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  • Writer's pictureEdwin and George

Too many toxic cultures

EGM On A Mission: Let’s Build Better Companies

In Western Australia

This week a report was published on the culture in the workplace at Rio Tinto – and in the mining industry in general.

If you haven’t done so already, the report is worth a read. It’s published on the Rio Tinto website. (1)

The report describes a culture where:

  • Almost half of the 10,000 respondents had experience bullying.

  • Widespread sexism and racism were evident.

  • Multiple cases of sexual harassment were alleged.

  • 38 per cent of women who identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander in Australia experienced racism.

Add to this, a ‘culture of silence’ – a lack of action taken when employees reported issues.

‘An uncomfortable and unsafe environment for those who didn’t ‘fit in.’ (2)

Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm (who was appointed following the destruction of the 46,000-year-old Juukan Gorge) commented:

‘The findings of this report are deeply disturbing to me and should be to everyone who reads them. I offer my heartfelt apology to every team member, past or present, who has suffered as a result of these behaviours. This is not the kind of company we want to be.

I feel shame and enormous regret to have learned the extent to which bullying, sexual harassment and racism are happening at Rio Tinto.’ (3)

Commendably Rio Tinto choose to publish the report in full – half of the company’s employees believe that by taking this action, Rio Tinto is now on the ‘right track’ to solve the issues. (4)

In the USA

The 2022 Super Bowl Final.

The Los Angeles Rams v The Cincinnati Bengals.

The once in a year event when a uniquely American sport becomes a global spectacle.

2022 - before the players took the field – the most consequential play in a generation had started.

The coach of the world-famous Miami Dolphins, filing a lawsuit against the National Football League (NFL) claiming racism in hiring practices.

He has described the NFL as a ‘plantation in which the leagues 32 owners (none of whom are black) make huge profits from a workforce – 70 per cent of which is black.’ (5)

The coach had been called to attend a high-profile interview for a top job – but alleges the job had already been promised to a white candidate.

For all the shock it has caused, the lawsuit has highlighted the fact that the league has just one black Head Coach.

The NFL issued a statement:

‘Whilst the league has made significant efforts to promote diversity, we acknowledge the result has been unacceptable.’ (6)

In England

The Rio Tinto report landed on the same day as another – this time about the Metropolitan Police, the largest police force in the UK.

The Metropolitan Police - a culture of racism, sexual harassment, and bullying.

A toxic culture. (7)

The result - the Commissioner, the UKs highest ranking police officer, resigned.

In addition:

  • The Premier League has struggled to deal with racial abuse of players. Two in five players receive racial abuse on Twitter. (8)

  • Cricket - engulfed by racism claims against British Asian players – leading to the resignation of several officials at Yorkshire cricket club. (9)

OK it might be argued that mining, policing, and sport have particular issues.

But all around us, certain types of behaviour are overlooked, tolerated, and excused.

The behaviours expose the chasm between the warm words in the boardroom, mission statements and values - and the reality of so many people’s lives.

We all need to call out the toxic behaviours – every time we see them.

Every day people go through the same reality:

‘They face the day with a sense of dread – for all the rubbish that will be strewn in front of them.’ (10)

Corporate culture is like a fog.

You can’t take it in your hands – it’s hard to pin down – but you know it’s there, all around you.

In the words of Jordan Peterson:

(Rule 3 – ’Beyond Order - Twelve More Rules for Life.’)

‘Do not hide unwanted things in the fog.’

  1. Rio Tinto’s toxic culture should be a wake up for business, Financial Times, 4 February 2022

  2. Rio Tinto web site

  3. Rio Tinto’s toxic culture should be a wake up for business, Financial Times, 4 February 2022

  4. American football: the racist lawsuit overshadowing the Super Bowl, Financial Times, 10 February 2022

  5. American football: the racist lawsuit overshadowing the Super Bowl, Financial Times, 10 February 2022

  6. Investigation into Met uncovers disgraceful culture, Financial Times, 1 February 2022

  7. Two in five Premier League players received abuse on Twitter in 2020-21 season, PFA data finds, Sky Sports web site, 5 August 2021

  8. Azeem Rafiq: What England's cricket racism scandal is all about, BBC web site, 9 November 2021

  9. The promises of giants, John Amaechi

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