Executives and administrators look to risk professionals and legal counsel to have proper protections in place.
HR is supposed to do their part to make sure training is done at least annually. Compliance needs to be met.
But besides the steps we take and the trainings required, we each have a basic assumption about what the risk really is or isn’t of certain problems happening “here.”
The issues of sexual harassment, assault, domestic violence and other types of mistreatment are confusing. They’re not easy to understand and cannot be understood by conventional wisdom.
That’s why with all of the noise and confusion it is natural for people to not think about these issues very much. When most people do think of them, it’s normal to fill in gaps of understanding with assumptions.
It would be natural to think things like –
“We try to hire the right people, and I think we do a pretty good job of it. I’m not too concerned.”
“Sure, we could improve. But it’s a pretty good culture here. These are good people.”
I mean, look at them. They’re smiling. Most of the are even well-dressed.
“That #MeToo stuff is a big mess. I’m sure some bad things happen, but we have our policies in place against bad behavior. We tell them we have no tolerance for harassment here. And I can’t picture anyone here acting like that.”
“Everybody here is pretty good. These are good guys. Some knuckleheads, yeah, but nobody that would do something like that.”
After developing prevention training programs for several years, I started to notice that smart and decent people were operating as if the risk of something seriously bad happening is quite low.
I understand. We all need to get some sleep at night. But it seemed deeper than that. It seemed like leaders overseeing thousands of people felt quite comfortable with the assumption that they do not have a significant risk of bad actions among their ranks.
I like to not rely on statistics to make a point. Without using any statistics or even getting into the psychology of how people can rationalize unethical behavior, there is a very simple way to understand why risk is often higher than many people assume.
There are three challenges that most people will face at some point. And all your people will deal with at least one of these.
The reason problematic behavior is not rare is because complicated social situations are not rare. And human beings are not great at handling complex social situations.
That’s why risk is often higher than many people assume. These three challenges are tricky.