3 Lessons Learned From The Ellen DeGeneres Debacle

by Aug 11, 2020

If you keep up with celebrity news you’ve seen the articles claiming a toxic work environment behind the scenes of the Ellen Degeneres Show

Employees are coming forward and sharing their negative experiences working on the show, and there are some pretty serious allegations against Ellen, her producers, and the toxic environment as a whole.

To be clear, I’m not saying the claims against Ellen and her team are true or false or taking a stance on the issue. However, there are some teachable moments in this whole debacle, especially around leadership accountability. 

First, top leaders have an increased responsibility for perpetuating positive behavior, and for addressing negative behavior when it occurs. While everyone is responsible for culture, leaders especially, set the tone for what is and isn’t okay. It comes from the top down. 

For example, Ellen’s producer, Ed Galvin, was specifically identified as a consistent aggressor. Reports claim that he yells at staff, uses intimidating tactics in meetings, and even has a history of sexual harassment.

Apparently, he behaved this way in production meetings with Ellen present and she did not address the behavior. Her silence communicated that negative behavior would be tolerated and is even condoned. Not to mention, it sent the message that reporting similar or worse behaviors was pointless because it wouldn’t be addressed.

Another alleged aggressor said, “I have never had a single complaint against me in my career.” This begs the question – do employees genuinely enjoy working with him, or are employees just afraid to come forward?

Second, leaders need to behave the same way all the time, no matter the context. Ellen has been an icon in the media for years. She’s been revered as a trailblazer for LGBTQ+ visibility, caring philanthropist, comedian, talk show host – the list goes on. Simply put, people adore and idolize her.

However, former employees and even some of her guests claim that her behavior behind the scenes doesn’t reflect her image in the media. One even said, “she’s not the person people see in front of the camera.”

Those who have looked up to Ellen in the past are now wondering if her positivity is truly genuine or if it’s all an act. 

This is why it’s so important to live the core values you preach to others regularly. If you communicate that positivity is imperative, but allow negative behavior in your workplace, you’ll lose all credibility. Good luck trying to get employees on board with anything you do or say after that. 

Third, ignorance is not a defense. When it comes to the well-being of employees, top leaders are expected to be on high alert. Unfortunately Ellen’s apology letter shifts the blame from herself to other leaders, stating that she was unable to keep track of everything as the show grew and so she was unaware of these issues.

While this may be the truth, she’s ultimately responsible for monitoring other leaders and the organizational culture as a whole. In other words, even if she didn’t know, she SHOULD HAVE KNOWN because she should’ve been keeping track.

A toxic culture doesn’t just sprout up over night, it’s nurtured and encouraged to grow. As it grows, more and more symptoms of a negative work environment begin to emerge. Top leaders must be on the lookout for these warning signs, which may include high turnover or low productivity. 

At the end of the day

Top leaders have a long way to fall, and Ellen is a great example of that. Although other A-list celebrities are coming to her defense and claiming that Ellen is nothing but nice to them, the state of the workplace ultimately reflects back on leadership. 

Whether or not the allegations are true, her reputation and the reputation of The Ellen Show will be tarnished for a long time. She’s fallen from grace and it’ll be hard to come back from this.

Lesson learned from Ellen – top leaders must make a genuine effort to foster and stay on top of an environment where employees are happy, engaged and thriving.

Rebecca Del Secco
Consultant & Future VP

Incivility, bullying, and harassment occur because the culture allows them to. Before starting inclusivity initiatives, you’ve got to stop bad behavior. Take this assessment to determine if your workplace fosters a positive culture.

 

About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

3 Reasons Your Hiring Process is Too Lengthy and How to Fix it

Hiring the right person is essential, but a drawn-out hiring process can harm your organization more than you might realize. Missed opportunities, decreased productivity, and losing top candidates to competitors are just a few of the costly consequences. While being...

5 Skills Your Managers Need (But Probably Don’t Have) to Effectively Interview Job Applicants

Did you know that 76% of hiring managers admit that attracting the right job candidates is their greatest challenge? Why? Because many managers lack key skills needed for effective interviewing. Culture matters to employees, but it’s just as crucial for hiring. Keep...

Concerned about discussions of opposing political views at work?

Election season is here, bringing with it a flood of discussions, debates, and distractions. Add global tensions dominating the news, and it's easy to see why employees might struggle to stay focused… especially if they have opposing views from their colleagues… and...

3 Savvy Ways to Spend Your Budget Surplus

It’s halfway through the year, and for some companies, the fiscal year is wrapping up, leaving them with an unexpected budget surplus.  While it might be tempting to funnel these extra funds into new equipment or throw after-hours parties, there's a more strategic...

Implicit Bias Training That Works

A significant barrier to achieving a diverse and inclusive workforce is implicit bias. Implicit bias occurs when, for instance, you hear the word "engineer" and immediately assume it is a man, or hear "teacher" and assume it is a woman. Have you ever been guilty of...

Over 50% of Workers Now Value Balance and Belonging Over Climbing the Corporate Ladder

Yesterday, I came across research by Randstad and it really got me thinking about how much the workplace landscape is changing. This study included insights from 27,000 workers worldwide and what really caught my attention was that nearly half of the respondents—47%,...

Your Culture Matters as Much as Your Legal Compliance

Legal compliance serves as the bedrock of any organization. While it lays the foundation, a positive workplace culture breathes life into your organization. A strong, supportive culture fosters employee engagement, boosts morale, and enhances productivity.  This...

How We Create Respectful Work Cultures

For the past 15 years, we have been dedicated to transforming toxic workplace cultures and fostering positive environments through executive coaching, corporate training, and large-scale culture change projects. We’ve serviced over 250 clients and their thousands of...

42% of employees would QUIT over political disagreements

Is it appropriate to restrict employees from expressing their political views at work? On the one hand, you want people to feel free to express themselves. But then, you don't want those water cooler chats to turn into full-blown political showdowns. According to a...

Why Retaining Top Talent is More Difficult Than Ever

Finding and keeping great employees can be tough for companies all over. With changes in employee expectations, advancements in technology, and shifts in the job market, it's a real challenge. In 2019, a whopping 42 million U.S. workers alone said "so long" to their...