Addiction Reaches Every Corner of Society

The University of Southern California is reeling under allegations of campus drug use by the former medical school dean, Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito, who has been fired. People are calling this situation a scandal, which it is in the way the university covered it up, but I view this as more of a tragedy. Addiction is an issue that impacts almost every organization and every walk of life. It is an illness that is poorly understood and even more poorly treated. Addiction never happens in a vacuum. There are always indicators that there is an issue. What is lacking are appropriate interventions. If a school of medicine fails to understand this, how in the world can we possibly expect other organizations to do so?

 Last week, I blogged about the tragic death of a lawyer who was lost to addiction. It is incumbent on every organization to contact professionals who deal with addictions in order to recognize the indicators, understand the positive methods by which to intervene at the earliest possible stage, and learn how to support the individual. Bystanders, friends and family also have an obligation here. They almost always know there is something amiss. To them I offer the same advice—educate yourself. The life you save may be someone very close to you.

Andrew Faas is the author of From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire

Photo credit: USC

On International Women’s Day: Female Marines Attacked by the Corps

In honor of International Women’s Day, the organizers of the Women’s March called for a general women’s strike to create A Day Without a Woman. I heartily endorse this and hope if you’re a woman reading this you were able to participate in some sort of meaningful action—because there is still so much work that needs to be done to support women. It is clear that despite all the editorials, articles, awareness seminars, diversity training workshops and conferences that rights for women are still sorely lacking. Look no further than the U.S. Marine Corps, which is currently being rocked by its latest scandal—private photos of female Marines shared without their consent by former partners or stolen outright—and being posted with vulgar comments in a secret online Facebook group.

The veterans and active duty members of Marines United posted hundreds of photos of female Marines in varying stages of dress and undress and included their names, ranks, social media handles and where they were stationed. Not only were these actions unconscionable against the mothers, wives, daughters and sisters who serve beside them, it also strikes a deep blow against the cohesion and camaraderie of the Marine Corps. As Thomas Brennan, the Marine veteran who founded the nonprofit news site The War Horse, which broke the story, told the New York Times: “We are hurting other Marines.”

Sadly, this attitude is not surprising. In my research on workplace dynamics, and in my book, From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire, I have observed that you cannot reform a culture by overlaying it with a diversity program or forcing managers to attend sexual harassment seminars. Systemic change only happens from the top down and requires total integration into workplace culture. The Marines are particularly resistant to this due to their cultural conversation of being “rough and tumble” and having no leadership from the top to model better behavior. Sadly, this won’t be happening any time soon. The current resident of the White House is known for his complete disdain for women and his blatant predatory braggadocio.

However, there is someone who is fighting on—Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). In 2013 she reintroduced the Military Justice Improvement Act (MIJA) into the Senate, but sadly lacked the 60 votes needed for it to pass in 2016. The bill was designed to protect victims who report sexual assault from being retaliated against by their peers or commanders.

While it would greatly help servicewomen, especially female Marines who despite constituting the smallest percentage of any branch of the service (7 percent) report the greatest number of sexual assaults, it would help men as well. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, more than 10,000 men a year are sexually assaulted in the military. Unsurprisingly, only about 13 percent report it, compared to 39 percent of women. Samantha Bee did an excellent report on the MIJA and why it’s so desperately needed on her show, Full Frontal:

As the Women’s March and today’s general strike shows, women have had enough and are taking matters into their own hands, but we have to do our part. Until violators like the men of Marines United are routinely disciplined with dishonorable discharges for posting stolen nude photos, alleged rapists are tried for sexual assault, and violent and vulgar language is no longer condoned within the ranks—nothing will change.

Photo credit: U.S. Marine Corps

Being Wells-Fargoed Should Keep Top Executives and Boards of Directors Up at Night

The news broke this morning that Wells Fargo’s board has decided to revoke compensation valued at $41 million from the company’s CEO, John Stumpf, in relation to the sham customer accounts created by employees to fluff sales numbers. Additionally, Wells Fargo’s former head of the community banking division that is the source of the scandal, Carrie Tolstedt, has also been financially penalized. I was surprised to hear that these two were being reprimanded for the scandal by Wells Fargo – but then, it occurred to me just how similar this was to the Volkswagen scandal. As I’ve written about before in Directors & Boards Magazine, both companies initially found that a swath of employees were to blame, before moving up the chain to management-level employees who were turned out only after it became increasingly clear to the public just who was to blame for their respective breaches with the public trust. In short, Wells Fargo is scrambling, just the way VW did when the emissions scandal broke.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – CEOs need to be aware of what is going on in their businesses. Transparency is the name of the game here – not just with handling scandals in the public eye, but in managing employees in every sector of business. Firing scapegoated lower-level employees and revoking the huge payouts to executives is fundamentally a band-aid approach to fixing the problems that lead to scandals. Firstly, Tolstedt should not have been allowed to retire peacefully with a few penalties imposed on her severance package – Wells Fargo should have made a point of firing her. Additionally, if it is revealed that Stumpf was fully aware of the sham accounts and covered up for them, he should also be dismissed publically. However, before either of those two steps could be taken, the most important course of action for Wells Fargo (and any similarly scandalized corporation) is to conduce a full, comprehensive and objective investigation into the root causes of the wrongdoing that occurred. Having a complete picture is essential to actually curing the problems present in any organization – and it makes a more convincing argument to the public whose trust those organizations are trying to regain.


