Updated: Jun 30, 2019
Let us begin by acknowledging that of course this article references Taylor Swift (she is also our spirit animal), and her experiences with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.
Do you know how many people it takes to ruin a reputation?
In all honesty, the short answer is one. It takes one person to ruin a reputation, to start a rumor, to ask people to see you in a negative light, and to not only inform others what you're like and what you're asking for, but to also guide others on how to treat you. There are bullies among us, and it doesn't matter that it's not fair, or right, there are people who try to bring others down. People who think that power is found through diminishing others; the disrespectful people who match kindness with absolute disrespect. There are people who lie. That's a fact.
Everyone knows the importance of a reputation. In this technological age, everyone has their own brand, essentially, and social media helps shape it. What happens when people get attacked? What friends stay to have your back? What people only like you when it's cool to? (Sing it to us, Taylor.)
As a business owner, you know your reputation matters. You're only as good as your last review. But what about the reputation of how you treat your staff? What's strange about this industry, is that there's a lot of accepted disrespect that's only now being brought to the foreground. Organizations like Times Up Now make it so much easier to pursue justice. And here's the thing, we know that as a business owner, the topic of sexual harassment can seem so intimidating, and threatening. Sometimes you might even be ignorant to the actual work environment in your establishment. What is sexual harassment defined as now?
The fact is, this is something you are going to have to address. As a restaurant owner, not only is it your legal responsibility to do so, you're often the only one with the power to change things. The culture of the service industry is shifting to a much healthier place. This doesn't mean more problems for you (it means less). If you choose to be proactive and to empower your staff, the potential rewards you reap far outweigh the small inconvenience. Actually maintaining respectful environments is exponentially more profitable.
In business, how do you protect your reputation? With the fundamental foundation of integrity.
The truth is, the negative voices are the loudest. But when it comes to actually acknowledging problems, there's an aspect to vocalizing them that has absolute integrity. Sometimes we really have to be open to learn from what is presenting. Business owners do this with reviews - does this negative review have some really valid points? How can we improve this??? It's SO important to realize that it's no different in managing your staff.
How can we grow from this?
In sexual harassment incidents, the people doing the trespassing are equally likely to frame things in their favor, with every denial or excuse. In boundary-less environments, where no one knows what to navigate to, it's so much more dramatic. It is so much simpler to focus on creating a respectful environment to begin with. ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES. Inform, educate, and create a team atmosphere where people care about how they impact others. It is OKAY for someone to acknowledge they feel uncomfortable. ADDRESS IT. We've got news for you - All of us, AS HUMAN BEINGS, have made someone else feel uncomfortable at one point or another. In our connections with others we can choose to grow from our experiences, to consider our effect on others, to learn about and cherish our differences, and to change our behavior. But when certain team members deny the civil rights of others, when they physically trespass or demean, when they bully, and when that behavior is empowered by management's reaction - that is a threat to your company and it should be treated as such. A business never benefits from ignoring its problems. Nor can you stay ignorant to the civil rights protected by law. Nor should you mistreat your staff (or illegally allow them to be mistreated). People have the right to physical boundaries as well as to dignity. They have the right not to be discriminated against. Establish a sexual harassment policy, and keep navigating to respect together.
DECIDE TO GROW.
TRUST SOMEONE, when they say they feel uncomfortable. Listen to each person's perspective, and reinforce the boundaries that exist (by law). Everyone has the right to physical boundaries, dignity, and to feel safe in their workplace. Navigate to respect. So much of the trouble in the service industry, is that restaurant owners are forgetting the importance of establishing these boundaries in the first place. People have to navigate the problems brought about by the least respectful amongst them (while no one is truly affirming the legal rights that already exist).
The people who are willing to trespass on you and ignore your boundaries, are exactly the ones who will try to frame other people's impression negatively (we're talking about you, Kim Kardashian. And every way our society can resemble Lord of the Flies.). It's true that sometimes you have to let things go and take the high road. But sometimes you have to address it. There are moments in everyone's life, where you have to stand up for yourself to present the truth. Our articles are trying to present our experience in the service industry as we've experienced it, in order to elevate everyone's understanding of the core issues our industry faces. We've tried silence (not so much by choice, in workplaces where we were punished for trying to address trespass), we've tried ignoring that there's a problem, and now we actively seek to revolutionize the standards of our industry. It isn't about being perfect. It's caring about how we impact each other and recognizing the rights protected by law. There are such easy ways to improve everyone's experience. In acknowledging these issues, we at Highest Good Consulting are always trying to navigate to a way of doing that with grace, but we're not afraid to take a stand. We have zero fear of being honest about our experiences in this industry. It has nothing to do with being vindictive, and everything to do with integrity. Truth is truth. We support groups like Times Up Now, and the EEOC's work (did you know our government protects our civil rights)?? But more than anything, we know that addressing sexual harassment serves the highest good. And we invite you, restaurant owners, to join us in creating respectful environments. Even if you genuinely have a respectful management team already savvy to these laws, there will always be people on your staff who grow from sexual harassment trainings, and you will be in service to your greater community as well. Check out our policy and training resources.