Me Too, Too Many Times

Me Too. Two simple words that, if you are on Facebook or Twitter, you most likely are seeing pop up as the status update on many women’s and men’s pages.

 

Actress Alyssa Milano, in a Twitter post on October 14, shared the idea that anyone who has been sexually harassed or assaulted write the two words – Me Too – with the rationale that the sheer number of us who would do this would show the world just how widespread this issue really is. In two days, hundreds of thousands of us have posted it, and some have shared stories, using the hashtag #myharveyweinstein, to show that this abuse is not limited to Hollywood, industry, or level in one’s career.

 

The revelations about Harvey Weinstein’s deplorable behavior have sparked a movement.  Perhaps we as a culture are FINALLY ready to discuss something that previously we did not share.  Like, really did not share. Last week, amid the shocking stories coming out about Weinstein, my best friends and I were talking and admitted that we had been targeted in the workplace. Keep in mind these are women that have been in my life for nearly twenty years. We know everything about each other…every bit of each other’s history, what our ATM passwords are, where to find each other’s wills should the worst happen. THIS is the one topic we never really delved into, which saddens me. Why do we share everything, even the scariest, darkest corners of our psyche with each other, but feel too ashamed to discuss something that we did nothing to cause?

 

When it happens, you feel completely scared, humiliated, isolated, and guilty. You figure it must have been something you did. You never assume that this is just a hideous human being with predatory behavior. You hide it from everyone, even your very best friends. ,

 

It is time to rip off the bandage that we have all been using to covering up this shame and start telling our stories. In doing so, we take back the power that Weinstein and monsters like him have had over us. In that vein, here are some of my #MyHarveyWeinstein moments:

 

  • A senior HR professional at the firm my father was one of the top people at.  I was 21, in my first job out of college. Dad’s office was two buildings away, so I would sometimes stop by to say hello to he and his Executive Assistant, who is like family to us. On this particular day, Dad was in a meeting, so I was at her cube. I leaned over the cube wall to look at something on her computer, and the guy stopped by to talk to us. As he stood next to me, he began to fondle my bottom. I was apparently green with disgust, because she brought me in to Dad’s office, where I told her what happened. He was fired within hours.
  • A Managing Director at an investment firm. He moved to Boston from the West Coast for the position. His wife and children had not yet made the move east, and he asked me to spend a weekend with him because “my [expletive] is lonely and wants to spend time with you”. I reported this to my boss. She told me that it was probably because he was from another country and had different views of how women should be treated and to drop it. Two weeks later, a highly respected female Portfolio Manager, who had been at the firm for several years, resigned. In her exit interview, she told me that he was the reason she was leaving. He had made comments like “You’re too old to [expletive] so you are of no use to me” and “old women should just leave the office. I want young and hot”. When I met with him to express concern over these comments, he became incensed and told me that he was going to ruin both her career and mine, and that I should have [expletive] him when I had the chance. When I filed an official complaint with Human Resources at our parent company, I was told that, as a Human Resources professional, I am expected to deal with challenging people and that if I could not handle comments like this I should leave. I did.
  • The CFO at a a financial services firm. Over the course of my tenure, he told me that, as a woman, I should be careful about not talking back to him. He told me that I was too pretty to have anything of substance to say, that if I was not careful, he would find a way to get me fired because he was sick and tired of women like me questioning him, and that I needed to put on some weight because men like curvier women. Keep in mind I was his peer, and the only woman on the executive management team.
  • The Founder/CEO of a banking client. His receptionist resigned, so I started looking for a qualified replacement. When I brought in four incredibly competent and qualified candidates, he dismissed them all. When I asked for feedback, he informed that “Unless I want to [expletive] them as much as I want to [expletive] you, they are not the right candidate. And find me one with [expletive] as good as yours.”
  • The Head of Inside Sales with a company I did consulting work for. I had just returned from an amazing island vacation. He came by my office to catch up, and asked how the vacation was. When I shared that we had a great time, he said that next time he should take me on vacation because “you have no idea the naughty things I want to do to you on a beach.”

