The flood of women coming forward in recent weeks to tell their stories of “Me Too” has shed a light on the fact that it’s not only Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, and Hollywood but our country at large that has created a culture of mindlessness when it comes to sexual harassment.
These revelations are raising awareness across the business sector as companies try to make sure they and their employees do not fall prey to a mindless culture.
Brenda was a newly minted VP on her first business trip with Miramax. She had turned in early after dinner as to make a good impression on her boss and fellow employees leaving them in the bar downstairs.
When she woke up to a knock on her hotel room door, the voice on the other side was a familiar one, so she opened it.
Before she knew what was happening, her boss pushed the door open and threw her on the bed. He pinned her down but was drunk and she managed to wriggle away, locking herself in the adjoining room.
Weeks later her boss had not spoken a word to her about that night. No conversations, no “I’m sorry,” it was business as usual.
When she mustered up the courage to confide in her boss’ boss, he apologized for the unfortunate incident, but he let her know that if she went public, he would deny their conversation ever happened.
I asked Brenda if the fear of it happening again stayed with her while she was at Miramax. She said, “Oh yeah, it wasn’t if, in my mind, it was when. I learned that’s how it was there.”
In business, we talk about culture. It’s a buzzword. How do you create a good, a healthy, a positive, a winning–the adjectives abound followed by the 4, 5 or 6 steps you need to create that culture.
But the culture of your business doesn’t live in your mission statement or in your HR manuals, it’s a living breathing thing. It lives in the decisions you make and in the way you handle people, especially those who have less power.
A culture is a set of set of norms, values, and behaviors of a group. One definition says it’s the way we do things around here. However, if those ideals are left to collect dust in the pages of your mission statement, your mission will get lost.
The biggest reason the culture of a business will fail is mindlessness. When a group or a company of people go mindless, they begin to accept things they would not normally accept under the banner of this is the way it’s done around here, regardless of what it says in the manuals.
In a mindless culture, all manner of bad, unsafe and repugnant behavior can become part of a company’s tacit traditions, including sexual harassment. These behaviors infect and redefine a group’s stated core values.
Mindlessness can become systemic, as employees old and new become acceptant of the prevailing culture that is practiced, not preached.
Brenda experienced the real values held at Miramax. At minimum, her bosses were supporting a culture of mindlessness with respect to women and they expected Brenda to drink the Kool-aid.
The systemic mindlessness of Hollywood is being exposed as scores of actresses are coming forward with remarkably similar stories of sexual abuse.
Many of these women, like Rachel Mcadams, were sent to hotel meetings with predators by their own agents, some of whom were also women, aware of the danger but gave no warning.
In order to weed out systemic mindlessness and any accepted norms that go against their core values, companies need to gut-check their culture.
Introducing mindfulness, the practice of being present and attuning to the people around us can help employers better monitor the direction their company’s culture has taken.
Employees trained in mindfulness are not as susceptible to the priming of a culture, especially if it is wrought with questionable values. Mindfulness practitioners are proving to be more compassionate toward others and are prone to make moral choices.
One surprising study showed that mindful people are less likely to fall prey to the “bystander-effect” and are more likely to speak up when confronted with the suffering of others or injustice.
Some of the old guard in Hollywood has admitted to knowing about the sexual misconduct of Weinstein and others but did nothing. The “bystander-effect” was a key reason so many in Hollywood stayed quiet for so long.
Creating a space that is safe and supportive for employees to speak openly and honestly about their experiences goes a long way toward maintaining a company’s integrity.
While sensitivity training is important, it falls short of creating a culture that is aware, compassionate and attuned to others.
We have an opportunity in this moment to become mindful of how power is wielded and lorded over others. It’s time for a gut-check, not only of our business culture but the culture of our country at large.