The Knot

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Definition Of Inappropriate


When David Jones CEO Mark McInnes was forced to resign last week as the result of 'inappropriate behaviour toward a female staff member', the rules of corporate Australia changed forever. The 25-year-old who alleged the inappropriate behaviour by her boss took a brave step forward on behalf of all women in the workforce.

I have had a long professional relationship with McInnes for most of the years that he was a senior executive at David Jones, through my publishing careers at Fairfax, EMAP and in my current role as Publisher of Independent Digital Media. I always found him to be charming, witty and incredibly astute and can honestly say that I never witnessed his alleged womanising. But then, if the media reports about his penchant for slim blondes is correct, I'm clearly not his type.

The victim of McInnes' alleged approach was right to take the stand she did, and the Board of David Jones moved swiftly to appropriately terminate his position as the company's most senior executive. David Jones is, after all, a public company and the Board's business is to mitigate risk to brand and reputation. They had no choice.

But what if inappropriate behaviour occurs in a private organisation and the perpetrator is the Chairman of the company? And what if the victim of inappropriate advances is a female director of the Board? What would be the course of action in that event? I may decide to investigate further, buoyed by the courage of the David Jones marketing executive. Apparently the inappropriate behaviour does not need to be current to be relevant to a course of legal action.

As the most senior male executives in companies across the nation receive a much-needed wake-up call at McInnes' expense, there are women who are starting to ask the question of what constitutes 'inappropriate behaviour' in the workforce. Have they in fact been putting up with similar or worse? Yes, I've started to hear the whisperings.

Inappropriate executives: be very afraid.



Anonymous said...

The Definition of Inappropraite: BP chief rapped for yacht trip as oil cleanup goes on:

Tony Hayward keeps his job and Mark McInnes loses his ??

reality raver said...

The case is interesting to watch, I just hope that the girl does not come out of it scathed. Good on her for standing up for herself, but I don't think the PR circus is helping either of them.