 

Harassers, abusers, and [expletive] grabbers take note: We will no longer remain silent when you spew your vile words, will not cover up your abuse, and will not live in secrecy one minute longer. Keep it up and “Me Too” and use of #MyHarveyWeinstein may eventually include your names and addresses.

 

In the words of Alyssa Milano, “This is not an uncommon occurrence. This is a sick culture. Men like Harvey Weinstein are around every corner. Men who undermine women and their strength, ability, and intelligence exist everywhere.”  By sharing our experiences, maybe we can prevent the next generation from having to endure the Weinstein’s of the world.

 

With personalized service and proven results, Pillar Search & HR Consulting provides executive search and human resources consulting services for exceptional non-profits and socially responsible for-profit firms. A woman-owned business, Pillar is based in Boston, MA, and works on the national level. To learn more about how Pillar can assist with your HR and hiring needs, please contact Cindy Joyce, CEO, at cindy@pillarsearch.com.

An Über HR Mess

In German, über means being the best or superlative in its class. It also means to an extreme or excessive degree. Car service app Uber literally has an über mess on their hands as a result of a blog post by one of their former Engineers, Susan J. Fowler.

On February 19, she posted a blog, Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year With Uber, an account of her year with the Bay Area firm and her claims of being sexually harassed, discriminated against, and generally being treated incredibly poorly.

Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick, seemed to quickly acknowledge how horrifying and disturbing Fowler’s account was, tweeting twice the day the blog came out. He first wrote “What’s described here is abhorrent & against everything we believe in. Anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired”, and one minute later, “I’ve instructed our CHRO Liane [Hornsey] to conduct an urgent investigation. There can be absolutely no place for this kind of behavior at Uber.” Two days later, Kalanick announced that, in addition to Hornsey, he would engage Eric Holder, former U.S. Attorney General, Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post and an Uber board member, and others to help with the investigation.

Uber’s decision to make a grand announcement that they brought in luminaries Holder and Huffington is likely meant to demonstrate that Uber takes this situation very seriously, and I have no doubt in their ability to conduct a thorough investigation

Once the dust settles, what Uber will need to focus on is gaining back trust from customers, employees and even future employees. But how?

    • Let employees bring complaints to anyone they feel comfortable with: At some point, Fowler felt that Uber’s human resources team was not helping her, and going to the immediate managers above her was also not successful. Uber, like all companies, should make it clear that employees can go to anyone, up to and including the CEO, if they do not feel comfortable going to HR or their manager.
    • Conduct exit interviews: I do not claim to know how Uber handles employee departures, and in the case of Fowler, the situation may have been too far gone for her to wish to participate in an exit interview, but it is a good lesson. Meet with employees when they resign to learn more about what is prompting the move. Often, employees are hesitant to complain or provide constructive feedback while employed, and once they make the decision to move on will be more forthcoming.
    • Clear communication to employees and customers: We may never know the outcome of this case in its entirety, which is perfectly understandable. These situations require a degree of confidentiality and discretion, but Uber should make both its team members and customers aware of their harassment and discrimination policies. Training should be done across the organization on these topics to ensure that the message is clear to everyone, at all levels, that Uber will not tolerate this going forward.
    • Commit to hiring a diverse team: Part of Fowler’s accusation is that Uber’s team is predominately men, and that the number of women in leadership fell drastically during her tenure with the company. If this is true, shame on Uber. I know from doing executive searches in the Bay Area that finding candidates that reflect the diversity of the Bay Area, particularly women in technology roles, can be a challenge. But it is not impossible. I’ve done it for clients, Facebook has done it, Google has done it. It takes time and effort, and it is not just about finding women and diverse candidates at the leadership roles. It also takes a future-focused effort of having diverse pools of candidates for every role, at every level of the organization, and then ensuring that they have opportunities for training and career development.
    • Become a better corporate citizen. As an Uber customer, I know that they do a lot for charity in their markets, and I applaud that commitment, but now may be the time to do something more significant. Creating a charitable foundation that provides significant financial support to nonprofits focused on bridging the opportunity divide for women and those from diverse backgrounds in the Bay Area (and elsewhere) such as San Francisco Achievers, Year Up, and Girls Who Code, to name but a very few, would help to demonstrate a deep and meaningful commitment to change financially, and would help to prepare women and diverse candidates for careers in technology and other areas where Uber hires.

