The Lawsuit’s Over – but the “Teachable Moments” are Alive and Well


Recently, I learned that the civil lawsuit against me is being withdrawn, with a full release, no findings of liability against me and no monies paid by me to achieve this positive outcome. While this is great news, it is not likely to be picked up or reported by local media outlets with the same vigour or level of enthusiasm exhibited in the face of the initial unfounded accusations.

Rather than simply “closing this chapter” and moving on, I think it’s important to take stock of what happened and use this as an opportunity for learning and reflection. A Marli-moment of sorts.

In my view, this entire experience is summed up in one of my many teachings about leadership, respect and accountability: Don’t get sucked into the “drama” of the first story. The more salacious and intriguing the drama, the easier it is to get sucked in.

My advice is the reverse of the famous Nike Ad … Just don’t do it.

This saying comes from my real life observations as a third party adjudicator, investigator and mediator (and most recently, in my role of being simply “human”). So much hurt, dysfunction and toxicity between people and amongst teams stems from this. People get drawn into workplace drama on the basis of one person’s perspective, without considering the fact that there is always more to the story and always more than one story to consider.

In addition, indefensible decisions commonly result from supervisors/managers failing to objectively evaluate the “first story” that comes to them. Instead, they get “sucked into the drama”, often unintentionally. They hear a story, believe it, and act on it, without fairly and openly considering the “stories” of others involved.

This saying, while perhaps “catchy” at an informal and practical level is, in fact, rooted in two fundamental legal principles that are the cornerstones of fair decision-making:

  1. Every person accused of “wrongdoing” (whether rooted in performance, misconduct, negligence or otherwise) must be presumed innocent unless the allegations are proven through an objective and impartial review. The onus is on the plaintiff, complainant or ‘employer’ to prove the allegations against the respondent individual/employee, not the other way around; and
  2. Every person has the right to respond to allegations made against them, not through the media, Facebook, Twitter or the court of public opinion, but through a respectful and objective process that is overseen by an impartial and educated decision-maker.

These two principles are commonly lost in today’s workplaces and often ignored by the media. Disconcertingly, they also are not given due consideration by a number of academic and professional “experts” who are quick to pass judgment or share their “wisdom” on particular media reports without first inquiring into the facts or properly “qualifying” their commentary.

On behalf of the many individuals out there who continue to face allegations regarding their behaviour, performance or competence, I ask that we read the news, Twitter feeds and Facebook posts with the “presumption of innocence” and “the right to a fair process” in mind. Collectively, let’s try our best not to be “sucked into the drama of the first story”. Let’s remember that there is always … always another story out there that needs to be heard – at the right time and in the proper venue.

On a closing and personal note while, disappointingly, there have been a handful of “doubters and haters” out there, I have received a tremendous outpouring of support and encouragement from so many clients, friends, family and members of the public. It is at these times when integrity, loyalty and relationships are truly put to the test. For all of you out there, thank you so very much for not getting sucked into the drama of the first story, for not believing everything you read, for knowing there is a proper venue in which to resolve these issues, and for waiting for that process to conclude. Thank you for being there with me – and for me – every step of the way.

Have a great week.

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