Last week ended with a dramatic update flashing on Danish television channels as regards the infringement case against DanBred. DanBred will now have a new leadership after all the 9 board of directors were fired because of this case. The Board of Directors has been removed on the grounds that there has been an error in the handling of the case of the former CEO of DanBred, Thomas Muurmann Henriksen, who is accused of having violated several young female employees.
For the benefit of the readers that are coming across the name “DanBred” for the first time, here’s a short overview. DanBred is an organization based in Denmark that delivers world-class genetics and comprehensive service solutions to ensure a sustainable high return on investment for pig producers worldwide. (https://danbred.com/)
The courage of the women who decided to speak up and ask for support must be applauded. They have paved the way for a new precedent for the #MeToo movement in Denmark.
It is my humble opinion that there are really no winners in a war – there will always be scars left to mend on both sides that only time could heal. In this case, the women might have had to relive dreadful experiences so many times as would have been required. The reputation and the brand value of the organization would have been rattled in this process. Though this case marks a new beginning and gives a new hope to the #MeToo movement, it leaves us with some important questions to reflect upon:
- How can employees protect themselves while protecting the interests of company they work for?
- How can the Ethics Hotline of any organization be improved?
- How can organizations provide a safe and inclusive work environment?
To get to some viable solutions or suggestions to answer these questions, let’s first delve a little deeper into some words of wisdom – a quote by Haile Selassie:
“Throughout history it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most, that has made it possible for evil to triumph” – Haile Selassie
I would like to pick the three key words from Haile’s quote: INACTION, INDIFFERENCE, & SILENCE
INACTION of the authorities – It is often the human tendency to not act / react / respond to a certain negative situation. This inaction could have various reasons – it could for example be shock, or a state of denial, or shame that the individual is connected to this situation
INDIFFERENCE of the people around the victim – Indifference is the evil twin of inaction. It stems from the thought process that the individual raising the red flag is the problem child and needs to be ignored. It could also stem from the thought process that touching upon such a negative situation would require humongous documentation, meetings, and explanation.
SILENCE – Silence is often propelled by fear – fear of losing a job, losing position or identity, fear for future, or fear that the loved ones would also be affected negatively if the situation was brought into daylight.
One can only imagine what a deadly cocktail it would make when these three actions came together. Ironically, most of us are very much aware of this deadly cocktail. We comment and criticize when one such situation blows up. Yet, we are blissfully unaware that we too are contributing to such situations.
How can that be? Well, just remind yourself of any domestic violence, or mishandling or any type of harassment that might have happened either within the family, friends or in the neighborhood that had wafted in the air somehow and reached your ears in the form of a rumor. What was your response?
INACTION, INDIFFERENCE and SILENCE – grow up along with us just like any other habit and unconsciously we bring such habits along to our workplaces. Nothing good could come out of these habits, so some of us try to misbehave; some of us end up being the victims; and if not one of the above, some of us decide to overlook. Any which ways, we all play a part voluntarily or involuntarily in letting such negative situations occur and as a result bring down the value of the very company that we promised to uphold.
Ah! Don’t be sad! There’s good news awaiting! 😊
Habits can also be built up easily. So, it is only up to us to start building in some good habits into our daily rituals. Now let us look at some practical and easy solutions:
SOLUTIONS FOR INDIVIDUALS:
- SELF-REFLECTION – self-reflection could be a good starting point where one can find out if there’s something going on in life or work that is having a negative impact. The easiest way to make self-reflection a habit is to:
- keep a journal and a pen with you
- make it a ritual to write at least for 2 to 5 mins every day
- write about what made you happy today & why and what made you sad or uncomfortable today & why
You can also teach your children to either to write or to share with you their response at the dinner table. When one learns how to say to himself / herself / to dear ones about some disturbing situations daily, it becomes much easier to BREAK THE SILENCE at the right time. Furthermore, we also learn how to be assertive – to make our point clear without hurting others.
