Leading with Integrity
In most states in the United States, employment is “at will,” meaning that an employee can be fired for any reason, unless the reason is specifically prohibited by law. Sometimes, employees have access to a union, which provides more protection for them, but generally businesses that have reached success and started scaling have hired employees who do not have access to those protections. Much of what a union enforces, though, is simply transparency, and this can often be as much of an advantage to an employer as to an employee. For example, it can seem more efficient to be able to fire someone without jumping through the hoops of clear discipline and setting transparent expectations, and that is technically legal in the majority of situations. The problem is that following that practice inevitably creates insecurity and gossip in the rest of the company. As we talked about earlier, this insecurity can contribute to not only the sense of victimization and being targeted, it can also contribute to encouraging insecure employees to harass others.
While this type of fear about others’ perceptions may be internally motivated and controlled, there are also work environments that foster this type of insecurity. When rewards and punishments appear unpredictable and leaders use favoritism in an attempt to motivate competition, it also
fosters an environment of harassment and discrimination.
Having clear, transparent, externally measurable expectations, disciplinary steps, and guidelines for behavior (both behavior that deserves promotion or reward and behavior that deserves discipline) nurtures the kind of job security that can significantly reduce or stop harassment and discrimination. You may not know what these are right away, and part of transparency is being open about your own process in developing what your business structure is.