How to Avoid Workplace Harassment Scandals and Appropriately Address Claims – David Druzynski, Auto/Mate

Workplace Harassment

On today’s show, we welcome back David Druzynski, Chief People Officer at Auto/Mate Dealership Systems. David recently wrote an article for WardsAuto Magazine called “How to Deter Dealership Workplace Harassment“. This is, of course, a very important issue in today’s workforce.

Workplace HarassmentVIDEO TRANSCRIPT: 

Jim Fitzpatrick: David, thank you so much for joining us on CBT News.

David Druzynski: Oh, thank you for having me. Pleasure.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. So you wrote an article in WardsAuto, How to Deter Dealership Workplace Harassment, which is a very hot topic as you know nowadays that we’re in the middle of the Me Too movement. In today’s social media age and with the #MeToo movement as I just spoke about, how has the perception of workplace harassment changed?

David Druzynski: I think right now, the biggest shift is that we have awareness and accountability. First off, there’s awareness on the part of the employees and also the employers. The employees are now aware that they don’t necessarily have to sit back and be silent. The employees have an understanding now that their voices can be heard. They are out there on social media, and rather than having a few people that they can talk to about an issue, they go out, they post the issue online, and they have hundreds and thousands of supporters ready to get their back.

Employers are realizing now that this is a very important topic. I think that the biggest shift you’re seeing on the employer side is that we’re moving from a responsive approach to, “An incident happened. Now how can we best handle it and make sure everybody is taken care of,” to more of a proactive approach. So we’re out there getting in front of issues, and we’re doing our best to make sure that these don’t happen right from the beginning.

David Druzynski: But then finally, there’s accountability. I think you’re seeing senior leaders of organizations that were putting out some pretty despicable behaviors, and they’re finally being held accountable for actions that they got away with for years and years.

Jim Fitzpatrick: What does a dealer do when they’re confronted with a GM that is out of control and is crossing the line in this area with male or female employees and associates of the company? Does the dealer fire them automatically? Do they write them up? What’s typically the course of action.

David Druzynski: In this instance, I think that the punishment has to fit the crime. In the era of the Me Too movement, one thing that you’re seeing that we have to caution employers on is that there’s a rush to judgment. It’s a “I received this complaint. I heard about something that happened. We need to get rid of them. We need to make this go away, and we need to make it happen quickly.” But as you could see in the Kavanaugh hearings, there are people that are coming forward with complaints that are not necessarily warranted or untrue. So I think what the dealer has to do in a situation like this is they have to make sure that they conduct a thorough investigation, and they also need to make sure that they are not rushing to judgment. They’re making sure that the accused is … their voices are heard as well. But you’re protecting the accuser in the process. But ultimately, you have to do whatever you need to do to protect your dealership.

If you have an instance, say, where there was a general manager who was telling an inappropriate joke here and there, it didn’t necessarily have the intent of offending anybody, but they did, then you might want to go to a write-up and send them to some coaching and counseling or additional training. However, if you’ve got a general manager that is pushing employees down a dark hallway, sexually assaulting people, they’ve got to go, and they’ve got to go immediately. You have a responsibility to protect those employees that work for you.

One other mistake that I see dealerships making a lot, as you mentioned earlier, is we tend to forgive behaviors when the performance is there. One thing that I often talk about is, and we’ll use Harvey as an example right now, you have a service manager who’s named Harvey, and he’s got a reputation for being really rough around the edges, saying things that cross the line. When we say, “Well, Harvey’s a phenomenal employee. He brings in a ton of money,” and we just dismiss it and say, “Don’t let those behaviors bother you. That’s just Harvey being Harvey.” Those days are over, we can’t do that anymore.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Harvey’s got to go.

David Druzynski: Exactly.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Do you think it would help to have more females as mid-level managers and general managers at dealerships?

