Force the Dialogue!

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There are some great lessons to be learned from the recent disgraceful racial profiling and arrest of two black men experienced in Philadelphia at a Starbucks coffee shop. I believe the solution rests with the call to action I have been advancing for years, which is forcing dialogue. 

While this incident focuses on race, this important dialogue can and should also apply to other issues such as harassment, abuse, equity and fairness. This article highlights what has not worked including ineffective training programs, the primary motivation being to provide organizations with a legal shield against discrimination.

In this Washington Post article on leadership by Jena McGregor, we can clearly see that “just sending a message is not enough”. Corporate America is beginning to wake up to the notion that conversing with one another is critical to the process of bringing inclusivity and diversity into the 21st century.

My foundation is working on an important initiative with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence called ‘Emotion Revolution in the Workplace’. One of the cornerstones of this project is to encourage people to have debates and difficult discussions about the serious issues that continue to plague our society.

No Red Flags? No Motive? Eyes Wide Shut?

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This Washington Post article, which reports Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s assertion that there were no red flags or motive, shows how blind he and those around him were. Dimitrios Pagourtzis, who had a fondness for trench coats and a growing darkness, was bullied by other students and by coaches. He was a loner. Like so many loners, he was likely very lonely, a victim of the loneliness epidemic.

There were bystanders to his being bullied. There were bystanders to his increased isolation. There were bystanders to his changed behaviours. What did these bystanders do? What could they have done? Just imagine if just one of the bystanders came to his defense when he was being bullied. Just imagine if just one of the bystanders befriended him. Based on the extensive research I have done on bullying, this tragedy could have been avoided. 

Having researched emotional intelligence and the link to bullying, it becomes more and more apparent to me the need for schools, workplaces and communities to become emotionally intelligent. This is something that my foundation and the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence have embarked on. Our initiative, Emotion Revolution in the Workplace, patterned what Yale has done in the schools with the RULER program.

We have come to recognize, however, that just being schooled in emotional intelligence does not make one emotionally intelligent. What it takes is for individuals to internalize their emotions so that they can influence the emotions of others, simply by applying what we all learned in kindergarten – the ethic of reciprocity, or The Golden Rule.

This also requires a safe environment and an encouraging climate where people are able to apply and practice their emotional intelligence skills, which is simply building relationships and communicating with each other.

This tragedy exemplifies one of the best arguments for all of us to develop our emotional intelligence skills. Being bullied, targeted and abused is a very lonely place to be. Have we, as a society, deteriorated to the point where we see people nose dive into depression and isolation, and think it is ok? It is little wonder why the loneliness epidemic isn’t resonating.

In my book, ‘From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire’,I challenge readers to consider their role as bystander and to ask yourselves the following questions:

            Could I have helped avoid a physical or mental breakdown?

            Could I have helped avoid ruining a career?

            Could I have helped avoid a family breakdown?

            Could I have helped avoid the organization’s downfall?

            Could I have helped avoid a suicide (or attempted suicide)?

            Could I have helped avoid a murder?

Although it has been several years since I wrote about this unfortunate lack of awareness, and how to change it, in the chapterDefining the Unjust – Advice to the Bystander, nothing has changed. What this lack of inertia tells me is that bystanders don’t have the kind of emotional intelligence to see this and then do something about it. Emotional intelligence isn’t a matter of just being nice to one another, it is a matter of life and death.

YET ANOTHER CASE OF LEADERSHIP ONLY ACTING AFTER THEY HAVE BEEN CAUGHT

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The situation described in this New York Times article is yet another example of where leaders need to be held accountable for not dealing with abuse in the first instance. Leaders everywhere should be reviewing what they knew, and what they did about it. Coming clean on it before it is exposed in the media is a less risky proposition for them and the organizations they are responsible for. Governing boards must start taking heed and challenge management on whether their organizations are in a ‘at risk’ position.  

Michigan State University recently was nailed with a $500 million fine, which taxpayers are on the hook for. If similar negligence, corruption and abuse, as alleged at the University of Southern California, and any other universities, are proven to be true, taxpayers could be on the hook for equally substantial fines.

Startling Statistics! – Or, Are They?

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Among thousands of LGBTQ teens, a survey finds anxiety and fears about safety. Despite all of the advancements made, including same sex marriage, attitudes towards LGBTQ people remains hostile. This Washington Post article spells out, using startling, horrible statistics, how LBGTQ teens feel, based on what they endure. It is becoming increasingly more apparent that people feel it’s okay to torment those who are different.

In his commencement address to Hillsdale College, Vice-President Mike Pence painted a hopeful, yet naïve, view of how Christians are winning the culture war. Eugene Scott’s analysis in this Washington Post article suggests a very different reality - America is not as religious in practice or identity as Mike Pence told college graduates. The reason is a simply one;if Pence was accurate, the hate epidemic would not exist. 

Everyone hates a tormentor. But too few do anything about it.

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In this New York Times opinion, Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, has captured the essence of why bullies bully, they are not called out by the bystanders, who make up the majority of witnesses. In my book, ‘From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire’, I devote this chapter - ‘Advice to Bystanders’ to helping people move from being a bystander to being an active part of the solution. . 

