The recent revelations of sexually tinged activity in industry, politics and the media have ranged from verbal abuse to sexual assault. But at the worst end of the spectrum was a weirdly vibrant and heretofore secret subculture of sexual abuse. Harvey Weinstein personifies this, in that he held immense power which he used to further his own twisted needs.  

It appears that after these issues came to light, the first reaction of people in power has been to fire the offender, manage the public relations and then pursue legal or criminal remedies.

The second reaction hasn't occurred yet.

What we can do

Here it is: we must prevent the likes of Weinstein from happening ever again. 

It would take an army of shrinks to catalog all his pathologies, but we can see that his methods are clear:

  1. He relied on secrecy
  2. He often lured victims outside of the office to his hotel or home
  3. He used accomplices to draw the women to the assignations, 
  4. He threatened them afterwards and punished any who spoke out.

We may not be able to root out the psychic tendencies, but we can eliminate the conditions that permit them to survive in our companies.

The policy

So I suggest a short speech that adds to  the one I already advocate for all new CEOs. In that talk, I suggested that everyone in charge renounce behaviors that make employees feel unsafe, un-respected or unable to tell the truth. Some of the behaviors that have made the press have fallen into this category. But other bad behaviors need another discussion.

The speech

The new talk would go something like this:

"We now know that we need to take extra steps to assure the safety of all our associates. So we will make some changes to the way we work. For example, we will not permit private meetings in homes or hotel rooms. If someone asks you to such a meeting, please politely decline, then tell me. I would also be interested in hearing of anyone on staff who is acting as a proxy in encouraging you to take such meetings.

"Private meetings in-office are inevitable in our business, and of course must occur as before. But we would be foolish to ignore the possibilities of misconduct in a private space.  And since any misconduct thrives in an environment of intimidation and secrecy, we have decided to provide a mechanism that ensures that your power to speak out is preserved.  The experience of other companies is that HR doesn't really have the ability to stop persons of power.  So I will now introduce you to an outside attorney whose only involvement in our company is to assure safety in these respects. If someone ignores these new rules, please contact the attorney. As you know, under our legal system, this professional would be foolish to ignore any concerns warranting investigation. After all, if they did that, the lawyers could be liable for any damages.

"I hope this system shows our determination to assure company safety, and while I pray that we won't need to use the mechanism I've just described, I trust you will use it without reservation if you feel any possibility of a violation."