Is the Millennial Lens Causing a Shift in Culture?

Amy Much, Ethics and Compliance Officer Under Armour
Amy Much
Ethics and Compliance Officer at Under Armour

The MeToo Movement didn’t exclusively jolt Hollywood and athletes, it’s happening in everyday life and knocking on the door of corporations everywhere. Just a few weeks ago, a friend of mine working at a large company mentioned in a recent meeting that a male executive declared he was “instituting the Mike Pence rule.” The implication being that he was not willing to be alone with female coworkers for fear he would be accused of harassment. My friend’s response was shock and silence (I, of course, counseled my friend to call her company’s ethics hotline). Will backlash from the MeToo Movement have a chilling effect on the workforce?

In today’s workplace, Millennials are not doling out the silent treatment. Their voice is helping to bring ethics to the center of business. And it’s not just their voices being heard. Millennials have set a tone that is resonating among many working people today whether Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, or other generational defined groups. The reality of it is the lens applied today is different than in years past. We are experiencing a shift in culture in what is now acceptable in today’s climate. Millennials are not often enough praised for the positive impact their group is having on our work environment.

Not so many years ago, we didn’t have to navigate the perils and pitfalls of social media. These days, we have to be mindful of what we think, what we say and what we do in a way that is much different than before social media. A person can tweet something before getting on a plane and be fired from her job and a social outcast by the time the plane lands. We all live in the same world and if not careful, in a blink these perils could be happening to someone around you.

Yes, the challenges of today are incomparable to the challenges of years past; but we should treat this as a positive shift. I am thankful that, hopefully, my children don’t have to tolerate being sexually harassed or pay the price of admission that had to be paid to achieve success in a corporate environment. When I started out as a lawyer, the expectation was to work 22 of 24 hours a day. Companies today can’t get away with that. Lawyers and Ethics Officers should pick up their surf boards and ride this ethics wave to create a swell that will penetrate businesses around the globe.

Corporate brands are on the line. In order to navigate these waters today, they can’t get by with simply complying with government regulations, but instead must embrace ethics that align with those of their customers and employees. No longer will consumers tolerate ethical breaches like the tobacco industry cover-up of years ago or the Volkswagen emissions cover-up.

Our ethics & compliance program reflects the values of our teammates and our brand. We built a program to Protect this House and Stay True. Data is critically important; however, it can’t always tell you what your people think about your company. We conducted focus groups with random samplings of teammates ranging in level from associates to senior vice presidents in an effort to Stay True, to get to the heart of what our teammates think about ethics and compliance at Under Armour. Participants remained anonymous, signing in by level rather than name and utilizing blind voting technology. We learned a lot from listening to our teammates, and plan to incorporate what we learned into program improvements.

We are humans, and as humans we keep on keepin’ on. Is doomsday closer than before? It’s hard to say. Just the other day my kids had a lock down drill at school. I’m not going to panic – I’m still sending them to school. Continuity of spirit is all we have. Uncertainty seems to foster an ability to come together as teammates and at Under Armour I see a trend towards embracing process and order. We are continuing to move forward and as a result we will state what we stand for; we will Stay True, one of our core values. We will tell people who we are instead of assuming they know. It’s with this spirit that we believe in what we do and who we are, and how we bring ethics to the center of our business.