Finance Work The ‘chemsex’ scandal is proof workplace culture needs a serious shakeup

The ‘chemsex’ scandal is proof workplace culture needs a serious shakeup

James Shugg is the latest banker in trouble with the law. Westpac / Youtube
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This week Westpac has shown the worst of business culture.

On Thursday we learned that one of its senior economists, James Shugg, 53, had been jailed for five years in the UK for conspiring to supply illegal drugs for so-called ‘chemsex’ (drug-fuelled swingers parties) in London’s West End.

On Monday it was revealed that Martyn Wild, who heads investments for Westpac’s wealth management arm BT Financial, told a female staff member her “appearance and weight would retard her career prospects”. He received a warning.

And there’s more.

Last year it was reported that the trading floor of ANZ was infested with sex, drugs and a destructive culture. Of the seven who were suspended from their roles, four were reinstated.

And for months we’ve been hearing about Seven West CEO Tim Worner’s affair with his former assistant Amber Harrison.

Then there’s Uber. Sexism and harassment were allegedly overlooked for high performers, there have been bombshell reports on an “aggressive, unrestrained” workplaceand last week an executive quit — after only six months.

All this proves there’s one rule for you and another for your boss.

For those of us at the coalface, seeing this bizarre and outrageous behaviour go lightly punished is creating a crisis of confidence. It’s unacceptable. We need a shake-up of workplace culture.

And that starts with you. If you’re working in a toxic environment, speak out.

Culture and standards are set by all of us, but bosses can be the last to change.

Most managers I see work really hard and are, like all of us, good people. What they struggle with is communication and they are confused about what is happening on the ground.

I had to tell a manager recently that his staff weren’t being productive because they thought he didn’t do any work.

I told him in those words and he was initially infuriated. None of us like to be criticised, but the solution was in my advice: he needed to tell them where they all fit in to the business and what he was trying to get done.

A lot of people are concerned about giving advice back to their boss, fearing retribution.

They will lash out if you lay the blame at their feet and don’t propose solutions. We’d all be pissed off if our boss did that to us.

But if you frame it positively as something that can be fixed without much disruption, then it will go down a lot better.

The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

Conrad Liveris is a corporate adviser of workplaces and risk

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