At the end of the day, Wells Fargo’s behavior is yet another stain on the already-tainted US banking industry. The pervasive nature of short-term goal oriented cultures will almost always result in similar scandals that further erode the public’s trust in those institutions they have no choice but to invest in. It’ll be a long time before those 5,300 employees let go for their “rogue” behavior will be able to get a job again, just like it will be a long time before the employees let go for whistleblowing will feel comfortable standing up for their principles again. Depending on how far this particular scandal goes, perhaps the entire board will need to be replaced before anyone is willing to give Wells Fargo their money again. 

Image: Stumpf on Capitol Hill last week. Image Credit: Gabriella Demczuk for NYT

Speaking Ill of The Dead

I was taught not to speak ill of the dead, but I feel like I have to make an exception here. If this testimony is true, and Joe Paterno knew of Jerry Sandusky’s rampant and longtime sexual abuse for years without taking action, his legacy needs to be reevaluated. If true, he is a monster who cared more about the money, power and control he gained through his institution than about the young student athletes who revered him as their coach. This is an extreme case of a situation I’ve come across numerous times in a variety of organizations – the people at the top protect their favorites at the expense of other employees. Here, it seems as though Paterno protected Sandusky, not only at the expense of the other workers under his management, but at the expense of Sandusky’s many, many victims. There are clear parallels between this situation and the scandals the Catholic Church has dealt with in terms of child abuse – horrible abuses were shoved under the rug by higher-ups (possibly even previous Popes) instead of being called to attention. This is sickening news, and if it’s true, the Paterno family should adjust their defensive responses. Who is the bigger villain here – the man who perpetrated a heinous crime, or the man who knew about it and could have stopped it, but did nothing?

You can read more about the new testimony at The New York Times.

Image via

We Still Need to Talk about Volkswagen

As seen in this article, the continual neglect by Volkswagen executives to consider their emissions cheating scandal a “real problem” in the months leading to the sudden announcement shows a fundamentally toxic corporate culture. It’s one thing to have cheating be a habitual aspect of your business, but it’s quite another to see cheating as so normal that it’s only worth setting 10 minutes aside in a meeting to discuss its possible financial and reputation-based ramifications. While some of the leadership of VW responsible for the scandal have left the company, VW still has a lot to prove in terms of repairing its image – both to customers and to current employees who may have been compelled to cooperate with the emissions cheating for fear of losing their job. Read more about their conduct at The New York Times.

Photo Credit: Justin Lane for European Pressphoto Agency, via NYT

Comparing Entertainment Scandals Through Time

The more I learn about the BBC sex abuse scandal, the more I am reminded of the 2014 CBC Jian Ghomeshi scandal, which I’ve written about before. Both cases involve sex abuse, fame and what appears to be willful ignorance on the part of upper management. The practice of allowing star employees are allowed to harass others with impunity is a horrible tendency that some workplace cultures seem to be taking on in the entertainment industry. The only true substantive difference between these two cases is the time in which they took place – Saville’s abuses happened decades ago, while Ghomeshi’s are more recent. This is an ongoing problem that entertainment industry leaders cannot ignore, and need to take a firmer stand against. Read more on the Saville case at the New York Times.

Response to Takata Airbag Scandal

“It’s bad enough to have a faulty product, it’s even worse to cover it up.” The overwhelming evidence that safety airbag producer Takata covered up data showing that its airbags have the capacity to “maim and kill” people is extremely troubling. What’s even more troubling is the fact that the cover up seems to have taken place over the last sixteen years. According to this article, Takata was aware of potentially catastrophic problems present in its airbags as early as 2000. What kind of workplace culture discourages anyone to speak up in the interest of public safety? I think that question answers itself. Read more on Takata at The New York Times.

Photo Credit: Hyungwon Kang for Reuters

Response to IAAF Corruption

Sebastian Coe, President of the IAAF, photographed by Michael Dalder

Sebastian Coe, President of the IAAF, photographed by Michael Dalder

“With so much corruption in international sports, there would be no guarantee that Coe’s successor would be blemish-free.” Using this as a rationalization to keep Sebastian Coe as the head of International Association of Athletics Federations is like saying you’ll let the fox guard the henhouse to avoid involving wolves. According to the report discussed in this article, there’s no way he could have been unaware of the corruption – in fact, there’s a good chance he was involved in the corruption. The message that there isn’t one clean sports official to put in charge of the IAAF is a shameful one to send to our youth, who are growing up in a world where trust has been eroding in nearly every aspect of society. Read more on this story at The New York Times.

Photo Credit: Michael Dalder for Reuters