Unless you’ve seen it in person, it’s hard to appreciate how the litigation process magnifies and distorts people’s behavior. The ongoing trial of Ellen Pao’s discrimination and retaliation claims against Silicon Valley VC firm Kleiner Perkins is a recent example. What was the firm thinking when it invited only men to a dinner at Al Gore’s home? What were a partner’s motives when he gave Pao a gift of erotic poetry? When the firm accuses her of not being “a team player,” is the criticism valid or is it gender-based?
Comments and actions get scrutinized, questioned, and argued to a ridiculous degree. And in the end, what actually happened is far less important than how the fact finder (often a jury) perceives what happened. If more people understood how their actions would appear under the microscope of litigation, they’d never leave their work stations.
- Start by creating a work environment where people know what behavior is not appropriate and how to raise concerns promptly. Disseminating policies and training your workers isn’t a perfect solution. But it goes a long way to showing that the company takes the issues seriously.
- Just because you can’t guarantee that no one will ever say or do something inappropriate at work, doesn’t mean you don’t have to address it when it occurs.
- Consider arbitration for resolving employment disputes. Among other things, you don’t see reporters sitting in arbitration hearings.
- Set an example. In other words, behave!