The Financial Times reported that PwC, EY, KPMG and Deloitte (Britain’s four largest accounting firms) fired dozens of their partners in the last three years citing ‘inappropriate behavior’ including bullying and sexual harassment. This reflects a broader cultural shift in the way organizations respond to such issues. In the past, victims – particularly those in the entertainment and media industries — were forced into signing NDA’s to protect their employers. Public disclosure of these firings mark a concerted effort in the accounting industry to get out in front of the firms’ sexual harassment issues, rather than let possible revelations hurt the reputation of the company in question.
“The easy option would be to play down the bad behavior or deal with it discreetly. But I believe taking direct and visible action…”
David Sproul of Deloitte writes, “the easy option would be to play down the bad behavior or deal with it discreetly. But I believe taking direct and visible action — including removing colleagues or partners should their behavior go against what we expect at Deloitte — is critical. This can make for some challenging decisions and conversations in the short term, but embedding a respectful and inclusive culture needs leadership to live it, take action when required and speak about it — explaining what it means in practical terms to people and why it matters.”
“Instilling values through checklists alone won’t succeed — people need to feel empowered to do the right thing and to know that we will respond in the right way.”
Global companies are increasingly taking this this proactive approach to enforcing their values. Sproul continues, “Instilling values through checklists alone won’t succeed — people need to feel empowered to do the right thing and to know that we will respond in the right way.”
Insiders in the accounting industry are welcoming this new level of scrutiny displayed by ‘The Big Four’ as sexual misconduct allegations are tarnishing not just the reputations of individuals in question, but the organization as a whole. These public disclosures, and the firings themselves, seek to bring transparency to the workplace and signal a commitment to improving corporate culture.