When a reporter started asking questions about an incident after a Revolution Messaging party that occurred in December 2015, we decided to engage with the reporter because we believe in facts, transparency, and in the progressive values we share with our clients. We are also confident that we took the right steps in handling the incident, well before the recent rise of the #metoo movement. Now, we’ve decided to share those conversations with a broader community.
Here’s what happened. At an after party to our firm’s holiday party in December 2015, a senior partner of our firm engaged in inappropriate and unacceptable behavior toward a female employee who directly reported to him. Specifically, her colleague reported that he had pinned her to a wall during the party, leaving her scared and upset. When we heard about it later that morning, we fired the senior partner by noon. It wasn’t a hard decision. It was what was right.
We offered our victimized colleague support in the aftermath of this event, including time off, counseling, and assistance in filing a police report. I, along with my partners and our director of Human Resources, made it clear that she had the full support of the firm and that if she felt there was any behavior that was in any way retaliatory towards her from either management or other staffers – or if she felt uncomfortable – she was to tell me, any of the other partners, or HR directly and we would take immediate action, because it would be as unacceptable as the initial act. We also made this clear to her co-workers. My colleague and I immediately went to St. Louis to meet with members of her team there and held a group conference call that also included our remote workers to ensure our employees knew that we supported the victim and our workers. We also reiterated our commitment to our zero tolerance policy, both for inappropriate behavior and for negative comments or retaliation. We also held one-on-one conversations with the team addressing these issues and the transition following the partner’s expulsion. Our then director of Human Resources (now elevated to Chief Human Resources Officer) checked in with our victimized colleague regularly in the days, weeks and months that followed to see how she was doing, and to ask if we could be doing more to support her. Her preference was to continue her work as usual, which she did. Months later, she chose to leave the firm. We made every effort and did not want to see her go. However, ultimately she decided to move on, so we wished her well and continue to wish her well.
Like many political consulting firms and many tech firms, our early leadership and frankly, most of our early employees, were men. In the beginning, it was just three guys working in a basement. We have grown and matured since those early days, but we always maintained a commitment to our progressive values. For years Revolution has proactively worked to increase diversity in the progressive tech space by training new organizers to expand the talent pool and seeking out women and people of color for open positions. We’ve made diversifying our staff a top priority as our firm has grown, and we’re proud that a majority of the company is now female – a big difference from our early days in the basement. A majority of new hires over the last two years have been women and people of color. At Revolution Messaging, women and people of color now include a partner, our COO, our CHRO, and the majority of our senior staff, including the senior most members of our email, advertising, graphic design, and public relations departments as well as the head of our international and West Coast office. Many of those folks advanced to those positions from more junior positions within the company, including our COO who started with us as an intern six years ago and went on to prove herself at every level to rise to COO. We are progressives through and through: we support progressive causes, we believe in progressive values, and our progressive clients teach us the value of having diverse voices around the table. Our firm will always be a work in progress, but we’re proud of our efforts.
We know we’re not perfect, but when incidents and complaints are brought to our attention, we pride ourselves on acting immediately to fix the situation, whether it means firing a senior partner or dropping a big client. We want to do what’s right when people bring complaints to our attention, because it’s right. If that means bringing in outside help, we do it. We brought in a woman-owned HR consulting firm to help us advance policy improvements and manage our growth and HR lawyers to handle investigations. We regularly conduct the HR industry’s best practice survey by asking our employees to anonymously describe Revolution’s diversity, management and how we can improve and continually use those results to drive improvements. We are pleased that most of our employees think we are on the right track, with the vast majority of staff reporting in these surveys that we have improved and are doing well on these measures, from dedication to diversity and inclusion to creating a safe work environment. We take this seriously, we always have and always will.
In light of concerns raised in the reporting of the story, and as part of our ongoing commitment to live our progressive values, we are in the process of selecting and retaining a diversity consulting firm to conduct a complete and thorough review of our practices, our culture, and every aspect of how the firm is run; and we will implement their recommendations. We have created a diversity task force made up of employees from each department, and we will provide all staff training on racial and gender discrimination and sexual harassment. We’ve elevated our female HR director to Chief Human Resources Office, elevating the role to a C-Suite position, where it belongs. And we are taking staff suggestions on changes on an ongoing basis.
We took many lessons away from the event in 2015, as we will take many lessons away from this hard look at ourselves, and we will always use these moments to challenge ourselves to live up to the progressive values we join our clients in fighting for every day.