Thoughts on sexual harassment in the workplace

I want to tell you a story about Bob Packwood, the former senator from Oregon and his fall from grace. Those of you old enough to remember him, remember a dashing young politician who in 1968 against all odds unseated the legendary Wayne Morse for his US Senate seat. I was a sophomore in high school at the time and to me and my classmates, he represented everything that was cool and hip about politics. Bob Packwood would be re-elected to his seat four more times and would become one of the most powerful politicians in the country as head of the senate finance committee. In 1992 however, it all came crashing down when he was accused of sexual harassment by 10 women, primarily former members of his staff and female lobbyists. Packwood denied the allegations and when his diary was subpoenaed, he was found to have altered many of the pages to cover up his misdeeds. Ultimately he was forced to resign in disgrace from the Senate. I have never forgotten this chapter in his life, and I asked myself at the time and many times since then what would have happened if he had just admitted what he had done and asked forgiveness?

I don’t condone either the acts he committed, or his attempts to cover them up but I have a much easier time understanding the human weakness than I do the lie. We all fail, but just because we get on the wrong path does not mean we have to choose to remain there. How we deal with our failures is what will define us. I remember these things every time I have to deal with a mistake one of our team makes and decide how to handle it and I will tell you I am almost always less forgiving of the lie than I am of the mistake.



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