Thursday, October 22, 2009

ESPN an HR Nightmare

It has happened before at ESPN. Harold Reynolds and other on-air personalities had been fired for inappropriate relationships with subordinates. It has happened with other staffers as well. Yesterday, it reached a boiling point after former New York Mets General Manager and ESPN personality, Steve Phillips, took a leave of absence after a bizarre story involving a relationship with a 22-year-old production assistant, detailed in yesterday's New York Post.

According to sports blog Awful Announcing, in 2007, ESPN hired a new Senior Vice President, Human Resources, in part to help with the rash of sexual harassment complaints. It didn't seem to help. And the problem is, as Deadspin reports, that everyone seems to know and care except for the higher-ups at ESPN.

Deadspin relayed a story about another male on-air personality that has been rumored to take place in the same inappropriate activities. Deadspin also tells the story of an ESPN staffer who may have been promoted for the wrong reasons.

So why does this happen? Yet another Deadspin expose told of the culture that existed at ESPN and described it very much as a Human Resource nightmare. This is a culture that existed for a long time and was reinforced by the executives who were taking part as well.

As a New York Magazine poll last week showed after the David Letterman scandal, people have very differing opinions of what is OK to do in the office. A positive culture has to come from the top down. When executives and other people in power are taking part in inappropriate relationships and human resources is unable to curtail the behavior, chaos, like what seems to be occurring at ESPN happens and opens up the company to a litany of lawsuits. Let's hope your company does not look like this.

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