- SLOWING DOWN – we belong to this fast-paced world wherein we are expected to be super-fast and spontaneous most of the time. We also expect the same from others. This speeding up could make one successful. However, the habit of speeding up could also result in the human brain receiving lesser oxygen than needed for the brain to think, analyze, and empathize with various situations. All we need is to be able to take a deep breath in and out – slowly and steadily. There are many books and resources that strongly advocate the benefits of deep and slow breathing. (The best, I would recommend is “Breath” by James Nestor – details in the links to sources section)
The easiest ways to make slowing down a habit is to:
- Choosing at least 5 mins from your daily routine
- Trying to build at least 5 mins of slowing down
- Preferably also having a quiet moment if you can
If you can manage to sit down in a quiet place and close your eyes, that’s even better. This is like taking the first step to meditation and mindfulness. These few minutes of slowing down could help you reconnect with yourself and when this turns into a habit, it becomes easier to REDUCE THE INDIFFERENCE because you would have learnt how to empathize with yourself and thereby with others.
- LEARN A NEW LANGUAGE – it could sound weird, but there’s a lot of psychological benefits that we invariably acquire when we learn to speak a new language! It can not only increase your brain power, but also help you in improving your confidence, fight unhappiness and communicate more openly. We are basically back to our childhood days, learning from scratch and feeling less shameful about making mistakes. Nowadays it has become so easy for us to experiment with a new language with so many apps and portals available online. (Links to my favorites provided in the sources section.) Just play around with anyone of them for 5 to 10 mins everyday and once it turns into a new habit, it becomes easier to BREAK THE SILENCE AND TRY TAKING AN ACTION.
SOLUTIONS FOR COMPANIES / EDUCATIONAL INSTITUITIONS:
Organizations and educational institutions can play a vital role in helping individuals build any of the aforesaid good habits. It is a part of establishing a safe and inclusive work or study environment, wherein individuals feel more comfortable about developing or nurturing their newly found habits.
- 10 MINUTE HUDDLE – building a 10-minute huddle in a daily or at least weekly work routine, wherein team members could openly share:
- What made them happy today and why and
- What made them sad or uncomfortable today and why
Yes, there will be difficulties in getting each member to speak openly. We need to rely on this wisdom that with frequent practice, individuals get more and more comfortable discussing. In cases where they are not comfortable talking in front of everyone, give them the window to speak up privately. The whole point is to make BREAKING THE SILENCE a habit and embedding the same within the culture of the company or educational institutions.
- SPACES FOR SLOWING DOWN – allocating at least one quiet room in the building wherein employees or students feeling overwhelmed can just sit down quietly for few minutes. When a company / educational institution provides such a space, it not only supports individuals going through tough times, but also sends a strong visual message of EMPATHY towards all. Where there’s space for empathy there’s a good chance of REDUCING INDIFFERENCE.
- EMPOWERING THE ETHICS HOT LINE, LEGAL OR HR: In most cases that are brought up to either the Hot line or the HR, the responsible officers try their best to move the victim away from the space. Physical movement to another department or workspace, is often preferred by the victim. The responsible officers’ resort to this decision at times due to lack of adequate evidence or due to resource constraint. Especially when such cases are against top or middle management, the stakes are high. It is impractical to take any strong action when there’s lack of adequate evidence to back up. Inaction sets in gradually when there is a difference of opinion amongst the Hot line, legal, HR, line managers, or the senior management. Organizations and educational institutions need to empower their responsible officers for the Ethics Hot Line or Legal or HR, so they can engage independent /3rd party resources to investigate further and provide a synopsis on what the consequences could be, if any such case were presented in a Court of Law. If such synopsis points to consequences that could be damaging or detrimental to the reputation of the organization, then the Ethics Hot Line, Legal or HR responsible officers must be empowered to take the hard decision of firing individuals. When such empowerment is in place, it will automatically act as a DETERENT TO INACTION.
In summary, together we all need to build an environment both at home and at work / study space, wherein there is ample scope for breaking the silence at the right time, reducing indifference and deterring inaction.
Links to sources:
- Danish News update on DanBred: https://nyheder.tv2.dk/samfund/2021-09-26-hel-bestyrelse-smidt-paa-porten-efter-kraenkelsessag-det-er-et-nybrud-i-metoo
- Good book on slowing down the breath: BREATH – The new science of a Lost Art by James Nestor
- Mental benefits of learning a language: https://blog.lingoda.com/en/learning-languages-mental-health-benefits/
- Good websites and apps that could help in making learning language a habit: