Sex, Lies and Video Tapes – Identify Bad Attitude Before You Hire It

This week’s read is not so much about the famous 1989 movie, “Sex, Lies and Videotapes,” as much as it’s about the behaviours of employees within the workplace.

As this is the political season on many fronts, it’s only appropriate to draw analogies of what may cause headaches for HR professionals and managers alike – behaviour that can get a company in hot water.

I won’t speak so much of NZ politics as I would violate the basic premise that in business, one should never talk about politics and religion. However, when it comes to BEHAVIOUR in politics, everything is fair game…

As managers, our fundamental principle is to ensure a profit (or least of which, ensure break-even for non-profit organisations) and protect the assets – plain and simple. Everything we do should be centred on this core mantra.

It amazes me how many times in business (and political) processes; this fundamental charge is ignored or even willfully violated.

In most Western business practices, the antics of leaders, and employees, has a direct impact on the health of an organisation. Example: I remember clearly how President Bill Clinton wagged his finger at the American people on TV – “I never had sexual relations with that woman…” Clinton’s folly had a profound affect on the Democratic Party and contributed to the loss of Senator Kerry – the legacy was too distasteful in some American’s minds.

As managers in charge, we have to be very, very clear about the ego states of our employees. We don’t have the luxury of politics. In fact, it seems that politicians are somewhat immune to the laws that we as managers must hold true, or face the devastating judgment of the Employment Relations Authority or – worse of all – Fair Go.

Employee attitudes (ego states) are learned behaviour. These attitudes are measurable and can be a good predictor of future behaviour. As a management consultant in North America, I was shocked at the number of transgressions I witnessed:

* I actually happened upon a client’s daughter, caught in a sexual encounter with the sales manager (found in the company supplies closet). The daughter was the general manager; the man was HER subordinate!

* Husband-wife owners (my client) of a successful garden supply centre in the States eventually divorced. The husband paid the wife $1.2 million tax free!! Auditors have just discovered that she had been embezzling over $100,000 each year for the past 5 years.

* The president of a very successful grocery chain in Los Angeles told me that on the application form for all front-line staff, the following was asked, “If a package fell from a delivery truck, would you put it on the delivery dock or would you put it in your car?” Over 60% answered that they would put it in THEIR CAR!! He said that he was so grateful that 60% of the workforce in LA admitting to being thieves!!

* And finally – one of the most shocking to me – the CEO of a drug testing centre in Sacramento, CA detailed how she tests almost all construction workers, commercial delivery drivers and other front-line staff in the area. The percentage of positive results to drug use? 85%!!!!! I mean, 85% of the truck drivers in the mid-San Joaquin Valley are on marijuana DURING THE DAY, if not on more debilitating drugs. They “counselled” the pot users. The heaver drug users were biffed out. Oh, that’s a relief…NOT!!

So, the moral of the story is, if you hear someone say that they smoked marijuana, but never inhaled (Clinton); or if they question the verb “is” with regard to what “is” sexual relations (Clinton again), then we have a serious breach of reality. And a former First Lady will never make it to the seat of the White House partially as a result of those types of indiscretions (among other things).

As managers, you have to ask yourself, “At what level of risk am I prepared to take with regard to protection of assets and the continuity of this business?” In essence, what part does “sex, lies and videotapes” affect your organisation?

I’m not one to pass moral judgment on anyone. Heaven knows I haven’t been an angel all my life. However, in the work place, I have to be a saint. As do all my reports. The laws are clear and ultimately I have a responsibility to the shareholders. Improprieties need to go out the door.

If attitudes is currently a problem within your organisation, then you must CAREFULLY follow due diligence to either rectify the situation NOW, or move that risk-point out the door – legally. Or least of which, you may have to legally install the use of surveillance cameras within your workplace – it can have a detrimental impact on morale, but it also let’s everyone know that they are “on deck” with regard to improper behaviour.

If bad or unlawful attitudes are potential risk-points within your organisation, then get some testing done as a condition of pre-employment. There are several quick, affordable and effective tools for pre-screening on sexual harassment, computer misuse, hostility, drugs, alcohol abuse and theft. Would an investment of around $45 be well worth saving the potential loss down the road?

If you want to protect yourself with future employee appointments, consider applying a validated pre-employment psychometric test. An ounce of prevention (attitudes testing) may be worth more than the pound of cure (lengthy and possibly expensive termination proceedings).