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.