Hsieh shared with me five thoughts on how companies can better control their fate:
1. Being proactive goes a long way. Companies can cultivate an awareness on the part of employees so they know where, when, why and how they should speak up. There's a bonus beyond nipping scandals in the bud: "People want to work for a company where their values are openly reflected," he says.
2. Being honest about the potential for such issues to surface gives employees permission to have difficult conversations. Companies should further empower workers by providing training on how to have those conversations.
3. People need to feel safe in speaking up. They have plenty of reasons to not come forward. It can be time-consuming, for one. What's more, the scrutiny can bounce back to the person waving the flag of concern. Companies need to understand that as they seek to create trust.
4. Companies need to battle the notion that speaking up won't make a difference. This can get complicated because any investigation of a complaint must be done privately. Action can be demonstrated, however, without getting into specifics. For example, companies can communicate how much time is being spent addressing such issues. This builds goodwill by revealing a concern for everyone's ethical well-being.
5. Building an ethical workplace can help fight worker apathy. "A lot of work is not seen as meaningful," he says. Giving people a reason to see their jobs in the context of a broader mission can help diminish such feelings.
Like any corporate mission, it needs to be sustained to be effective, Hsieh says. Regular maintenance and inspection are critical. And there has to be a demonstrated commitment on the part of senior management.
Yes, there will be mischief as long as there are humans and money and competition at play. But given the toll of this industry's reputation-shredding messes, preventive steps would be a small price to pay for some insurance.