Culture is Key to Harassment Prevention and Bottom-Line Success in Business and at Work

The tragedy of the harassment and sexual abuse of over 100 gymnasts (a majority percentage of them minors at the time) at Michigan State University is an extreme example of the perfect storm for a workplace culture tolerant (even welcoming) of pervasive harassment.

Among other characteristics, a workplace harassment-approving culture is a culture that venerates “brilliant jerks,” and therefore is willing to accept harassing behavior because they believe the brilliant jerks make money for the organization. The bottom line is the bottom line. Ethics and values are not on the organization’s radar.

The cautionary tale imbedded in the Michigan State tragedy is that the workplace culture that makes the brilliant jerks the organizational priority will irreparably suffer the same accountability – legal, criminal, financial, reputational, etc. – from third parties that the brilliant jerk eventually will earn.

In other words, organizations focused on preserving the bottom line (as most organizations are) rather than ethics, value and culture, from a practical standpoint, cannot escape the risk / reward consideration of the latter without ultimately risking the organization’s bottom line.

How are your organization’s ethics, values and culture aligned (or not) to prevent or stop harassment in order to preserve and/or grow your bottom line, in business and at work?

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