Although, I regularly write about sports and make connections to career advancement, I have been hesitant, until now, to write about the Penn State “Situation”. The Situation from my perspective is that Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky abused children on Penn State campus and in the Penn State football facilities. When the Situation was brought to the attention of Penn State University President Graham Spanier and Head Football Coach Joe Paterno, they made the decision to DO NOTHING.
We all know very well that Jerry Sandusky has been convicted in a court of law and can expect that he will never leave prison. I have read that life in prison is especially difficult for child sex abusers, but this career lesson is not about Jerry Sandusky.
When you are assigned to be a leader in an organization, whether someone tells you or not, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE to police the ethics and morals of your organization. When someone breaches those ethics, it is YOUR JOB as a leader to ensure that the problem is reported appropriately, the offender is removed from the organization, retribution is made, and steps are taken to ensure that the Situation does not re-0ccur. As a leader if you fail to address an ethics violation, you become guilty as well.
There are no second chances for ethics violations. I believe this for any organization, but it is especially true for organizations that report to have “high standards”. Hopefully your organizations has protocols or policies and procedures for ethics violations. If not, don’t let this deter you from leading the organization to do the right thing, every time.
Here are a couple examples of Situations:
- Employee regularly purchases First Class airfare and expenses it on their timesheet to be paid by a client, then cashes the tickets back in and flies coach; uses the difference to finance jaunts to Vega$!
- Employee, on more than one occasion, makes unwanted sexual comments and advances to those of opposite sex, especially when fueled with alcohol!
Neither of these sounds near as egregious as child sex abuse, but both required swift, decisive action. Situations will do great damage to your organization if they are not dealt with appropriately. Penn State will now pay $60M, have severe football scholarship restrictions, and be banned from post season play for 4 years. Had Joe Paterno or Graham Spanier fired Jerry Sandusky, alerted the authorities, enhanced security in Penn State facilities, shut down Sandusky’s charity, and contributed $1M to a local child sex abuse charity we may never had heard about the Jerry Sandusky.
You should know that you should not act alone when you encounter a Situation. In most, cases your Human Resource Department should do most of the work once you notify them of the Situation. They should have the expertise to know what to do and how fast to do it. They will probably get your lawyers involved at least to get an opinion on the risk the company is under and how to communicate to the offender.
My advice to the Paterno family, paraphrased from what I shared on Facebook today:
Dear Paterno Family
SHUT up! When will you learn that your continued defense of the great coach only hurts his legacy. It’s time to step up, take responsibility, make retribution (HUGE contributions) and SHUT up!
Learn from Penn State… they did not step up so the NCAA “helped” them…
Sandusky was only the first guilty party. Then Graham Spaniad, Joe Paterno and a few other high ranking leaders became more guilty when they failed take responsibility for the programmatic failures and then failed to initiate steps to ensure it would not happen again. Joe Paterno was a great coach who positively influenced a great many lives, but his failure to act on Sandusky only proves that he coached well beyond his prime and after he was able to deal with “today’s societal issues”.
Had Joe Paterna acted in 1998, 2002 or 2004 and then retired he would continue to warrant HERO status…
He let Penn State, all his fans and most important, many children down by not taking appropriate action …
When the Situation arises at your company, don’t do the same!