Entering the world of HR requires persistence and a strong ethic as the responsibility goes beyond engaging or maintaining the company and its people. HR professionals are also responsible to address any misconduct in the workplace and become the first-line department to report to. When scandals occur in an organisation, the public relations officer will work together with the HR manager to find solutions. HR is often needed to help pick up the pieces and re-centre the organisations to recover the fallout.
If you want to know how to deal with scandals at the workplace, the best way is by learning from past cases. Here are three popular corporate scandals that could give good lessons for both HR and business leaders.
A former Uber engineer and whistleblower revealed that Uber’s HR team had been systematically ignoring sexual harassment claims, protected a repeat offender and threatened to fire a woman (the informant) for speaking up. The informant kept posting her allegations online which then spurred an internal probe and the firing of over 20 Uber employees. Consequently, Uber didn’t only lose its customers and employees, but also the bad publication that harmed its reputation. Uber rule-breaking mentality has also extended to alleged abuses of users’ privacy, according to numerous reports. Subsequently, Uber hired a new SVP of leadership and strategy to foster a more positive corporate culture after this case.
What to learn: A toxic workplace equals the loss of talent and productivity. Therefore, it is essential that HR management professionals address corporate culture early and often no matter how hard the case is, otherwise the ripples will cause much harder challenges for the future success of the business.
In a new case of Well Fargo scandals, its HR professionals fired the whistleblowers, instead of protecting them. The top executives also use the term “big-girl panties” to call girls which can fall into harassment action. Apparently, the company failed to put in place adequate controls to ensure practices that discourage wrongdoing. Wells Fargo also lacked adequate procedures to claw back compensation from executives suspected of wrongdoings.
Among the issues the HR department needs to address, the regulator said, are thousands of employee complaints, and inadequate policy for clawing back compensation from executives and controls around pay that are not tight enough to ward off potential misconduct. Yet, the company has a lot of HR issues and fails at handling them.
What to learn: Wells Fargo scandals show some serious lack of effectiveness in its leadership. When there are too many to handle in one company, HR leaders must not show their resentfulness. Instead, HR leaders must build a plan to go against misconduct.
Roger Ailes, the founding chairman of Fox News, was recorded to have numerous sexual harassment, discrimination and unprofessional behaviour complaints. The accusers felt that Fox News’s culture did not offer a safe haven to report harassment without it affecting their careers. One accuser, in a lawsuit, claimed that she did not report the misconduct to HR to no avail. Yet, after some publication about the misconduct, the company hired a new human resource chief to help course-correct a corporate culture that propagates fear of repercussion for reporting sexual harassment or other discriminations.
What to learn: HR should be the first place to report any harassment or misconduct, and with that comes great responsibility, including exhibiting strong leadership in times of turbulence and navigating conflict among leaderships. Without this expertise, toxic culture could arise that negatively impacts an organisation’s bottom-line.