Sexual Assault and the Bathsheba Syndrome
Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and many more, all accused of sexual assault. Do these men suffer from the Bathsheba Syndrome or do they just lack character? Authors Ludwig and Longenecker (1993) describe the Bathsheba Syndrome as cases in which men (and women) have climbed the ladder through hard work and seemingly “have it all” but throw it all away by engaging in activities which they know are wrong and they know could lead to their downfall, and which they mistakenly believe they have the power to conceal. The syndrome is named after King David of Israel, a beloved leader with a humble past who got caught up in the downward spiral of unethical decisions. King David believed he could cover up his affair with Bathsheba by having her husband killed while he was off in battle. David’s actions had grave consequences for his personal life and for his organization.
Many people will say that these individuals, who were leaders in their industry, simply lacked character and good judgment. On the other hand, maybe their rise to success brought challenges they were not equipped to handle. I am not making excuses because there is no excuse for manipulating and violating others. However, to really address the problem of sexual assault and sexual harassment, we cannot rely on shaming, pointing fingers or after-the-fact employee training. Instead, we need a new model of learning for staff members, managers and executives that focuses on self-awareness and mental contrasting.
On November 3rd, Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan called for Congressional members and staffs to complete sexual harassment training. Anyone who has ever worked in government knows that these online modules are a joke. If business owners and civic leaders are serious about preventing bad conduct, it will require a real investment of time, money and mental energy. Most training either focuses on the consequences of bad behavior (“don’t do this or you’ll be fired”) or it highlights the need for empathy (“think of how this makes the other person feel”). What is missing is the self-awareness required to recognize our own weaknesses, our own power plays, our own personal voids that we try to fill with money, power or sex. The bad behavior or initial intentions can be replaced by productive and positive options as long as individuals first recognize they have a void that needs to be filled. Not only does self-awareness assist individuals in their ability to understand and thereby manage themselves, it also helps individuals develop understanding of the differences in others (Whetten and Cameron, 2007).
If the problem is the Bathsheba Syndrome and the solution is self-awareness training, the implementation mechanism to actually achieve behavioral change would be “mental contrasting.” Think about an if-then situation (if I eat the whole cake, then I’ll feel like crap), then envision what happens if you do not take that particular action. This envisioning or mental contrasting can actually close the gap between intention and behavior. Instead of saying or doing something inappropriate and losing the trust of subordinates, you may instead choose a more productive path by focusing on the outcomes you really want to achieve. Implementation intentions and mental contrasting are techniques that have been found to be effective in helping people overcome bad habits and enhance self-regulation (Gollwitzer, 2010).
Every sector and industry has been impacted by the aftermath of sexual harassment or sexual assault against employees. It takes an enormous toll on the morale of the staff, it negatively affects productivity, and it requires that high level decision makers take immediate action. There is no longer a line between professional and personal behavior. King David, Bill Clinton, Matt Lauer, their work and the organizations they were called to lead were all impacted because of their unethical personal conduct. Ethical behavior is reflected in good leadership and it requires focus, appropriate use of resources, trust, and self-awareness.
Dr. Casey Lucius is CEO of Launch Learning Systems based in Naples, FL. She is a former Naval Intelligence Officer and professor of decision making.
On December 5, 2107 Launch Learning Systems was certified as a
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Bringing Your Staff Together After a Crisis
Casey Lucius, September 15, 2017
Often a crisis situation, like Hurricane Irma, can bring staff members in the work place closer together. This was the case after an active shooter stormed a luncheon of county health department employees in San Bernardino in December 2015, leaving fourteen of their coworkers dead. A tragedy like this can indeed serve as a bonding experience for those who were in the room that day; however, Hurricane Irma may have a different outcome, especially in the work place. While we all went through Hurricane Irma at the same time and on the same day, we were not necessarily together and each of us experienced it a little differently. In the aftermath of the disaster, some people are understandably focused on how to care for their children or elderly parents. Some are busy picking up debris and some are making home repairs. Others may be attending to more severe loss of a home or a loved one. Returning to work may add additional stress. No doubt stories will be shared around the coffee pot or over lunch, but there are certain steps that can be taken to help bring employees together in this post-crisis time.
If possible, make professional resources available to your staff. After going through a major crisis and experiencing loss, some people may need to speak to a professional counselor. Even if the company does not directly pay for this service, at least provide a list of resources to your workforce. This list should include professional counseling or grief services, but could include reputable home services as well. If you know of people who can fix leaks, repair roofs, trim trees and remove debris, a handy list of names and numbers could be very helpful to your employees and save them precious time.
Provide flexible hours during the initial weeks following this disaster and other crises. Because of wide spread power outages and schools being used as shelters, Collier County schools will not resume until at least September 25th. This means many parents will have kids at home for over two weeks. Many will not have access to childcare but are still expected to return to work. They will require some flexibility with their hours and it is likely their nerves will be shot, so be both flexible and patient. Even employees without children will be grateful for your understanding since they too have likely experienced a lack of power, internet, water shortages, long lines to get gas, and limited groceries. This can certainly create tension at work and at home.
Allow your employees to share their stories. Make sure they know that it is safe to talk about what happened, without judgment and without watching the clock. Everyone has a story of where they were and what they were feeling during the hurricane. Sharing stories with one another is a potent way to create a bonding experience. Tell them it is okay to take time during the day to talk to their colleagues, share their stories, and listen to one another. Management should take part in this as well. Build trust by listening and taking a genuine interest in your staff and what they experienced. Ask how you can help them and then try to do what they ask.
Finally, manage stress by reprioritizing duties at work. There are certain things that need to get done on time (like payroll), but many tasks can be put off temporarily. Stress will negatively impact employees and drastically impede their effectiveness, so if you can take away certain stressors, you will end up with a more effective, productive and positive workforce. There are many resources on the topic of stress management, but some practical and useful tools include combining tasks and increasing decision-making authority. Ultimately you want to develop resiliency and emerge from this crisis as an even stronger team. Healing takes time but you can help your staff and the community bounce back faster by following these steps and then using what you have learned to develop an even more thorough response strategy for the next crisis.
Dr. Casey Lucius is CEO of Launch Learning Systems based in Naples. She is a former Naval Intelligence Officer and professor of strategic planning.