Canadian HR Reporter

February 2020 CAN

Canadian HR Reporter is the national journal of human resource management. It features the latest workplace news, HR best practices, employment law commentary and tools and tips for employers to get the most out of their workforce.

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2 N E W S Policies, recruitment part of solution for bad behaviour financial performance or struggles with a company's board. But with the #MeToo movement more than two years old now and many employers ramping up efforts to combat such behaviour — while employment lawyers see a jump in sexual harassment claims — why do executives continue to behave badly? And, more importantly, what should HR be doing to combat the troubling trend? The damaging effect of human nature "I think it keeps happening because they don't think they're going to get caught. I'm not sure if it's any more complex than that. There's very little oversight from the board for the C-suite. I mean, they're focused on return on shareholder equity... It's not that they're not interested or they don't care about this, I just think it doesn't ever hit their radar unless something happens," says Janet Candido, principal of Candido Consulting Group in Toronto. A lot of executives have that Napoleonic syndrome and think they're beyond reproach, says Martin Sheard, employment lawyer and owner of Tevlin Gleadle Curtis in Vancouver. "Didn't [French philosopher Michel] Foucault say that sexual relationships are inherently about power? And I think it's just a kind of kind of a manifestation of that Foucaultian dynamic." People spend more time with people interested in the same things, are facing the same challenges, are deep in the same subject matter. And that I think creates a connectedness that… can be misinterpreted.... It's quite easy to get drawn into a situation where there's a connectedness." But this kind of behaviour is worse when it's done by executives, says Wright. "They are in that position in large part because of some belief about their judgment. And, for me, a senior executive who will make a choice to engage in a relationship that is either not allowed or inappropriate or in any way is a function of a power dynamic… is a lapse in judgment," she says. "If your company has a policy, then the rules are clear. And to think that you can be an exception or can get away with something when the policy is there, that is almost never true." Plus, it should not be assumed that consensual and inappropriate are separate, says Wright. "Specifically, in cases where there's a hierarchical difference, where there's the implication of a power dynamic, but most specifically… even if it's consensual, if there's a company policy, it's inappropriate," she says. "If it is something that will have an effect on decision-making or preferential treatment and that sort of thing… then it should be disclosed." There are a few challenges with at work than almost anyone else in their life, plus there are social functions and travel, so there's "sheer access and opportunity," says Karen Wright, managing director of Parachute Executive Coaching in Toronto. "There's so many ways people are in more contact just by volume of time with people at work. So, I think that that starts the problem," she says. "The people that you work with are workplace relationships, even if they are consensual, says Kent Williams, assistant professor of the Rowe School of Business at Dalhousie University in Halifax. " I t c a n m a k e c o - w o r k e r s uncomfortable and that can lead to trust and equity issues and also the whole idea that there can be a perceived or real preferential treatment. That brings up challenges around equity. And… they can affect families and marriages at home, which can be disruptive to the organization as well," he says. "If you're building that value-based organization, the framework is that senior leaders have to model the way and they're the ones that really have to live true to the values of the organization… That's the social contract for the organization, the norms and how they show up at work." Organizations and boards are taking a tougher stance on the issue today because they realize that this can have a major effect on the overall organization, says Williams. "Now, we hear a lot more with the #MeToo movement. Let's face it, we've lived in a patriarchal-dominated society and it's still that way [but] it is changing and that is a good thing. And so these issues are starting to come more into the light… there's less tolerance for it." Combatting the issue Having written policies in place around what should be disclosed or discouraged can often save employers a lot of headache, says Sheard, but few employers tackle workplace romance that way. "I can't say I've seen a greater interest on the policy side for employers, which is kind of funny because I think I've seen PUBLIC OPINION IN 2017 If a supervisor had an affair with a subordinate, what should be the response? Source: Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University Fired Reprimand Nothing Lose bonus Prison 41% 28% 13% 11% 7% "It can make co-workers uncomfortable and that can lead to trust and equity issues and the whole idea of a perceived or real preferential treatment." Kent Williams, assistant professor at Dalhousie University Inappropriate > pg. 1

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