Grey matters ethical dilemma: World tour – the verdict

Read the CISI's verdict and readers' comments on the ethical dilemma that appears in the Q3 2018 print edition of The Review

grey matters
Read the Q3 2018 dilemma

This ‘Grey matter’, about sexual harassment in the workplace, was originally published in The Review in July 2008, and updated and reworked for the Q3 2018 print edition.

With the rise of #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, CISI asked members to consider whether they would recommend doing things differently.

Suggested solutions and results

  1. Go back to the chief executive once he returns to the office, even though this could mean that Henry’s bad behaviour continues unchecked on the current visit. Let Stephanie know what he plans to do, and encourage her to not say anything publicly until he has had a chance to speak with the chief executive again. (7%)
  2. Report the matter to the HR director as the senior staff member for personnel issues, which this has now become. Let the HR director know that the matter has been reported to the chief executive, but that nothing (to his knowledge) has been done. (58%)
  3. Report his concerns to the chairman, and advise the chairman of the previous report to the chief executive. The chairman is, after all, the only person who has the power to dismiss a NED. (19%)
  4. Email the chief executive while he is away, letting him know that another report has been received about Henry’s unacceptable behaviour, and that if nothing is done, the staff member concerned will almost certainly make her accusations public on social media. (16%)

Responses received: 221

The CISI verdict

The majority of respondents recommended taking direct and urgent action (2), informing HR of the inappropriate behaviour exhibited by the recently appointed NED, despite the fact that doing so would expose the CEO for not taking the matter further. In fact, one respondent recommended going further, stating “I would let Stephanie know what I had done, and also email the chief executive to tell him that I had made a report to HR and that Stephanie had been offended.”

The second most popular option (3) also involved escalation.

Given the current focus on inappropriate behaviour and harassment in the workplace, it is heartening that respondents to this dilemma recognise the importance of escalating these matters, and that the majority chose options which would best support the victim.

Of course, the CISI wants employees to feel safe at work, and not be exposed to inappropriate or threatening behaviour. However, should a situation like this occur, the CISI agrees with the majority  and recommends reporting the issue to HR at the earliest possible opportunity.  

Selection of comments
“Under the SMCR there is no option but to report these behaviours to the HR director, who carries full responsibility for resolving these matters. Alcohol abuse and sexual harassment are unexploded time bombs in any organisation, even more so in a regulated environment. The HR director should assemble the facts/witness statements in a discreet manner and then write a memo to both the CEO and the chairman. In doing so, the HR director must ensure that the whistleblowers are completely protected from any repercussions. The sooner the NED leaves the board, the better for the firm.”

“Interesting that for the purpose of the dilemma, the age old stereotype of the male being the one who behaves inappropriately remains unchanged.”

“HR should always be aware of incidents such as this and should have been copied in on the original conversation with the CEO.”

“I chose option 2, but would have done more than this. I would have let Stephanie know what I had done, and also emailed the chief executive to tell him that I had made a report to HR and that Stephanie had been offended by the behaviour.”

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Published: 05 Dec 2018
  • Integrity & Ethics
  • Q3 2018
  • Q4 2018
  • timesup
  • sexual harassment
  • metoo
  • grey matters ethical dilemma

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