David Druzynski: Absolutely. There’s no question about it. If you think about it, when you see cases of harassment, and I don’t want to limit harassment to just sexual harassment because harassment comes in all forms. It can be based on gender, but it can also be based on race, religion, disability, a number of factors. But I think that within the dealerships, where you’re going to see behaviors is when you have people entering the workforce that are not like you, and there are people that are different. When you have a male-dominated workforce like this, you’re going to tend to have issues when you have females coming in and they don’t match the population. So bringing those numbers up and making it something more familiar for the rest of the employees is going to be very helpful.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, for sure. We spoke to one dealer that’s got about six stores in the Northeast. He said what he did to combat this issue of an all-male management staff and then some females on the showroom floor, to your point, they don’t last long, is he made it mandatory. He hired females from other industries and brought them in as a manager. They never sold on the showroom floor. He asked the other managers to train them and let the managers know that, “These young ladies aren’t going anywhere. So don’t report back to me that, ‘Oh, they’re never going to make it in the business.’ No, they’re making it in the business. We’re going to train them. We’re going to teach them how to work a deal. We’re going to show them how it’s done, and they will be managers in my dealership, period. So you run the risk of losing your job, Mr. Sales Manager, if you come in here and tell me, ‘Nope, these young ladies will not make it,’ in an effort to get them out of there.”

Jim Fitzpatrick: What is your take on that? Do you think that’s a good move?

David Druzynski: I love that strategy, and that’s something that you don’t typically see. For the most part, within car dealerships, there’s this mindset of you really have to come in here, cut your teeth learning some of the lower-level roles, and then you’ll have an opportunity to move up. So if you’re going out there and recruiting females directly into managerial roles, and then you’re holding the sales managers and the high-level managers accountable and you’re telling them, “Listen, this is not an excuse for you to say, ‘It’s not working out. Let’s cut them and let them go.'” Because not just with female employees, but with employees in general in dealerships, I think that that’s a mentality of, “It’s not working out, just let them go, and let’s bring somebody else in here.” They’re really putting the onus on those new managers to make sure that the female managers that they’re bringing in are successful. Maybe their pay plan actually is partly based upon whether or not they are able to retain these new managers. I think that’s a phenomenal idea.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Boy, that’s for sure. Lisa Copeland, as you know, is one of the thought leaders in our industry, and she’s taken on this cause over the last few years, and actually has a company now and a website called Cars Her Way. It’s all about females and how they want to buy cars. They typically want to buy cars from other females which makes sense. They feel comfortable and they feel that they can trust other females better than they can trust males in the industry. It seems to be working well. Let me ask you this before I let you leave today. How do you properly handle an incident once it’s reported?

David Druzynski: First off, you have to act swiftly and appropriately. Notice how I don’t say immediate. As I gave in the example before, so many people are rushing to judgment. We just need to make sure that we make this problem go away, so they want to make sure they get the press release out five minutes after they showed up on Twitter stating that, “We’ve resolved the issue, this manager is no longer in place.” But everybody deserves their fair shake at it.

I think you need to get a team together. When you have an incident of harassment, this is a drop everything, there’s nothing more important than what you’re handling right now. This has to take precedent. You get through, you sit down and you speak with the accuser, and you find out, “Okay, give us details about exactly what happened.” You find out are there any witnesses? You go through, you interview all of the witnesses.

One of my favorite things to do in going through an investigation is you need to make sure that people understand that there’s going to be no cause for retaliation. Many companies where they’ll find themselves in trouble is there’s an instance of a harassment complaint that comes out that’s found to be unwarranted or not so sufficient that somebody needs to lose their job, and then that manager begins to retaliate against the employee that accused them. So you need to make sure that you put protective measures in place so that everybody that you’re interviewing and is participating in the process is comfortable coming forward with their story.

But you basically have to gather all of the information. And the rare thing that you’re going to see with a harassment case, unless somebody’s got a video, text message, or these wildly inappropriate pieces of evidence that they’re going to show, is it’s largely going to be a he-said he-said, he-said she-said, and you’re basically going to have to look at everybody individual, their credibility, and basically make a judgment call at that point.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, very true. Very true. David Druzynski, Chief People Officer at Auto/Mate Dealership Systems. Thank you so much for joining us on CBT News today. This was very informative.

David Druzynski: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Jim Fitzpatrick: All right. Take care.

David Druzynski: Thank you.

CBT Automotive Network, the number one most-watched network in retail automotive. This has been a JBF Business Media production.