In what seems to be a pretty extreme case, Archie's Comics has filed for an injunction barring its Co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit from entering the premises.  Archie's accuses Silberkleit of sexual harassment, including making numerous comments about male genitalia, and some rather offensive personal habits such as wearing the same clothes for several days and letting her dog defecate in the premises.

The suit sort of begs the question:  how did they wind up here? 

Although we are definitely outsiders looking in, and do not know any of the back story in this case, there are a few usual culprits when you see a situation that has gotten as out-of-hand as this one allegedly is.   So, rounding up the usual suspects:

  • An "uber talent" at the helm.  Often times Companies hire talent and figure personalities will work themselves out or, even if they know the talent has a prickly side, figure the talent is worth the cost.
  • No direct management oversight of the talent, either because the talent is running the show or no one wants to challenge the talent.

Now that we've identified the problem, here are 5 tips for making sure that you do not have to bar the doors to keep your talent out and stop harassment:

  1. Consider passing on the talent -- an employer hiring one of these "uber talent" types should consider the overall costs, such as employee morale, that will come with the hire.  Is the talent so great to justify these costs?  Is there other talent out there that does not come with this baggage?
  2. Prepare for Problems -- you have determined that you absolutely need the talent to run your business as the talent is simply the best person for the job.  Consult with employment counsel to put terms in the employment agreement that require accountability from the talent and provide protections for the Company when the talent violates Company policies.
  3. Create an advisory management team -- sometimes the problem is, as in the Archie's situation, the bad talent is running the whole Company.  If there is Board of Directors for the Company, then the Board should be managing the talent.  If your company does not have a Board or an active Board, consider creating an advisory management team with other business leaders to collaborate with the talent and, if necessary, make recommendations to the company to address problems.
  4. Address problems as they arise -- we have previously posted about the importance of promptly responding to complaints of harassment in order to preserve company defenses and promote morale.  Addressing problems early will also serve as a reminder that the company will not tolerate harassing behavior.
  5. Money still talks -- at the end of the day, money, either how much is being earned or how much is being taken away, is most people's indicator as to how they are performing.  When addressing complaints of harassment or abusive behavior, employers can be creative when issuing discipline to end harassing conduct.  In certain circumstances, traditional discipline such as a written warning or training is sufficient to stop the conduct.  In other circumstances, it may be appropriate to impose a financial discipline, for example, a suspension without pay, a reduction or elimination of a bonus, or a salary reduction.