 

While Fowler’s experience at Uber may ultimately end up in the history and law books among the notorious cases such as the Clarence Thomas Hearings, Tailhook, and the David Letterman scandal, Uber could very well turn this unfortunate situation into a positive. America, after all, has long adored a comeback story.

 

Cindy Joyce is the CEO of Pillar Search & HR Consulting. Pillar provides national executive search services for exceptional non-profits and foundations and socially responsible for-profit firms desiring top talent who want an occupassion, not just an occupation.    In addition, Pillar offers human resources consulting services including leadership coaching, human resources audits, handbooks, assessing organizational design, training, team building, and employee communications. A woman-owned business, Pillar is based in Boston, MA, and works on both the local and national level. For more information, please visit www.pillarsearch.com or email Cindy at cindy@pillarsearch.com.

 

#UberHR

Onboard or Onward: Ensuring the Success of Your New Executive Hire

“About 40% of executives who change jobs or get promoted fail in the first 18 months.”

Fortune Magazine

Where does it all go wrong? Too often, the onboarding process is where things fall apart. I am not talking about “orientation”, which often is done day one and generally involves the basics of assigning a building pass, conducting a benefits overviews, meeting the team and reading a few policies. Onboarding is a longer process, and if done well (typically in partnership with Human Resources and managed by the new executive’s manager, or the Board Chair if they report to the Board of Directors) can almost guarantee fit. It is holistic and gradual. It is also very deliberate, and will require constant check-ins and open communication.  Here are five key activities that will help to ensure that your new executive will be successful in their new role:

Start to Onboard Before They are Actually ON BOARD!

The time between an offer being accepted and the executive starting is sensitive. They may be dealing with a counteroffer, having to say goodbye to much-loved colleagues, and are nervous about this new venture. Keep in touch. Reiterate your excitement to have them joining the team, and have a few people in the organization reach out. If there are organizational overviews, annual reports, strategic plans or other things that that they can read up on ahead of time, get those to them during this time so that they start to feel like part of the team.

Send an announcement out to the staff and the board a few days before their start date explaining their background and the job they are filling. This will help make them seem more familiar to the team when they come through the door, and as an added benefit they will not have to review their resume and background with absolutely everyone in their first week or so.

Relationship Before Task 

Ideally, new executives will meet with their team and people across the organization. One-on-one meetings are great, but remind those who will be meeting with the executive to get to know them before delving into the inner workings of their role or the issues they face. Building rapport with new colleagues and direct reports is critical in the early days.

Learn By Doing 

Too often, in an effort to get all the information to a new hire as soon as possible, they are introduced to processes way too soon. Guess what? They will not remember how to do an expense report or change their password or complete a sales report 30 to 60 days in when they actually need to do it if they are taught how to do it their first week. Have the right people meet with them at the start to review the process at a high level, and then have them set up a time to do it later when they can sit down with real data and learn from it real-time.

The Buddy System 

What we learned in grade school still applies: the buddy system works when the new kid starts. This should not be the executive’s manager, but a peer or high-performing direct report who has longevity and the personality to be an effective buddy. The buddy can manage the nicety of taking them to lunch on day one and being available to explain the intricacies of culture, relationship dynamics, and certain pitfalls to avoid, which are things that the executive may not be comfortable asking of higher-ups.

Check In Early & Often

I too often hear that executives join, get a ton of attention the first day or two, and then are largely left on their own. It does not feel welcoming, and it runs the risk of them going in a direction that is difficult to course-correct later on. Meet with them daily, even for 10-15 minutes, in the first few weeks. Move on to twice weekly, weekly….you get the point. Let them know where they are doing a great job. Let them know where they need to take a different approach. But LET THEM KNOW. Being clear on what is a success will lead to more success.

While by no means a complete onboarding process, following the steps above will help to ensure that your new executive hire is one of the 60% who will be a success in the first 18 months.

Cindy Joyce is an Executive Recruiter and the Founder of Pillar Search, an Executive Search and HR Consulting firm located in Boston that works with clients nationwide. She can be reached here.