Over the last several months the Penn State/Sandusky story has taken numerous twists and turns. For the most part, the final chapter has been written on most of the participants. The main perpetrator, Sandusky, has been convicted on a significant number of criminal offenses and will spend the rest of his life in jail. Penn State has been hit with significant NCAA penalties and is defending itself from a range of civil claims. The once revered head coach, Joe Paterno, has died and his reputation destroyed.
While most employers don't expect to deal with employee issues as horrible as those Penn State has been faced with, there are some lessons that can be learned from Penn State's fall.
- Make sure your organization has a process by which complaints of wrongdoing can be made. This process should include multiple avenues for an employee to bring a complaint forward.
- No matter how loved and adored a leader in an organization may be, the leader should not be above reproach. Any allegations made must be investigated and taken seriously.
- If that investigation determines an allegation has merit, take action to protect the victim in the situation. Ensure the victim is aware of the actions/investigation and are on notice to bring future concerns to the employer.
- Protect complaining parties and/or witnesses from all forms of retaliation. This includes making sure employees are aware of these protections so they are comfortable bringing forward any concerns in the first place.
- Do not sweep any wrongdoing under the rug and hope it goes away. The cover-up in most instances is worse than the initial problem and will almost always cause more harm than having just dealt with the initial complaint.