Letting everyone know what’s not acceptable – an example from Desert Island Discs

We’ve been prompted to write this by what we heard on Desert Islands Discs over the weekend.

By way of background, in April this year we posted a legal update about the Jaguar Landrover case. While the case was about gender, the principles set out in the detailed judgment apply to all forms of discrimination so it’s an important read for anyone working in HR.

One of the many important points that the tribunal made in the case, was that finding and blaming an alleged perpetrator was not the only way of dealing with things. It suggested that other robust action, such as a very clear message to the entire work force might be appropriate, and would also provide support and comfort to those who may be suffering.

We heard a great example of this from Tom Ilube on Desert Island Discs. He was describing a moment from early in his career when a colleague had drawn a racially offensive cartoon on a board in a meeting room. The chief executive heard about it and sent an email to the entire staff, saying something along the lines of:

Whoever did this, you are not welcome in this company – your values are not our values. I’m not going to search for you, but I’m telling you I don’t want you in my company, I want you to leave.

It was so clear and stark that the whole company was in no doubt about what was expected, and where the leadership stood.

Tom Ilube described how knowing that you have allies at a senior level, who will speak up on your behalf and stand up for you, really helps.

We thought this was a powerful message that also works so well with values. The approach could be adapted to different situations and might be worth considering when a really strong message is needed.

Our comment

The equality legislation has been in place for almost 50 years in the UK, but we still don’t have equality in the workplace. It’s time to do things differently – the Jaguar Landrover case gives some great examples of what employers can and should be doing, but we need new ideas and greater creativity to see real change - values driven organisations could be leading the way.