Remember the game Clue? I loved that game — going from room to room trying figure out “who done it” and with what means?

I’ve been racking my brain for months on a “crime/wrongdoing” committed in the workplace, a situation where individual agendas caused a few people to reach the point where their brains went offline and they committed an unprecedented “professional crime. “

Let me share my story within my story.

In my book Lead the Change, I share how I was innocently walking along the canal in Ottawa in my 20’s in broad daylight on a Saturday afternoon when someone came out of nowhere and assaulted me. Although I was completely shocked, I had the wherewithal to turn around and chase him and ended up catching him. I knew who, where and how the crime occurred and this guy was eventually tucked into jail for a few months. Mystery solved and justice served. Apparently, he had done this before but had never been caught.

I found myself in a similar situation and yet different, in the workplace not long ago. A couple of individuals decided it was a good idea to undermine me and my work and so started making up harmful rumours. High school stuff, am I right?

I had been innocently going about my business, creating thought leadership reports and books on how to engage the c-suite on DEI and everything was going along just swimmingly. Momentum was built for a particular initiative and I had a lot of executives on board and I was ready to make some positive impact for them as leaders, their organizations, and the sector as a whole. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, I was “mobbed.“ (Think of it as another word for assault but in the professional sense.)

I later learned that this word is in many respectful workplace policies and it is defined as one person leading a group of other people away from an individual.

Uncovering this in a policy indicated this form of behaviour was a regular business practice “back in the day.” Sadly, my story reveals that it is still alive and well.

The few people that led this brigade have been masquerading as sheep in wolves’ clothing, abusing their positions of power to manipulate others to carry out their own agenda.

This traditional leadership tactic is unprofessional at best and belongs in the Mafia lane, not in the business lane. Putting individual agendas over the collective mission is not what leaders do. True leaders put their personal biases / issues aside and lead their people to a better place. They do not intentionally throw sticks in the spokes of positive progress.

Shocked as I was, and in a similar fashion to chasing the guy along the canal, I pivoted and managed to keep the successful initiative progressing. And as with most crimes, this one had plenty of crumbs for me to unravel it and figure out “who done it’.  

It begs the question— how often is this kind of thing still going on? And more importantly— why?  (Clue — people get away with it and so it continues is usually the answer).

Just as the police saw the chase and arrested this guy on the canal, so too, have many bystanders watched this crime in the workplace but are inert for fear of retribution.

It’s sad, it’s scary and it has to become a thing of the past. Otherwise, we will never change the way decisions are being made — decisions that affect our people, our bottom line, and our society.

Bystanders to this crime, who possess any modicum of integrity and decency, surely had their eyebrows furrowed and hearts aflutter watching this unfold. It must have been stressful to keep their heads down and mouths shut. I realize they were complicit with their silence; however, the bigger issue here is the fear they must have had put in them if they challenged this decision or communicated about this to anyone.

Being an inclusive leader is a healthier workplace choice — the risk of a heart attack or burn out, for example. is greatly reduced when you work in a cooperative, honest, respectful, and transparent manner.

Let’s keep ourselves in that lane and show the next generation how to treat people properly in the workplace.

It’s time to raise the bar on behaviour and put these bullying tactics to pasture along with the wolves in sheeps’ clothing that walk among us.