Fort Hood Report Offers a Peak Behind a Curtain

Enough of COVID as “what really mattered” last week.  For sure we will get back to that soon enough.

Now, though, let’s go in another direction, to a problem about human behavior: sexual harassment.  Last week the government decided to release a report of an investigation into sexual assault and sexual harassment at Fort Hood in Texas.  Here it is.

While rather depressing (and carrying all the pizzazz of a military report), it is a rare look at a comprehensive investigation into an organization’s culture around sexual harassment.  Usually, these reports are kept behind closed doors, covered in attorney-client privileges, used to discipline bad actors, but not disclosed to the public in all their dirty-laundryness.  So, check it out–this is what a full-blown self-assessment looks like.

And, what we see is what you don’t want to see.  Upper management said the right things, but front-line supervisors looked the other way.  Policies existed, but the institution did not embrace them from top to bottom.  Structures were in place to receive and review complaints, but incidents were deemed one-off events, not a sign of a culture gone awry.

The whole thing is yet ANOTHER reminder that there is no substitute for a rigorous and deep commitment to getting rid of sexual harassment.  It has to happen.  Done correctly, employees come away knowing that they don’t work in a straightjacket and that they can be normal, interactive adults among co-workers.   They can be lighthearted.  They can joke and, heck, even tease.  But they can’t be sexual.

The costs of undergoing the kind of investigation that happened at Fort Hood are staggering.  Hours and hours of lawyers and consultants.  Days of interviews that distract from work.  Combing of emails and text messages saved in the cloud or, oops!, not deleted.  Read that report and consider, what if had been our company under the microscope.  YIKES.

Finally, not-so-subtle brag: Patti and I are good at sexual harassment training, if you are interested.  Regardless, whether we help you or not, commit to addressing sexual harassment in 2021.