By Elliot Clark
Actress Angie Everhart alleges she woke up on a private yacht where she was napping during a Hollywood party, and found a drunken Harvey Weinstein on top of her. She states she resisted his advance and complained about it to other people on the boat. They responded to her by saying: “Oh, that’s just Harvey.” And, look where we are now.
This issue with Harvey Weinstein got a lot of media attention because it involved rich, beautiful, and famous people, but this problem does not stop at the border of Beverly Hills. It is everywhere. I wonder why people are shocked. I really do. After all, the movie industry even has its own “inside baseball” term for this behavior in the form of the phrase “casting couch.” If you have to give the phenomenon a name, guess what: it’s officially a phenomenon, not a random and rare event.
Why are we all at fault? Because we all create a Harvey or facilitate a Harvey when we make “special rules for special people.” Yes, that is the real problem. When a touchy, feely predator is excused as “just being Harvey,” we all become complicit in the crime.
Preying on the young, the inexperienced, or the vulnerable is what predators do. Just watch an episode of National Geographic and you get a pretty good sense of what seems to be rampant in Hollywood. Perhaps, more surprising is Angelina Jolie—daughter of Jon Voight—and Gwyneth Paltrow—daughter of Bruce Paltrow and Blythe Danner—were victims and these daughters were Hollywood royalty. Once you can excuse Harvey for just being Harvey with one, you can excuse them with anyone.
So, what is HR to do? At heart, I believe HR people are disgusted by this behavior and would upon receiving a credible complaint choose to run the offender out on rails. (I acknowledge that there are specious complaints and I have found that in my experience as well.)
However, what happens when it is a high-performing executive or the company’s top sales person? In that “moment of pause” as executives or the CEO hesitate and discuss what to do, live a thousand Harvey Weinsteins.
What allows these predators to act is actually our tolerance, our excuses, and our unwillingness to cast them from among our midst. Tolerance is sometimes grown from ignorance of the crime and even just ignoring the crime.
To the extent that HR is responsible for the quality and engagement of the workforce, they also play the role of advocates for the workforce. And no one should be made to feel lesser or disempowered because leadership is choosing to ignore the existence of bad behavior.
Now as everyone in Hollywood tweets in righteous indignation and politicians scramble to figure out how NOT to give the money back donated as proceeds from the exploitation of hundreds of frightened young girls and boys, HR needs to be better than righteous indignation. HR needs to be the solution and stand up against this behavior in both word and deed and stamp out tolerance for some executive who is “just being Harvey”.