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Unless you have been hiding under a rock this last few months, you will have seen the worldwide coverage given to what has now become known as ‘The Weinstein Effect.’ There has been a national uproar regarding the abuse of power within some of the larger figures in business, Harvey Weinstein being just one of them.
Men and women, from the world of Hollywood, media, and business have come forward with stories about the exploitation they have suffered at the hands of those in power. These stories of harassment and sexual assault have brought about a wake-up call for those in leadership, and for those who work with them.
How the mighty have fallen
Every week, there are new stories emerging about some very public figures. They have been named and shamed, rightfully so, and are being made accountable for their actions. You may have heard of the following:
More than 80 women have now come forwards with assault and harassment claims against this Hollywood producer. He has now been fired from his position as head of Miramax Studio, and expelled from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. It is his downfall that has inspired many women to come forward under the banner #MeToo, and the world of Hollywood has been shaken up because of it.
Academy award-winning actor, it is unlikely he will work in Hollywood again. Accused of sexual harassment by a number of male colleagues, Spacey was even replaced in a recent movie, even after shooting had finished completion. All the money in the world couldn’t save him!
This Minnesota Senator (and former actor and writer) has been forced to apologize after allegations of sexual harassment emerged from a popular US broadcaster. He has owned up to his actions – one of the few who has – and has resigned from his Government position.
The former President of Amazon Studios, he was fired from his position after making unwanted sexual suggestions to a former colleague. However, he wasn’t removed from his job until after the Weinstein scandal broke out, which begs the question – why did it take so long for him to be removed from his position?
A word about your business
Those people with a position of authority are now being held accountable. No longer can they hide behind the protection of their powerful positions. This misuse of power does not only revolve around the areas of sexual harassment and assault. There are many other ways employers and business leaders can take advantage of their status, undermining the lives and work of the people beneath them.
Consider the following for example:
- Overly harsh criticisms of the way an employee has worked on a project.
- Humiliating the employee in front of his/her peers, with no regard for their feelings.
- Refusing to allow the employee get higher on the career ladder, blocking any attempts to move forward.
- Prejudiced comments, possibly intended as a joke, but with references to a person’s gender, skin color, sexuality, and age. All of which are personal, none of which are funny.
- Taking credit for somebody else’s work, regardless of the person who originally worked on it.
- Blaming their own mistakes on an employee, possibly jeopardizing that person’s job in the process.
- Physical and verbal abuse. The misuse of power is flaunted through the spoken word or through roughhousing another employee.
In all cases, none of these actions are permissible. It is a flagrant disregard for others, and those who indulge in such behaviour need to be made accountable for it. As an employer, there is the need to own up to one’s actions, apologise sincerely to the employee involved, and make amends to make the workplace a safer place to be. Nobody should feel threatened or afraid to come to work, and the employer needs to put in place a system where everybody is treated equally, stamping out prejudice in all its forms, from their own actions and down to the wider workforce.
If an employer continues to misuse their power, they will face the consequences other powerful figures have had to come to terms with. This includes becoming part of the named and shamed brigade, losing their valuable reputation, and facing the prospect of never finding work in their chosen field again. They may also face financial disaster because of a criminal record.
There are deeper consequences for their employees. There have been cases of emotional and mental breakdowns, including suicide, so the employer will also face the guilt of having destroyed somebody else’s life as well as their own. Nobody is indispensable, as Weinstein, Spacey etc. have discovered, and the employer will quickly find themselves replaced by the board of directors, or ousted, because of the unity of their workforce and those who support them.
For the victim, they need to challenge the way they are being treated. This includes confronting the employer over the way they are being treated, seeking advice from a union representative, or hiring the services of an employment lawyer. Those people who witness abuse on any level are also accountable.
To stay quiet is a sin, whether that’s through fear of losing their own jobs, or feeling uncertain as to the best course of action to take. People such as Weinstein, Spacey, Price, et al. have gotten away with their actions because others have been afraid or pressured into not speaking out. This should no longer be the case – we are all responsible for the welfare of others.
Thinking about your position
Where do you stand? Should you be a business leader, with a number of employees working for you, it is vital you take ‘The Weinstein Effect’ under consideration when looking at the way you treat your staff. We sincerely hope you don’t engage in an abuse of your power on any level, but if you do, on a small or a large scale, you do need to consider the damage you are doing to the lives of others. Eventually, your misactions will come back to bite you, and you will only have yourself to blame.
Should you be an employee, it is important you know your rights. This includes the right to be treated equally, and to be treated with care and respect by your employers. If you aren’t, you have the right to stand up for yourself and take action. You also need to stand up for those around you, regardless of how that may affect your position.
The tide is turning. The downfall of Harvey Weinstein is an important lesson for us all, no matter where you stand on the employer/employee divide. It’s about time justice was given, and the workplace should become a better place because of it, for everybody, not just the powerful elite.