David Bonderman resigned from the Board of Uber last week due to making disparaging comments toward women. While it’s yet another blow to rehabilitating the service’s corporate culture (not to mention a serious black mark on Mr. Bonderman’s personal reputation), the headline-making misstep provides a real world example that you can use to discuss sexism and equality issues with your team.

 

Don’t assume your employees already know what happened to Mr. Bonderman.

 

The headline might rank high in your newsfeed (since you’re rightly obsessed with all things ethics and compliance), but it probably hasn’t entered the consciousness of your entire team.

 

More importantly, very few on your team will make a personal connection with the story.

 

I spent a day on a construction site interviewing workers as research for a safety training video I was writing. It was fascinating how not a single person feared getting hurt even though every single one of them either knew someone injured on the job at one time or had personally suffered an injury. That’s human nature for ya.

I’m sure you have stories of employees having the handbook down cold when applying it to other people. But when they personally face an ethical choice? Things suddenly become “gray” or “complicated.” (I know I can’t accept gifts, but these are box seats!)

News stories help employees step beyond the written code of conduct to help them think and feel in a real world situation. To place themselves in the shoes of real people they might initially view as complete idiots rather than valuable cautionary tales they can learn from.

 

You can shift their perspective from “I could never do that” to “There but for the grace of God go I.”

 

So back to Mr. Bonderman. Consider starting a conversation by sending an article or even a news clip about his misadventure. Alerting employees to the story isn’t enough, though. You must ensure they personally connect the situation to your workplace and their lives by inviting them to a group discussion about the topic or by including some thought questions that will help them internalize your point. For example:

+  How does sexism damage a company?

+  When have you overlooked something in the workplace that might be considered sexist? Why?

+  What would prevent you from speaking up against sexist speech?

+  Where should you go in the company if you witness sexism at work?

By taking the time to connect some dots for employees, you will help them avoid the ethical blunders being made by others.

 

 

Bryan Belknap, an award-winning screenwriter, is Creative Director at Resonate Pictures, which specializes in story-based training and branding films. He will be speaking at SCCE Compliance & Ethics Conference in Las Vegas.

 

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