Let me start with, I don’t know if Fabolous (Fab) did it. For those of you who don’t know, Fab is a hip hop recording artist who has been in the game for years. Last week a story broke about how he had allegedly assaulted his lady friend, Emily B, previously. The specifics were that he had knocked some of her teeth out from punching her in the face 7 times. Additionally, there was a video of him yelling at her and her father, while holding a knife, and issuing threats toward them in a separate incident. It’s a real bad look for Fab. (Also, if you don't know, he spells his name this way, which I know isn't the correct spelling of fabulous).
The disconnect for most people was that in the 15 plus years he has been a known entity in hip hop, he’s been one of the “coolest people in the room.” Not only are his flows smooth, but he carries himself so smoothly that he’s been able to easily transition through each iteration of hip hop since he’s come into the game. Which isn’t an easy thing to do. So, when the story broke, it created this “no, not him” response, and that is on the mild side. It was interesting to see how many people, men and women, who came to his defense because he doesn’t seem like the type.
Then I thought about my experience when investigating harassment claims at work. In most cases, I have found that the person had a history of similar types of behaviors (unintentional or otherwise), and it came as no surprise to most people. But in some instances, this was the first time any such claim had been made. Further, the person never did anything to even hint at these behaviors. When that has been the case, the reaction by some leader’s has been surprising. Now to be clear, the ideal investigation includes no one but the accused and the alleged victim. But sometimes managers are informed first, and don’t have any issue providing their thoughts (solicited or not).
In any case, it’s very interesting how people react to these things. It’s even more pronounced when the person is a top performer. “Oh, we can’t lose that person.” Or, “they do such great work, I don’t see how this could be.” It’s very hard for people to see that someone’s work persona isn’t always the full story on that person. You’d be surprised to know what some of your colleagues are like outside of work (especially when they get some alcohol in them).
My point is, passing judgement based on limited information is always a mistake. And, if you’re a leader in your organization, passing judgement on individuals is not part of the job. We are there to make sure the job is getting done, and we are doing everything possible to support the people doing the job. When an incident arises; especially one where we were not a witness, it’s not up to us to draw our own conclusions. We work to get as much information as possible (while being as discreet as possible), treat all parties involved respectfully, and act upon the available information. Whether it's a bad or good worker, entry-level employee or VP. It’s all the same. It’s that ability to treat everyone equally, and fairly, that allows for an organization to be successful.