CBS Takes Dramatic Steps to Curb Reputational Damage Following Harassment Allegations

In an effort to build a “stronger CBS,” the network television giant has taken drastic #MeToo related steps to identify and reduce incidents of sexual harassment in its work environment, according to a December 14 Business Insider article. Much ink has been spilled about the sexual misconduct, allegations against former CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, and the “culture of workplace harassment” that was allowed to persist under his watch prior to his termination “for cause” some time ago. In response to conversations with potential plaintiffs’ lawyers and growing resentment against the network among employees and viewers, CBS has taken significant steps toward improving its workplace culture.

According to the Business Insider article, CBS has agreed to survey its employees for feedback on company activities. Employees received an anonymous survey in late November and were encouraged to provide open and honest feedback. To the company’s credit, CBS encouraged all employees to help build a stronger culture that does not include sexual misconduct.

Additionally, CBS emailed staff on December 14 that it plans to implement new programs to ensure communication is open, refresh training programs in line with employees’ interests and generally make life better for all CBS employees. This comes in reaction to not just Moonves’ behavior, but also as a result of three lawsuits filed against CBS for “blatant and repeated” sexual harassment by former CBS anchor Charlie Rose.

When viewed in totality, it is clear that the culture at CBS needs significant change. Although the company was correct to take the steps it is taking, it is sad to see yet another in a long line of large corporations only take the needed steps as a reaction to a high-profile incident. For all the good the #MeToo movement has done in raising awareness of employees’ rights to speak out, companies still do not understand that they need to be proactive in their approaches to changing their cultures before a lawsuit or bad publicity forces them to do so.

The difference between proactively changing what is already seen as a positive culture and doing so on a reactionary basis to news reports and lawsuits is the difference between doing great things for your employees and attempting to create a culture that is “not bad.” Companies need to be better than “not bad”, they need to strive for cultures where employees can be comfortable and thrive in their work environment, free from the fear of harassment, discrimination and retaliation. Syntrio works every day to make sure that can happen in our client organizations.