Did we learn anything from the financial meltdown?

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This is the 10th anniversary of Wall Street’s financial meltdown. In my book, ‘From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire’, I indicate that the collapse could have been avoided had people in the know come forward. 

This also marks the 10th anniversary of my involvement with into the whole arena of bullying in the workplace and the incivility and injustice that has resulted. Unfortunately, in terms of people feeling comfortable about exposing wrongdoing, we have regressed because in each and every one of the stories we hear every day, most have been longstanding open secrets, which suggests that although people internally talk about wrongdoings, the fear of either speaking to those in power and/or exposing injustice is still very much there.  

To avoid the next catastrophe, organizational leaders need to change their cultures so that they hear what they need to hear to avoid the risk of getting exposed.

It’s your culture, stupid.

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While this Washington Post article focuses on the media’s #MeToo problems and the assertion that their problems will continue until its culture changes. This challenge applies to every sector in our society. 

Just recently, Jeff Fager – producer of ’60 minutes’ – resigned amid sexual harassment allegations just three days after CBS CEO Leslie Moonves resigned and less than a year after Charlie Rose’s departure

Until the media changes their cultures, their credibility in reporting on institutional wrongdoings, including abuse and harassment, is at risk. The media have a responsibility to be role models in fostering cultures that are diverse, inclusive, fair and safe (physically and emotionally). Until they get to that point, they have no business in reporting or giving opinions on wrongdoings in other institutions.

Catholic sex crimes unworthy of child bullying expert’s attention?

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My former co-author, Barbara Coloroso, who is a former nun, pushed back several years ago when l used the Catholic Church as an example of a toxic culture in the book we were writing together. 

In her role of teaching, writing and speaking on the bullying of children, she had a responsibility to weigh in on this serial criminal saga, and she still has. It is now becoming more and more apparent that the reason she reneged on her agreement with me was her discomfort with our reporting on the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal. 

Prior to our writing the book, and subsequent to our falling out, I cannot find any evidence of her writing anything at all about the child abuse scandal, which is perplexing given she presumably had some inside knowledge during her tenure as a nun. When queried by the social media director for the Faas Foundation about what Ms. Coloroso had written about abuse in the Catholic Church, we received no response.

Representing herself as an advocate for bullied children, this begs the question of why. Could it be blind faith; could it be blind loyalty; could it be complicity; could it be that she herself was an abuser?  

One of the reasons this kind of horrible behaviour goes on for so long is that experts in the area don’t come forward. The message is, particularly given the current social/political climate, people who are thought leaders and experts need to take a stand.

Given Ms. Coloroso’s prominence and profile, her weighing in on the scandal when it was starting to gain some media attention could have prevented the warranted attention it is getting today. I also believe it could have saved a number of lives.

Why people distrust the establishment

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This New York Times story on the tenth anniversary of the U.S. financial meltdown shows that the checks put in place have had little impact. It also shows that people who blow the whistle on wrongdoings pay a price.  

The resentment caused by the 2008 financial crisis set off a populist backlash that fomented distrust of expertise and political division, which could have worrying consequences.

When we look at all of the checks that were supposedly put into place, nothing has really changed. In fact, one could argue that if we look at the occurrence of wrongdoing reported every day, what happened ten years ago did not register with the financial sector, nor any other sector for that matter.  

This Goldman report is coming out ten years after the fallout. A senior banker called Goldman Sachs’s whistle-blower hotline, a rare dissent by a partner at the firm. His superiors, including the next chief executive, told him to relax. 

The Edelman Report indicates there has been an even further erosion of trust. Finally, people are starting to recognize why there is the polarization. People are angry. They are angry because of the betrayal by people whom they should be able to trust. They can’t trust their bank, church, employer, or the associations they belong to. So, who can they trust? What is it going to take?  

When the victim becomes the villain

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At first blush when reading this New York Times story, many will assume what happened to this Marine is an exception. Male-on-male sexual assault may not be as common as males sexually assaulting women; however, because it is so deeply buried for reasons so eloquently described in this story, we are not able to determine the magnitude of it. 

What we are discovering with the Catholic Church scandal is that it is more significant than most assume. The commonality of sexual abuse, whether it is male - on - male or male - on - female, when the victim comes forward, the predator attempts to turn the victim into the villain. The most recent example of this is what Bill Cosby attempted to do with his victims. The outcome of this is also common, which is the victims blaming themselves. 

Freedom of expression

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By making our educational institutions safe and accommodating has denied students the benefit of hearing and understanding different perspectives which, if they are shielded from them, leave them unprepared to challenge them when they enter “the real world”. 

What we need to do is better equip people on how to respond to and challenge different perspectives, regardless of how offensive they may be. As I have written before, this is missing in our society today. 

One way to do this is teaching people the art of debate where facts and logical arguments are framed in the context of how people feel, and why they feel the way they do about the issue or situation. This is called civil discourse. 

Talking about mental health issues can save lives

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Although this very powerful and brave story is about fathers talking to their children about their mental health, it is about having people be comfortable in talking about mental health to a much broader group - everyone they are close to. 

The sad reality is that one of the reasons people are not comfortable is most are isolated by those they feel they are close to, which has led to not just the mental health issue, but an epidemic of loneliness. To have people be comfortable in talking about their mental health condition, we must all be comfortable in having that discussion with them. 

Bargaining in bad faith

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Having spent over a decade as a labour negotiator for management, I can say with some authority, those who suggest Canada should have been more open to compromise earlier, don’t know what they are talking about. 

Canada’s leadership knew early in the negotiations that they were dealing with someone who is unwilling to compromise. As this Star article describes, his ‘Art of the Deal’ is always one sided - his side. Canada should refuse to have any further discussions unless the other side is prepared to bargain in good faith.

Either Gross Negligence or Lies

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Having written extensively about the Catholic Church and the Pope’s inadequacies in dealing with the ever-growing scandal of sexual misconduct and coverups, this allegation confirms for me the deep rot in the church’s hierarchy, where the priests are more important than the flock. 

Similar to many organizations such as the United NationsOhio StateNew York University, the Government of CanadaCBS,Texas InstrumentsTesla, and plenty of others, coverups by high level executives is the norm rather the exception. When these various organizations feign ignorance, only one of two things can be true. They actually did not know about the problem, in which case they exhibit gross negligence and ineptitude, or they were lying.