A New #HR Policy: “The Anti-A**hole Policy”

Fully realizing that I may be shooting myself in the foot, I feel the need to say this: if you need to be trained on how to be decent in the workplace, Lord help you.

While I’m a COO now, I have been training my entire career and still do as a regular part of my job. I love everything about training. I love identifying learning objectives for the client, I love doing the research and putting the content together, and I really love presenting and watching the session unfold, hopefully, exactly like I had planned.

I also love the law. I love how it’s formulated, I love how it’s interpreted and explained, and I love how eventually, it’s judged and tested. I’m fascinated with it and very much enjoy presenting topics revolving around it. To that end, I know the ins and outs of non-discrimination/non-harassment/non-retaliation laws and regulations. I teach, on average, one course a month on these issues. My advice to inquisitive clients about investing in such session is “it’s a good reminder,” “it costs the company MORE if you don’t offer it,” or as a slam dunk, “it’s required as per your contract with so and so.” Some clients back into these investments; they don’t want to do it but they are pressured to do it. Some clients worry about liability and money so they begrudgingly invest in training. It’s the rare client who makes training, or rather who makes setting and communicating high standards for behavior a priority.

The content in the news has certainly helped keep the phone ringing about these types of courses. Shoot, I should send thank you cards to Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose or my once beloved Bill Cosby for the boost in orders for sexual harassment awareness and prevention classes. I definitely could send a thank you card to Donald Trump for the boost in orders for presentations re: discrimination and discriminatory harassment.

But seriously, it just makes me sad. Why on earth do I – do many of us – have to TEACH people to be decent?

I had a client the other day who claimed he really wanted to offer such a class to the entire workforce. However, I think he really really didn’t want to invest too much in it. He pushed and prodded me to concede to offering our 2 hour presentation in 30 minutes or less. Apparently, his workforce had important things to do. He needed me to appreciate how ridiculous a 2 hour class would be. Clearly, I was failing in convince him that employees benefited from discussion, from having their questions and concerns addressed, and from seeing their leadership take the topic seriously.

In the end, I offered to present the class in 2 minutes. I even texted him the full course materials, seen here in this picture.

That’s it – that’s the message. At the end of any class regarding discrimination, harassment or retaliation, whether it’s two minutes or two hours, the content is simple:

Don’t be an asshole!

Again, it just makes me sad. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, and for many, this was decades too late. People had been assholes for far too long already. But thankfully, in 1964, it became illegal to be an asshole at work. And yet here we are, still being assholes in 2019.

I taught my first anti-discrimination class in 1995 and I remember it as if it was yesterday. While I was introducing myself, I said, “it is my hope that one day, a class like this won’t be needed.”

As the new year fires up, it is hard to summon up the hope I felt that first day as I look down at five proposals for anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training. I should be happy, of course, because it’s work for our little firm. I should be happy because five clients are taking a “no asshole” policy seriously. I should be happy because we get a chance to encourage and motivate people NOT to be assholes.

So I’ll try to be happy, I really will.

We can all be happier, by the way, if we commit to not being assholes.