If you think that your organization is immune to accusations of sexual misconduct...think again. It doesn't only happen to other organizations. Are you prepared to handle this situation if it occurs in your company? Over and above issues relating to human resources management, it appears essential that we remind executives that governance issues should also be considered. What should you be thinking about, you might wonder?
Recent high-profile events have reminded businesses of the importance of adopting clear policies to prevent and manage sexual misconduct in the workplace. Your company has an unequivocal policy that has been circulated to all employees. That's excellent, but is it enough?
Implement the Proper Mechanisms
A power imbalance often exists in these types of situations, and we can't ignore the possibility of individuals being involved who need to be managed on a completely different level.
It is therefore important to ask yourself if the policy in place includes mechanisms for reporting, at the highest level, sexual misconduct by any individual, including a senior executive, an influential partner or a major client.
Furthermore, does the contact person referred to in the policy have the credibility and independence required to handle such delicate situations? To whom will this person report when exercising such power?
The Role of the Board of Directors
These matters require regular consideration by senior management and, ultimately, by the board of directors, which should periodically ensure that the proper policies and procedures are in place.
The board of directors plays a crucial role in the safeguard of corporate values, and this should include being concerned about policy issues related to preventing and managing cases of sexual misconduct. The risk to the company's reputation, one of its most important assets, justifies such oversight. In certain cases, the reputational risk might even justify an intervention by the board, which would not want to be told that it should have done more.
Remember that even if your organization has adopted a policy and believes that it is equipped with the tools to protect against the risks associated with this kind of situation, these tools need to be both adequate and sufficient.