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Harvey Weinstein was one of the most influential men in Hollywood. For decades, he produced films which won awards, received critical acclaim and cleaned up at the box office. Even Hollywood’s leading lady, Meryl Streep, called him a “god” onstage at an awards show. Now Weinstein is an alleged sexual deviant whose crimes are out in the public domain for all to see. Not only is his reputation in tatters, but so is the credibility of the movie industry in LA.

To claim the scandal is specific to one industry in the United States is foolish. As more women come out, the extent of harassment throughout the country and around the world is evident. If there is one thing which is clear, it’s that the buck doesn’t stop with Hollywood. Bearing that in mind, what are the lessons employers can take from the Weinstein case? Below are a handful of examples which can help turn a workplace into a safe environment for women and men.

There Is A Dark Side

For a man who portrayed a stellar image, he was seemingly very different behind the scenes. One thing the case goes to show is that no one can be fully aware of how another person thinks. The mind is a private sanctuary which holds all sorts of information and potentially dark secrets.

How does this affect a business? It impacts the companies who use an image as a sign that an individual can’t do any wrong. Far too many organizations believe it’s unthinkable for an apparently “perfect” man or woman to be capable of harassment. All the while, women who bravely come forward don’t receive any support. Every book has a cover, but it shouldn’t be what employers use to make a judgment.

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An Ostrich Isn’t A Defense

What makes people angry is the fact the entire industry knew of Weinstein’s alleged actions. In fact, a clause in his contract with his own company spells it out in black and white. Like an ostrich, businesses like to bury their heads in the sand and hope that issues go away. Heaven forbid that any negative press or publicity surfaces. However, ignoring a volatile situation, such as workplace harassment, is cowardly. Employees of all genders deserve the right to feel secure in the office or wherever they work. Recent backlash shows the general public has no support for complicit companies.

Implicit Is Complicit

The reason the ostrich defense doesn’t work is because it’s that of dirty laundry. When clothes are washed, all the stains come out for everyone to see. In the case of Weinstein, the Weinstein Company received mountains of negative, PR which they may deserve. Why? They knew about the allegations and didn’t help the victims for the sake of money. He made them too much green to rock the boat. Plus, cash helps soothe an upset conscience.

Employers around the world should take note of this because there is a definite shift in public opinion. Decades ago, it would have been okay to plead ignorance and use that as a valid defense. Nowadays, employees expect bosses to be in control of every aspect of the firm. By not acting, the company involved is as complicit as the accused. In reality, an organization has to respond as soon as an allegation – true or false – is made.

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An Environment Of Fear

One of the main reasons the accusations have only come to light now is an environment of fear. Women and some men felt afraid to speak out in case their actions damaged their careers. Men with such power had and still have the capacity to blacklist an employee at will. One factor which shouldn’t get overlooked is the uselessness of current HR. In an age where political correctness is apparently powerful, a human resource department couldn’t help victims of harassment. And, it’s happening all over the world. The only way to correct this is to make changes. Hiring an HR recruitment agency to employ new leaders is a start, as is reviewing current protocol. However, the leading reform has to develop new policies. Victims of harassment should not feel scared and must know there is always an avenue for justice.

Too Much Power

Kanye West raps that “no one man should have all that power” and he’s right. If this scandal shows anything, it’s that bosses can do what they please without fear of reprisal. Commentators may argue that harassers have and still do receive the punishment they deserve. However, it happens at the expense of dozens of women who have to go through the ordeal. If a boss didn’t think he or she could get away with it, people wouldn’t have to suffer abuse. When a person at the top has an inflated ego, nothing is too far.

What a business should take from this is the importance of dividing power. A manager who has to report to others is a person who can’t take the law into his own hands. Also, diversifying control and putting more women in charge would surely be a practical step in the right direction.

Change Is Coming

Papers are full of headlines which ask, “is change finally coming to Hollywood?” It seems like a long time coming but the answer is yes for two reasons. It’s in the best interest of the industry and the general working public. Not only must employees be safe in the office, but businesses don’t want to deal with the fallout.

On both fronts, it suits everyone to be on the same page. The second reason is the teamwork of women. Now more than ever, women from all walks of life are coming together to fight back. Thanks to social media, global mobilization isn’t a problem any longer. Another takeaway for employers is that it’s best to be in front of the curve. When change does happen, the businesses that are left behind often get the worst of a bad deal.

Just because it’s Hollywood doesn’t mean there aren’t lessons for all employers to learn.

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