21

Nov2018

# MeToo – Spotlight on People & Culture

Image credit ; Inc42

India's # MeToo moment has arrived

October usually witnesses celebration of the victory of Goddess Durga over evil across India. This year, another powerful female force made its presence felt simultaneously – the # MeToo movement. Women across professions took to social media to name & shame their abusers, revealing shocking instances of inappropriate behavior by men in the workplace & positions of power, transcending industry and social spectrum. Expectedly, the accusations were followed up with denials and counter charges of defamation by the accused in some cases. But, while the jury is still out who is in the right, some questions doing the rounds are –

Why did the women choose to come out in the open now instead of when the incidents happened, like in some cases decades earlier?

Why did they not approach official channels of redressal instead of venting out in social media?

What happens in cases of malicious accusations where the accused may actually not be at fault, but is still subjected to a trial of fire by the media and public?

What are the official authorities in concerned organizations and industries doing to address and safeguard the concerns of women?

Most important, what is the way forward to have healthier workplaces designed to promote employee and stakeholder well-being

While the response to each of the above questions merits details with examples beyond the scope of this article, a premise for understanding the issue could be –

The work environments when the incidents happened were not conducive for the women to receive a fair hearing. Even when they had raised their concerns, the management/leaders had likely adopted an approach which was more in favor of the accused. Besides the danger of being tagged as a trouble maker for speaking up in a patriarchal set-up, they also risked losing out on their careers, personal lives and reputation. The situation in 2018 is vastly different, with social media giving their voices a cathartic platform and the multiplied solidarity and support of other people.

Admittedly, there would also be cases where false allegations are made with vested and malicious intent, but then it is the responsibility of organizations and society to set up the right process for fair inquiry and redressal.
Unlike in the past, where the relevant authorities had been in a more of ‘hush up the incidents’ mode, this time round the issue did not remain limited to one between the individuals concerned.

It impacted individual and organizational reputations, with reputational risk snowballing into financial loss in some cases and stakeholders refusing to partner with organizations and individuals tainted by accusations of sexual harassment. Organizations, industry and society have been forced to take note of the repercussions and introspect their own role in ensuring healthy workplace dynamics, for when women took to social media to highlight disturbing instances, they also pointed towards a lack of trustworthy redressal mechanisms within their operational institutions.

So, far they have been setting up mechanisms for addressing concerns of sexual and other discriminatory behavior and trying to arbitrate between the concerned parties. But it still seems more of a reactive measure than a proactive long term solution.

Image credit Refinery

In a larger context, the #MeToo movement is not something limited to issues of sexual harassment in the workplace. It is also about women and other marginalized groups having equal representation, advancement opportunities and pay parity, prompting a critical examination of organizational culture and workplace environment in terms of attributes like values, purpose, integrity, diversity, inclusion, emotional intelligence, respect etc. Hence to proactively future proof work environments driving employee well-being, a critical focus on people and culture is necessary.

Proactively future proofing workplace people cultures thus becomes a key success parameter and framework for the same can be based on the LAM model as detailed below:

LEAD – Leaders across organizations, social institutions and political parties need to take the LEAD on ensuring fair workplace environments where Diversity & Inclusion are actively promoted. The intent and advocacy of key parameters like zero tolerance of any kind of inappropriate behavior, minimization of bias in practices related to recruitment, employee engagement and development, understanding employee voice etc. needs to be driven by the top and be communicated in very clear terms both internally and to external stakeholders.

ACT – Intent and commitment needs to be followed up with concrete action. Necessary forums which give a fair hearing to employee concerns, especially on sexual misconduct cases need to be constituted and empowered to take action. Appropriate policies, strategy and action plans should be chalked out and implemented to boost diversity, employee engagement, development and retention.

MEASURE – Mere policies, procedures and training are not enough. All actions taken need to be measured continuously and on robust metrics to help refine and drive successful implementations. Data matters for getting measures right – the right data collected and managed systematically helps objective measurement. A combination of Diversity & Inclusion studies, engagement scan, voice of employee surveys need to be coupled with bespoke interviews of the focus population, in this particular case females to understand individual stories and feedback for corrective action.

Proactive, appropriate and timely attention can thus convert reputational risks into reputational assets and negate the need for employee issues to be highlighted on forums like #MeToo.

  • Written byVijaya Das

    Vijaya is a People Analytics professional with a passion for writing. She loves to explore the special in the normal and takes inspiration from seemingly everyday events. A rationalist by nature, she is also highly enthused by travel, movies and mythology.

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