It’s been more than a year since allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein drove women around the world to speak out against sexual abuse and harassment — creating the viral movement #MeToo. And all evidence indicates this movement is here to stay.
The headlines are full of large companies losing millions over #MeToo claims. Guess apparel company lost $250 million in market value in a single day following a charge against its co-founder. Wynn Resorts shares fell nearly 20 percent after media coverage of allegations against its founder and CEO, which translated to about $3.5 billion of the company’s value.
Big names. Big numbers. But as a Catholic school in Kentucky can attest, you don’t have to be famous to be rocked by a viral accusation.
Here’s a sobering line in The New York Times:
“… about a third of men said they had done something at work within the past year that would qualify as objectionable behavior or sexual harassment.”
The article sums up a 2017 survey that is a collaboration between The New York Times, leading sexual harassment researchers, and the polling and media company Morning Consult. Respondents are nationally representative of men who work full time.
Dr. Louise Fitzgerald, a leading researcher on sexual harassment, brings the issue home for millions of small and mid-size businesses:
“Most harassment is not by high-profile celebrities. This is so common in places that are very far from the spotlight.”
Every business needs a strong anti-harassment policy and a communications plan should the worse-case scenario become reality: An employee claims sexual harassment at your company, and that claim rocks your employees, customers and community.
Here are important steps to take:
Respond quickly on multiple platforms. If the allegations become public, you need a holding statement ready to go. You’ll want it ready long before you need it. It should clearly and simply state what you’re doing now, and convey the values of your company.
Remember that there’s no such thing as internal communications. Anything you share with employees should be considered public information. Don’t share anything you won’t want to see on the neighborhood’s Facebook page. If you share something with 100 employees, it’s not private information.
Keep your eye on protecting the brand. The allegation may be against a long-time employee, one you consider a friend. But this is business, and the value of your brand is at stake. Professionally handling the situation is the best approach for all involved.
Think it can’t happen at your company? Think again, and be prepared.
Cindy Miller is CEO of Cindy Miller Communications.