By Gregory Moore
DALLAS, Texas – The sports world is a microcosm of real life and nothing has come closer to the real thing than when Gary Sandusky was charged with several charges of sexual assault of a minor.
Reality also hit when several prominent members of the Penn State hierarchy found themselves unemployed, including legendary former head coach Joe Paterno.
Yet what is being missed by talking heads in all genres is the fact that a no tolerance policy on harassment and misconduct seems to have been either overlooked or not adhered to.
In such dramatic fashion, lives have been irreparably changed by the actions of a few adults and sadly this tragedy probably could have been handled faster and in a more professional manner had the adults in this situation adhered to whatever sexual misconduct policy Penn State had in effect during that time frame.
Even today, what should have happened was that former graduate assistant Michael McQueary should have immediately reported what he saw to appropriate authorities the moment he thought something was amiss.
Not the day after.
Not in calling his dad for ‘guidance’.
Call papa later; right now you need to find an assistant athletic director or someone with some clout to start putting into motion some type of investigation into what you saw.
Even if McQuery’s actions turned out to be a false alarm, the mere fact that had he simply acted upon a premise of reporting such an egregious act to a superior or someone who understood the compliance policies of the university during that time frame may as well could have saved other victims from their tragedies.
Yet what McQuery did is not any different than what may happen in the workforce today.
How many of us would report an act of misconduct by an employee, colleague or close friend in the work place?
Are you going to give your friend the benefit of the doubt or would you brave the repercussion of losing that friendship and doing what is right?
That’s tough to call because so many of us have turned a blind’s eye during our lifetimes.
Think about it for a minute.
The improper cat call or sexist comment said amongst friends.
A snide remark about a co-worker’s attire.
The snubbing or lack of acknowledgement of a colleague’s comment during a team meeting, that while may be very on point and productive, gets ignored because you just don’t like their mannerisms.
How many of us are guilty of these acts?
And if you are guilty of even the smallest transgression at work, you most likely would not do anything in the Penn State situation either because your make up, your life experience, your persona didn’t do the right thing in the past.
How can you do some good in the future in this regard?
In most cases, you can’t.
It’s not about you being a bad person; it is just the fact that most of us don’t get involved in that fashion.
Yet that that does not mean that we cannot all learn from this incident and get a better understanding of our own work policies in regards to what is deemed to be proper conduct and what needs to be done when such egregious acts or incidents are committed in our presence.
For me, there are five principles that help me understand my own compliance policies at my place of employment that help me understand how I should act. Those five principles are: protect the brand, protect my co-workers, protect the clients, report malfeasance promptly and, protect myself.
PROTECTING THE BRAND
Let’s face it, if you are working for someone else, do you try to protect the brand at all times?
Protecting your employer’s reputation and standing in the community isn’t about a cover up; it is about adhering to the mission statement of the company and realizing that you represent that company when you step out in public.
When you are out and about, it is imperative to make sure that you do not do anything that would come back and harm your employer’s community reputation. Right now, the reputation that Penn State now has is one that they let such incidents happen on their campus; in essence they do not condone what happened so many years ago.
And while that may not be the reality, it is definitely the perception now.
PROTECTING MY CO-WORKERS
If my actions are a reflection of my employer out in public, that same action also reflects on my co-workers’ as well.
If you go out drinking and you get drunk and while you are in your drunken state you say something inappropriate to a stranger, how do you know that the rank stranger is not an acquaintance of one of your co-workers? What if your words got back to your manager or business partner?
Multi-million dollar deals have been lost by those who have allowed alcohol to be in control of their sensibilities.
Too many business relationships have been irreparably damaged by ill-placed comments about an individual or product that was within earshot of someone who may have thought about doing business with you and/or your employer only to say no to these deals because you got diarrhea at the mouth.
If all else fails and you are out in public, you should try to be professional at all times.
When you are representing the company, remember you are representing not just yourself but also your co-workers too.
PROTECTING THE CLIENTS
This is an important principle because it is actually integral to all of these principles.
No matter what, whether you are in public or in a private setting, you should ‘protect the client’ and the client’s reputation.
In the Penn State case, the clients were the young men who were allegedly victimized by Sandusky. Nobody and I do mean NOBODY, thought about protecting these young men. Not Paterno, McQuery, the school president, board of trustees, even the grounds keeper.
Why do I say that? Because if anyone had contact with Sandusky and had an inkling that something was amiss while he was representing Penn State, they did not do anything to stop his transgressions and protect the school and these young men.
And so you are out, you need to realize that protecting your clients, in whatever capacity you may believe the category may be, is as imperative as protecting the brand and the company.
REPORT THE MALFEASANCE EXPEDITIOUSLY
As stated above, we are all guilty of not being proactive and reporting wrong doing in a work place environment; especially if that instance is being committed by a well respected colleague.
Yet by the very act of not acting promptly and reporting whatever wrongdoing we may believe has taken place, what we are doing is actually allowing the action to fester into something that could be more troubling or disturbing down the line.
The old phrase of ‘snitches get stitches’ or whatever saying there is out there about being a tattle tale is not only wrong; it is non-productive to the work community at large.
Had McQuery acted swiftly and notified proper authorities, he may have been a hero and not considered a heel.
If Paterno had listened and actually had more hands on experience in managing his program, both from the football side of things and also from the civic side, he may have been able to stop this tragedy earlier and still have a job.
The same can be said for the others who have been dismissed and who now be facing civil action from the victims and their legal representatives. Their lack of action in trying to squelch this tragedy has now added to their culpability of allowing these actions become a cancer on a proud university.
Finally, if all else fails, protect yourself from being one who has not done anything to bring attention to the problem.
All too often, so many of us worry about repercussions or backlash for saying something when a situation looks like it just isn’t right. We worry about how people perceive us and we want to be liked by our peers and bosses.
Yet if your boss or colleague has committed an act that that is against your company compliance policy or you see an act that raises red flags, you shouldn’t hesitate in notifying the right authorities in that regard.
By being proactive and reporting such instances, you may feel lousy for a minute but in the end you will actually have helped save the reputations, livelihoods and overall lives of those who were about to be victimized.
We all need to learn what our workplace policies are in regards to such instances like what is going on at Penn State and in other news events.
Harassment of any sort should not be something we tolerate as individuals and as working citizens.
The moment we stop truly caring about others and only focus on ourselves, incidents like the Penn State case will keep happening.
This may be a teachable moment but in reality, it really should have been something that was subscribed to long ago; not just now because young men have now been violated by someone who they had once respected and admired.
Gregory Moore is a former sports columnist/writer who now resides in Dallas, Texas. You can follow him via Twitter @nbascribe or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.