Some stories cause you to shake your head, while some cause you to shake with anger.
I was compelled to accomplish both when I read a tale, first reported in the brand new York Post recently, regarding shocking allegations raised in a workplace harassment lawsuit against Gustavo Martinez, the chairman and ceo of the J. Walter Thompson (JWT) advertising agency.
It’s reported that Martinez ascended to the CEO role this past year at JWT, a division of publicly traded WWP Group, and has since demonstrated a pattern of vulgarity and vitriol fond of female employees, African Americans and Jews concerning make caustic presidential candidate Donald Trump seem quaint and thoughtful in comparison.
It’s not only alleged that Martinez engaged in offensive hate speech against Jews and blacks, but he escalated his damaging dialog against women to the stage where he allegedly said certain female colleagues needed to be "hogtied" and "raped into submission."
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It’s asserted that he "jokingly" used similar language on several occasions in various workplace settings. When did malicious abuse against women become a recognized workplace punch line?
If the moral compass is off kilter, let’s be clear here — there is nothing "funny" about the violent bondage rape of any woman.
Aren’t advertising agencies about shaping and maintaining positive perceptions?
How do a company that carefully crafts every nuanced word and subtle image to greatly help portray its clients in the perfect light, completely shut down all sense of enlightened thinking and take part in a few of the darkest and objectifying language within its offices?
Ironically, a scan of the JWT internet site demonstrates the agency plies its trade on pro-woman projects such as for example "Female Tribes" to identify the rise of female capital; "Queen Trumps King" the growing trend where JWP asserts the equality ascendency of women in addition to a BBC documentary titled "Her Story" which showcases "…stories of pioneering and empowered women."
Martinez refuted the allegations in the next public statement:
"I know of the allegations made against me by a J. Walter Thompson employee in a suit filed in NY Federal Court… I wish to assure our clients and my colleagues that there surely is zero truth to these outlandish allegations and I am confident that will be proven in court."
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I’m not really a lawyer but I’ve worked at two corporations previously where senior executives faced sexual harassment lawsuits. In both instances, the suits were settled out of court; neither party admitted any wrongdoing nor was permitted to ever discuss the case; and both plaintiffs and defendants resigned shortly thereafter.
Whilst every case differs, even if he’s exonerated, it will likely be some time before Martinez washes the lingering stench of the allegations from his reputation.
I have no idea whether it’s the arrogance of power, a false sense of executive entitlement, cultural differences or sheer stupidity but leaders have to act much better than this.
Leaders have to empower employees — not verbally eviscerate them.
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Leaders have to create a nurturing culture that embraces diversity and safety rather than toxic environment that defaults to the cheapest common denominator of jocularity at the trouble of human dignity.
What we say matter, and what of leaders matter a lot more due to the responsibility, impact and power their words hold.
It appears that societal discourse is still evermore coarse. Most of us suffer due to it.
And for leaders such a Martinez who appear to have trouble following a "Golden Rule," they should at least consider following another axiom — Silence is Golden.