Should a Revenue Generating Employee Have Complete Autonomy?

Do you give complete autonomy to a top revenue-generating employee? What about your executives? Should you give them complete autonomy?

I can hear some of you thinking; Why not, if s/he’s making me a lot of money, right? Maybe it’s OK if it’s the CEO, right? Doesn’t being CEO mean not answering to anyone?

The truth is no employee, not even a top revenue generator or even an executive should have complete autonomy.

Let’s see what can happen when you have ANY employee that goes unchecked.

Our real-life case example is Abercrombie and Fitch.

Abercrombie & Fitch now finds itself in scaldingly hot water in the form of a lawsuit against it and its former CEO, Mike Jeffries alleging that from 1992 to 2014 they used the company to create a sex trafficking operation. The lawsuit follows an investigation into these allegations by the BBC.

Jeffries is accused of luring young male models to locations all around the world and then coercing them to have sex with him and others. Prospective models allegedly went for interviews, were compelled to sign non-disclosure agreements, then taken into another room forced to take drugs and engage in sex acts with Jeffries and his partner (and co-defendant Matthew Smith) and others.

One of the alleged victims, David Bradberry, who participated in the BBC investigation filed the lawsuit, which estimates, over 100 victims and is seeking class action status, and an unspecified amount of damages.

But it’s this excerpt of the complaint that prompted me to write this post:

“Jeffries was so important to the profitability of the brand that he was given complete autonomy to perform his role as CEO however he saw fit, including through the use of blatant international sex-trafficking and abuse of prospective Abercrombie models.”

Abercrombie isn’t the first company to turn a blind eye to an executive and/or top-performing employee that mistreats candidates and other employees. But it’s one of the latest examples, among many that prompt me time and again to ask: “Who’s monitoring the monitor“?

NO ONE should have free run of a company. Ultimately EVERYONE in some way is answerable to someone — or should be.

Think this won’t affect Abercrombie, because it’s so big? Think it won’t make some people think twice about wanting to work there? Think it doesn’t impact brand — which btw impacts profits?

Think your employees don’t know when you blatantly (or not so blatantly) place profits above their well-being? Think employees don’t notice when your company blatantly ignores those pesky laws? Think again.

There’s no way the company didn’t know its conduct was illegal or morally wrong, disgusting, etc. Like many it thought that as long as the people involved made a lot of money that more or less cancelled out the obligation to follow laws or simply do the right thing.

Now Abercrombie’s got itself into one hot, sticky mess.

Don’t follow in their footsteps. Make sure you hold your company, your employees and yourselves accountable. Friendly local employment counsel can help with that.

Are you an employer interested in proactively addressing workplace challenges and company culture? Visit my website, to contact me for a complimentary 20-minute consultation. 

Watch my television interview on Good Morning HR with Mike Coffey on Mental Health and the ADA.

Contents of this post are for educational/informational purposes only, are not legal advice, and do not create an attorney-client relationship. Consult with competent employment counsel in the state(s) in which you employ people with your specific questions.

Before choosing an attorney, you should give this matter careful thought. The selection of an attorney is an important decision. If you find this communication to be inaccurate or misleading, you may report it to the Committee on Attorney Advertising Hughes Justice Complex, CN 037, Trenton, NJ


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