The recently released internal investigation report on the Ohio State football program provides an interesting window into the oversight of workforce culture issues involving senior executive officers of a large organization (in this case, a very successful college football coach).
The focus of the investigation was whether (in connection with the hiring, retaining, supervising and firing of an assistant coach) the head coach violated any law, rule or ethics regulation. The investigation was prompted by concerns that the head coach had been inattentive over a period of time to the allegations of domestic violence raised against the assistant. The circumstances were exacerbated by the personal relationship between the head coach and the assistant coach’s grandfather, and by the head coach’s widely criticized press conference responses. Ultimately, although the head coach was essentially exonerated, the board chose to suspend him for several games.
There are several notable lessons for health systems in the investigative report. For example, the concept of executive “independence” when it comes to discipline of close subordinates should be viewed broadly (e.g., should the head coach have been responsible for the conduct of an assistant with whom he had strong personal ties?) Senior executives should be cautioned about the need for absolute clarity and honesty in public remarks regarding controversial topics (e.g., misstatements by the head coach in a press conference contributed significantly to the controversy). Management should be directed to interpret corporate policies more in the content of their spirit, not simply “black letter” (e.g., there was concern that the head coach interpreted a particularly important university policy too narrowly). The CEO should make certain that she/he is promptly informed of material legal allegations against key subordinates (e.g., there were concerns that important information about the assistant coach’s conduct did not reach the head coach). In addition, policies prohibiting obstruction and document destruction should be expanded to include deletion of emails during the pendency of investigations (e.g., changing the message history setting on the head coach’s phone apparently had been considered).