Reports this week of three top producers being ousted from The Ellen DeGeneres Show is a good start. It seems the allegations of sexual misconduct, racial insensitivity and other issues that may, in some minds, create a hostile work environment is being taken seriously by Warner Bros. As with any investigation, once an accurate command of the facts is known, sanction must swiftly follow. And the north star of the company should not be show ratings or money, but what’s right.
The terminations, however, should not be the finish line of this probe. Perhaps there is more personnel fallout – if not terminations, certainly some form of progressive discipline as knowing about issues but failing to do something about those very issues is tantamount to being complicit. Playing “go along, get along” should be a thing of the past and certainly not rewarded.
All of this makes one wonder why it took so long for Warner Bros. to trigger an investigation. Perhaps the long-term rumors had not gained enough momentum and those in positions of power were not in enough pain. That said, once the story broke in mainstream media, plenty of people, both internally and externally, seemed to have known about the negative smoldering culture. Clearly, what had been happening behind closed doors was the not the “Be Kind to One Another” public persona many know and love about Ellen. This is a leadership moment.
Crisis costs time, money, stakeholder confidence and careers…this crisis is no different as Ellen’s organizational crisis trajectory is the same. Now that several executives have parted ways and Zoom apologies delivered by Ellen to approximately 200 staff members, it will be interesting to see what the road to recovery looks like. What do future hiring, retention, training, discipline, supervision, reporting and leadership practices look like? How will they be communicated, embraced, put into practice and monitored?
The goal must be to create long-term sustainable change, from the bottom up and top down – Ellen’s legacy is in the balance.