In my Conduct Counts blog, I described our bi-annual survey of workplace conduct and how it points leaders across our global organization to areas for improvement.
Since then, so much has happened regarding sexual harassment and abuse of power. #MeToo has prompted employers to up their game. Like many corporate leaders, I felt the need to speak to our people and to commit Accenture to being out front.
In November 2017, I recorded a video for our Canadian people to remind everyone of our workplace conduct expectations. I talked about the channels available within Accenture to report misconduct—primarily from the perspective of someone who has been directly affected by the behaviour.
In February I recorded a video talking about the role of bystanders and supervisors. This video was prompted by a conversation I had with one of our women, a mentee of mine. She approached me about misconduct on her project. I listened, was supportive and then encouraged her to talk with employee relations. A few weeks later I described the discussion to our employee relations lead, almost in passing. He said “Bill, as a supervisor, you must speak up about this. Just being supportive of the individual is insufficient.” It was a wake-up call for me, and I knew it would be for others.
I knew we had to change mindsets and I tripped across a simple idea. Buttons...green buttons. I ordered a few thousand buttons and stickers in both English and French that say “Speak Up” in big letters and “Conduct Counts” in small letters around the perimeter. An organization in Australia had asked people to wear a button to indicate that they would speak up if they saw misconduct.
In the most recent video, I talked about the button. I said:
If you see something, or are told something, you could approach the person targeted, and explain to them that what you observed seemed wrong. Ask if they are OK and if you can help them. Advise them of the importance of reporting it, and offer to support them in doing so. If you are comfortable taking a direct approach, take the person who acted inappropriately aside after the incident and talk about the actions that didn’t seem right to you. While we may not all be comfortable with these approaches, you can always report misconduct you’ve seen or heard to your career counsellor, your supervisor, HR or employee relations. Each of these channels will result in action. And for all of you who are supervisors or managers, when someone reports misconduct to you, please reach out to Employee Relations for advice on how to handle it. You are not expected to solve this on your own.
Last week Jodi Kantor, the New York Times reporter who broke the Harvey Weinstein story, was in Toronto, and we had clients and our people out in force. One theme in her talk was how to break the pattern of cover-ups and financial settlements. She also talked about the sometimes genuine desire of victims not to necessarily ruin someone’s career. Given these realities, how do we achieve lasting change in the workplace? Encourage bystanders and supervisors to speak up. Victims will feel less alone. Situations will be more difficult to hide. Misconduct can often be stopped before getting worse. The dialogue heightens awareness and brings workplace conduct forward in our consciousness.
I also am finding that Speak Up is helping to bring men into the conversation. I applaud initiatives like #WeNeedBoth that are giving voice to this. Men who are wearing the buttons are engaging in conversations that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. I use these stories to remind them to put Diversity Moments on their meeting agendas.
In my recent video I closed by saying:
Wear the button to show that you stand by our core values and that you support an inclusive, respectful and harassment-free workplace. Wear it to show to your colleagues that if you witness or hear of misconduct, you will speak up.
When I see our people wearing the buttons at community events and with clients, they are wearing our core values on their sleeves. More often than not, it prompts a simple “hey, what’s with the button?” Then the storytelling and conversation start. That’s how mindsets change.