat. CEOs and/or business owners who engage in unethical (illegal) power behaviors with employees, customers or vendors will eventually harm or destroy their businesses, as well as harming their employees economically, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

How do you ensure the authentic oversight and effective accountability of power in your organization, in business and at work?

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