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Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil

November 10, 2014
Hear-No-Evil-See-No-Evil-Speak-No-Evil October 26 was the day when Jian Ghomeshi’s world began its rapid implosion. The 47 year-old CBC Radio broadcaster and host of the corporation’s hugely popular and US–syndicated morning show Q finally was facing reality.

One of Canada’s major celebrities and most eligible bachelors, Jian Ghomeshi had steadily cultivated his reputation over many years as being one of the hippest media dudes around who had interviewed a wide spectrum of artists from the entertainment world.

His father, an Iranian immigrant, had passed away suddenly just a few weeks before Ghomeshi got fired by the CBC on that fateful October 26. And just the week before his dismissal, he had done “Q’s” first live broadcast from Los Angeles.

And then the earthquake hit Canada’s media. What did someone do who was so highly regarded to merit a firing with what could be deemed extreme prejudice–when the 20 foot high poster of his beaming face was quickly torn down in the foyer of CBC’s head office in downtown Toronto?

Ghomeshi Well, it seems that Ghomeshi likes to have it rough with women when it comes to sex, and as information continued to be discovered by the media, he had also been abusive to co-workers. Initially, for a matter of only two days, it appeared that this was going to be a he-said, she-said sling fest, a “jilted” former girlfriend who was seeking revenge. Except that Ghomeshi’s quick off-the-mark Facebook explanation that his fetish for rough sex is always consensual fell apart when numerous other women came forward, most of whom were anonymous.

The Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail independently conducted investigations which revealed, according to women who had been alone with Ghomeshi, his apparent shocking behavior.

The Globe and Mail also discovered some alleged incidents of things Ghomeshi had said to CBC female employees and instances of what it was like to work in the shadow of one of CBC’s biggest stars who could do no wrong. And in a subsequent piece the Globe and Mail released revealing information on Ghomeshi’s abusive behavior towards co-workers and CBC management’s refusal to act when employees complained.

The Toronto Police on November 1 launched its own criminal investigation through its Sex Crimes unit when three women came forward to file complaints.

harassment1 Harassment, whether physical, psychological or sexual, is wrong. It exacts emotional turmoil on the victim, sometimes lasting for a lifetime. That is what is so pernicious about harassment: in what may be defined as a brief segment of one’s life the effects it can have may last for decades.

Sexual harassment has especially detrimental effects on women, the bulk of the victims in society and organizations.

When I read and watched the many news reports on Jian Ghomeshi one small but illuminating detail stood out for me. As much as the CBC may have finally acted with resolve in firing Ghomeshi, it’s also important to note that there were warning signs. Indeed, the above Globe and Mail piece (see the link) starkly places the burden on CBC management’s shoulders. Witness the instance of one female producer, who when yawning at a staff meeting, was whispered to by Ghomeshi: “I really want to hate fuck you to wake you up.” The producer went to Human Resources to complain about what Ghomeshi had said to her. She was told that Ghomeshi wasn’t going to change and asked what she could do to make the workplace less toxic.


That is called “transference,” passing the perpetrator’s behavior onto the victim. And why did the HR person do that? It’s obvious: Jian Ghomeshi was a super star. He could do no wrong. And that is what enabled Ghomeshi to continue his serial sexual harassment of women and abusive behavior towards CBC staff over many years. Layered on top of this sickening scandal is CBC management’s impotence to act to protect the corporation’s female employees. CBC management’s behavior is reminiscent of the three moneys: Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil.

Sure, the CBC just hired Janice Rubin, a respected employment lawyer with a certificate and experience in conducting investigations into workplace harassment. But that’s shutting the barn doors after the horses have escaped. Perhaps her investigation will reveal the full scope of Ghomeshi’s behaviour and make female CBC employees who’ve been victimized feel safe to speak out.

Much is yet to come of the Jian Ghomeshi case. I have my own prediction. If I’m correct, Ghomeshi will be a very unhappy man for a long time.

brave-woman-entrepreneur-resized-600 So what does this mean for leadership in organizations?

When it comes to leading people in today’s turbulent environment, whether in the public or private sectors, the only way senior leaders can enroll employees is by acting in an ethical manner. And that especially includes having zero tolerance policies for those individuals who try to prey on others by abusing their authority and power.

Leadership’s overarching role is to create a workplace that is focused on the organization’s mission, vision and strategic goals. Culture comes into play here:

• What are the behavioral norms, values and expectations of all employees?
• What are the unwritten rules?
• How are promotions actually earned, or awarded?
• And how are employees who engage in abusive behavior dealt with?

At the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Canada’s state-owned broadcaster, it is no better than other organizations when it comes to protecting employee “celebrities” at the expense of those further down the food chain. Perhaps the CBC will go through some much-needed soul-searching in the months ahead as it deals with the fallout from what will go down in history as one of Canada’s most infamous celebrity implosions: the Jian Ghomeshi scandal.

Take a moment to read a recent post on harassment in Canada’s federal government: Lead Through Mutual Commitment, Not Compliance.

Never spend time with people who don’t respect you.

– Maori proverb

Note: At the time of posting, none of the allegations against Jian Ghomeshi, both criminal and civil related, had been proven in a court of law. Ghomeshi has also hired Marie Henien, a prominent criminal lawyer.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 10, 2014 12:59 am

    Jian Ghomeshin sounds like an arrogant narcissist who can be charming when he chooses to be, and “flips” like a switch. Interestingly, I just finished reading a book on abusive men, which I would highly recommend to anyone concerned about these issues. It’s called, “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft. Sadly, I think what you’ve said here is true, that “superstars” think they can get away with that sort of behavior indefinitely. His serial behavior actually reminded me of the Iranian gynecologist about 30 years ago in the U.S., who serially raped a number of women when they were being examined by him. Finally one woman came forward, and when he denied it, but it got attention in the media, suddenly many, many more women appeared who had had the same experience. They had all hesitated to report it because they just couldn’t believe it had happened, and they were so embarrassed to tell anyone. Many times there are “superstars” in business who manage to pull in a lot of money for the firm, yet act very abusively to other employees and co-workers. This is unfortunately tolerated in some businesses, especially those which are 100 percent commission.

    • November 10, 2014 2:20 am

      Thanks very much, Lynne, for your contribution which adds an important dimension to the conversation on sexual harassment. You’re correct on Ghomeshi being a narcissist.

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