NBC News Should Not be in the Business of Reporting on Workplace Abuse

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The symptoms of widespread sexual misconduct described in this Washington Post story are typical of what most organizations cover up, deny or whitewash bad behaviour and wrongdoings. Media outlets should shoulder a greater responsibility to investigate and deal with internal issues appropriately, using external resources. Unless they become more transparent, they just don’t have the credibility to investigate and report on the wrongs of others.

I wrote about this same dynamic at Fox News in 2016 when the whole issue of sexual harassment and abuse emerged. Clearly, things haven’t changed much.

So why did NBC not have an external investigation?

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The in-house investigation that “found no evidence” that anyone in authority at NBC received complaints about Matt Lauer until days before he was fired does not adequately address the question of who knew what and what did they do about it. If the brass and Human Resources did not know until days before Lauer was fired, as it is implied in the report, then it acknowledges gross negligence. 

Tom Brokaw’s accuser offers the perspective that most people who are harassed face, which is where predators, abusers, and bullies, with the help of the brass, try to turn the ‘victims into the villains’.

It is patently obvious that employees are afraid to be seen going to Human Resources, who work in glass offices at NBC, for fear of retaliation. It is no small wonder that there were no complaints filed. Just because there were no complaints filed does not mean there wasn’t a problem. This, like most of what we have covered, appears to have been an open secret for years with Human Resources and people at the top, only acting on it after it gets exposed. 

This is yet another classic example of the question I ask in my book 'From Bully to Bull's-Eye; Move Your Organization out of the Line of Fire', “Is your workplace culture a ticking time bomb”? 

THE FIRST LADY’S STAFF IS RIGHT TO LASH OUT AT NEWS MEDIA

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Rather than bashing Melania Trump for plagiarism the media should be trumpeting (excuse the pun) her intentions here, which is promoting kindness and civility. Melania Trump is in the most difficult position on earth having to live with and trying to tame the most difficult person on earth. 

Promoting ‘Be Best’ is a clear act of defiance, sending a clear message to the President - You are not the best. 

This bashing is a perfect example of the media looking for negativity and creating it if necessary. Why should she reinvent the wheel? This in stark contrast to her husband, who has done his very best to systematically dismantle as much of President Obama’s good work as he possibly can.

Melania is a lady, and by her example, she has become a great and much hungered for role model for today’s youth. The fact that she unabashedly stands up against her husband’s discombobulated arrogance and meanspirited proposals speaks volumes and serves to encourage others who feel trampled under his oppressive words and actions. 

It should be noted that in introducing the initiative, there was transparency, indicating the repackaging of existing programs. A booklet with the branding of her “Be Best” initiative was first published by the Federal Trade Commission during the Obama era, setting off a storm of unfair accusations.

Why Whistleblowers Are Essential

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The indictment of Martin Winterkorn, the Ex-Volkswagen C.E.O. charged with fraud over diesel emissions, as reported in this New York Times article, makes Volkswagen more vulnerable to lawsuits by shareholders who say top managers concealed risks. People internally were aware; but they didn’t come forward because they were scared into silence. Note the exposures. Not only was this covered up at the very top; this shows they doubled down on their complicity with an inadequate, incomplete and flawed internal sham investigation. 

By taking a close look at where cultural bombs have gone off, the most recent being Nike, and all of the exposures resulting from the MeToo movement, it becomes more and more evident that had people blown the whistle, many of the problems would have been avoided. More importantly the corruption misbehavior and abuse could have been avoided.

In most situations of this nature, people are afraid to come forward because when they do come forward, they get fired. Take, for example, the issue in Charlotte County, NB, as reported in an editorial in the Telegraph Journal, where a member of the Southwest Regional Service Commission was fired recently for blowing the whistle over an irregularity. That case is heading to court. 

Duke Tran was the whistleblower who came forward at Wells Fargo. He went through hell fighting the injustice he endured, including losing his job. He just won his case. This New York Times article describes the incredible turmoil he went through in order to stand up for what was right and true.

My own experience, which I discuss in detail in my book, From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire, sent me into 18 months of shear hell because of what I went through when I blew the whistle on a corrupt corporate executive. The troubling truth, as I write, is that too often established structures in society are better equipped to silence criticism than whistleblowers are equipped to expose wrongdoing. This must change!

How an investment in education can save democracy

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EDGE of CHAOS’- Why Democracy Is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth - and How to Fix It’ by Dambisa Moyo, is the latest book by this prizewinning economist who was named one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” by Time magazine in 2009. The Financial Times, in their praise of Moyo, nailed it when they wrote, “If we do have to face facts, Moyo is our woman. So much has been packed into it, that the book is impossible to read without learning something.”

While the book focuses on the geopolitical, social and economic dynamics of countries, the messages and sage advice can and should be considered by organizational leaders in every segment of our society. One of the most powerful arguments Moyo makes is the prerequisite answers to the challenges we face is the investment that needs to be made in education as a foundational pillar. Those jurisdictions who fail on this, will fail economically, politically and will fail socially all of which fuels the demise of democracy.