Identifying the Untouchable Executive Syndrome Within Organizations

How technology is disrupting this mentality.

In the wake of the #metoo movement, one thing is clear: Companies need to arm themselves with strong, empowered HR professionals who have a seat at the table. They must also value them as critical assets.

Today’s media outlets are being taken by storm with multiple harassment cases forthcoming with explosive accusations and vivid stories targeting many high-powered, influential figures and executives. From former Fox News host Bill O’ Reilly and movie mogul Harvey Weinstein to two high-level executives at Fidelity Investments, one of the world’s largest investment firms, the wave of sexual harassment claims has spanned multiple industries, leading to resignations, lawsuits and, in some cases, police investigations.

With multiple cases coming to light, fueled by the #metoo movement on Twitter and Facebook, and the immediacy of social media all together, this is a wake up call for many organizations. Today’s people are generationally more empowered and are speaking up. As a result, sexual harassment cases today are not only harmful to a person’s reputation, they possess the magnitude to bring down entire organizations.

Nearly 90% of companies enforce anti-harassment policies and/or trainings that are designed to prevent these cases. So how is this still happening? Human Resources departments do their part in enforcing anti-harassment laws to employees, however, there is often a gap in adherence of the importance of anti-harassment policies and laws when it comes to the executive teams.

These common types of executives are what could be best described as the “untouchables.” Individuals with this untouchable mentality tend to feel unreachable, beyond criticism, control or suspicion. To further add to the fuel, these executives are also often backed by high-powered attorneys, arbitration agreements, and the power of intimidation and fear, preventing victims to report or come forward. The combination of these too big to fail organizations coupled with this untouchable mentality by executives leads to a breeding ground for a very toxic work environment and a organizational culture of cognitive dissonance.

Why does this happen? At this very moment organizations need to arm themselves with strong, empowered HR professionals who have a seat at the table, and value them as critical assets for organizational development. These HR professionals also have to act as an active force throughout an organization, partnering with the executive teams in driving a healthy work environment and ridding the organization of those who are unable to fall inline with the need to change.

While policies and trainings are enforced, it is crucial that HR consistently implements these policies and trainings, and serve as the front line to mitigate risk.They also must not turn a blind eye because of the C-Suite’s power, or fail to call out misconduct at some executive party.

It’s time to get back to the basics of fundamental human respect of our human capital. Our people are our most invested resource. Now is the time to wake up, Let’s not wait for your organization to be brought down, because now more than ever no one is truly “untouchable.”