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The Wall Street Journal has a long but fascinating story this morning that starts with the sexual harassment allegations against Roy Price, the now-departed chairman of Amazon Studios, and follows a path of abhorrent (my word) behavior that brought the movie-and-video division into direct contradiction to its stated values and policies.

“Interviews with current and former executives,” the Journal writes, “as well as with producers who have worked with Amazon Studios, paint a picture of alleged misconduct by Mr. Price that goes well beyond the public allegations that appear to have played a role in his departure. In addition, business troubles were allowed to fester, some of these people said.”

The story goes on: “The issues raise questions about the role of a core feature of Amazon’s business model, current and former executives said. The company gives divisions tremendous autonomy to maintain an innovative start-up culture. Because entertainment is so different from the rest of Amazon’s retail and engineering-focused operations, some of these executives said, Mr. Price enjoyed particularly wide leeway.

“That allowed Amazon Studios - based near Los Angeles, far from headquarters - not only to run its business in a way that didn’t always hew to Amazon’s trademark obsession with controlling costs, but also to be tainted by a Hollywood culture in which norms of professional behavior are often ignored, some of these executives said.”

And executives now put it bluntly: “We broke your trust and we’re very sorry,” one executive recently told a town hall meeting of employees. A cultural shift is promised.

You can read the entire, fascinating story here.
KC's View:
At the risk of being accused by some readers of obsessing about the sexual harassment issue - yes, I’ve gotten those emails - I’m going to come back to this story again and again and again, for as long as it takes.

As I said last week in my FaceTime commentary, anybody in a leadership position in any organization has to deal with this problem. Now. I don;’t care if you are a CEO or a department manager … you have to be aware of the fact that half of all women say they’ve been victims of sexual harassment, and that this cuts across all industries - it isn’t just media and entertainment. (If you think your company is immune, you are deluding yourself, and deserve whatever ills befall you.)

Amazon dropped the ball on this one - in its desire to expand its ecosystem, it lost sight of basic values. Not only did it lose sight of them, but, as the Journal makes clear, it turned a blind eye to them.

I think it is fair to argue that Netflix has moved a lot faster on the Kevin Spacey problem - in which he is accused of harassment and predatory behavior - because of how Amazon handled the Roy Price problems.

Pay attention. Be pro-active. Let the people in your organization know that you have no tolerance for this kind of behavior. People who have been victimized should come forward so that the people who transgressed can be cast out and prosecuted. No excuses, no exceptions.