Business Monday

CEOs won’t tolerate ugly comments in the workplace

DONNA ABOOD is principal and managing director of Avison Young, a global commercial real-estate firm.
DONNA ABOOD is principal and managing director of Avison Young, a global commercial real-estate firm.

This week’s question: How would you handle an employee who made comments in the workplace similar to the statements Donald Trump made on the set of “Access Hollywood”?

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As a woman who has developed her career in a male dominated industry (men hold more than 77 percent of senior executive positions as of a 2013 Commercial Real Estate Diversity Report), unfortunately, this type of dialogue is not foreign to me. Earlier in my career, I may have made efforts not to pay attention to “locker room” talk and move on to the business at hand to deliver service and results to the client. However, today, beyond losing respect for the individual’s character, as a Principal of a global organization built on the pillars of honesty and integrity, I would ensure that the offender would be funneled through the proper HR channels and move on to focus on the business at hand.

Donna Abood, principal and managing director, Avison Young

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We treat our workplace and employees with the utmost respect and expect our staff to do the same. We train our staff abiding by professional hospitality standards. Our employee handbook has strict policies regarding offensive language and it is not tolerated.

Adelee Cabrera, regional director, Starr Catering Group

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I work with all women so this would never happen in my current environment. Locker room talk is degrading, unacceptable and should not be tolerated in any work environment. Any one participating in any organization that I run would be immediately called in and disciplined accordingly.

Laurie Kaye Davis, executive director, South Florida, The Commonwealth Institute South Florida

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I would fire them. In law and in business, words matter, as they have the power to instill — or erode — trust, respect and confidence.

Albert E. Dotson Jr., partner, Bilzin Sumberg

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In healthcare, we operate in an environment of healing in which there is high expectation for all of our employees to respect our patients and anyone they interact with inside and outside of the organization. We address disrespectful comments straight on and counsel the employee regarding our company policy and standards of behavior.

Aurelio M. Fernandez III, president and CEO, Memorial Healthcare System

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I would first notify the employee that his/her comments are unacceptable and provide expectations for professional performance. If warranted, I would assist with counseling. Lastly, I would set a time frame for improvement and, at the end of that period, conduct a performance review.

Elaine Liftin, president and executive director, Council for Educational Change

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Lionstone Development’s company culture is founded on a positive environment built on respect for each other, and we expect our team members to uphold that. If disparaging or disrespectful remarks are done in the workplace, then we would terminate that employee on the spot. There are no gray areas in my company rulebook when it comes to that as the comfort and well-being of our staff is our top priority.

Diego Lowenstein, CEO, Lionstone Development

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Fired, immediately.

Suzan McDowell, president and CEO, Circle of One Marketing

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As a locally headquartered company, we develop and implement an appropriate HR policy and deal swiftly with any violations within that policy framework including a zero tolerance policy for any type of harassment of women (or anyone else). We strive to run our business as a meritocracy where any employee can advance their career based on performance. We maintain 18 branches in Miami-Dade County, the majority of which have female managers. The senior level manager who oversees our banking center division is also a woman as are a number of women in senior leadership roles at the bank, including our Chief Operating Officer, Chief Credit Officer, Director of Human Resources, Compliance Officer and BSA Officer. Having the best working environment means that you support a culture for advancement for all employees based upon results.

Jay Pelham, president, TotalBank

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This would be a concern requiring review, leading to disciplinary action. I would follow appropriate human resource and compliance protocols to ensure that the behavior is addressed and is not repeated.

Larry Rice, president, Johnson & Wales University North Miami Campus

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At JAE Restaurant Group, comments such as those are unacceptable and do not align with our company values of treating all people with respect. My first course of action is to require the employee to undergo professional counseling in order to address the issue. If the behavior continues, then it’s time to part ways with the employee because they do not share our company’s values.

Eddie Rodriguez, CEO, JAE Restaurant Group

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Every company has a set of guidelines. Most of them have disciplinary policies. Any language or conduct that is out of place or unprofessional must be immediately addressed. The well-being, safety and comfort of our employees and club members are paramount.

Alex Rodriguez-Roig, president, Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade

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At FECI, we have a culture of respect and leadership by example that transcends an employee’s level or position in the company. We would have zero tolerance for this type of behavior.

Vincent Signorello, president and CEO, Florida East Coast Industries

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As an association that promotes LGBT-welcoming travel globally, it’s hard to image an employee like that ever getting hired! I would have a private conversation to let the employee know that aggressive and misogynistic comments are not appropriate for the workplace and won’t be tolerated. We’re a small staff, so we’d discuss the reasons why it was inappropriate as a group as well. If it recurred, it would be grounds for dismissal.

John Tanzella, president and CEO, International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association

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I would terminate that person. This kind of vulgar talk can have dire consequences for a company’s brand, reputation and office culture, and quite frankly, it’s unacceptable.

Faith Read Xenos, co-founding partner, Singer Xenos

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