Training Can’t Solve These Problems

Members of Congress, the broadcast industry, and Hollywood producers were removing their clothes in offices and elevators. Paul Ryan’s congressional solution is sexual harassment training for all members of congress and their staff. A Starbucks manager handles a non-paying customer issue with police escalation. CEO Howard Schultzz shuts down the enterprise so that they can all be trained on their biases. The former director of the FBI pulled an Alexander Haig and took over the Justice Department via press conference. FBI Director Christopher Wray has ordered that all FBI agents have training on avoiding bias.

Speaking as someone with a vested interest in training, allow me to share this hard truth: Training cannot fix these workplace problems. Training is salve for the conscience. Training is a checked box that can bring lower insurance rates and reduced sentencies and fines should the training not take.

Subjecting an entire workforce to training when a couple of ne’er-do-wells at the top created a public relations nightmare is one of the worst things to do. You add resentment to the emotions that frontline employees, who are already disgusted by the behaviors of a few, feel.

Fear of litigation, concerns about privacy, and visible contrition by subjecting employees to Pollyannaish platitudes drive leaders to the trainers. What leaders should be doing is firing the offenders. We once knew to keep our clothes on at work. Get rid of those who can’t. The FBI surely can muster the fortitude to fire agents who spend their time at work having affairs, texting on government phones, and using those texts to plot an overthrow of an election and mock the American people. Discipline is the training organizations need. When heads roll, behaviors change.

At the heart of every ethical and legal lapse in any organization is bad behavior. Sometimes, as in the case at the FBI, the top layer of leadership is the problem. Leaders at the FBI were accepting tickets, meals, and general camaraderie from journalists. See what happens if a field agent started that kind of nonsense. Get rid of the leaders and everyone is trained on accepting “stuff.” Starbucks fired the manager at the Philadelphia store for not following company policies. That was the right thing to do. The day of closing for training was based on an erroneous conclusion about the bias of its workforce. One manager behaving badly does not a bad culture make.

Save your money. Don’t hire the trainers. Fire the offenders, and do so before they impose the feel-goodism of a blanket one-size-fits-all prescription. The fortitude to fire is the fix.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
This entry was posted in News and Events. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.