After nearly a week’s worth of stories about the departure of chief creative officer Joe Alexander amid a series of sexual harassment claims, the leadership of The Martin Agency issued an all-staff memo today promising to “get better.”
The note, written by CEO Matt Williams and president and COO Beth Rilee-Kelley of the Richmond, Va., agency, also clarifies that Alexander was forced out by leadership, rather than resigning by choice as he told Adweek.
“The past year has revealed some painful but important truths about workplaces all over America,” the all-staff note reads. “Now it’s happened here.”
It continues: “We’re deeply sorry that any of you ever felt unsafe or unheard. The behavior that Martin’s former CCO, Joe Alexander, is accused of is inexcusable. That’s why the only alternative was for him to leave The Martin Agency. That decision was ours.”
After calling recent news reports “jarring and hurtful” and predicting more such articles to come, Williams and Rilee-Kelley call the reports “a painful wake-up call” and promise to institute specific practices including workplace conduct training, an official code of conduct review and an “anonymous feedback form” for employees to “track our progress.”
Earlier today, Alexander spoke to local TV station CBS 6, providing the same statement he gave Adweek and asking the station to “refrain from reporting based on rumors that are damaging to me, my family and my friends at Martin.”
Alexander did not directly dispute any of the specific details in Adweek’s report beyond stating, “The allegations you are reporting on are false. All of them.”
Here is the memo in full:
The past year has revealed some painful but important truths about workplaces all over America. It’s clear that the environment women have too often silently endured is one nobody should have to tolerate.
Now it’s happened here. We’re deeply sorry that any of you ever felt unsafe or unheard.
The behavior that Martin’s former CCO, Joe Alexander, is accused of is inexcusable. That’s why the only alternative was for him to leave The Martin Agency. That decision was ours.
There’s been some frustration about the language we used to talk about Joe’s exit. We get it. Let us be clear: we chose our words to protect the anonymity of the person who came forward. She deserves that.
The recent articles have been jarring and hurtful. We felt it too. And there may be more articles and details to come. But as disturbing as they are, the details aren’t the heart of the matter here. The heart of the matter is that people in our company felt unsafe and unheard.
We’ve had a painful wake up call. And we’ve heard it.
Of course, we’re doing the basics.
Tomorrow we begin department meetings to review the sexual harassment policy.
On December 18th, the EC and Department Heads will go through workplace conduct training.
In January, we’ll be rolling out Unconscious Bias training and Workplace Conduct Training for the entire agency.
And in March we’ll have our annual Code of Conduct review.
But this time calls for more than the basics. We’re committed to building an accountable and transparent workplace. So we’ll use Tiny Pulse, an anonymous feedback platform rolling out in January, to track our progress on categories like safe place to work, inclusive workplace, diversity and morale, in real time. And we’ll share that feedback at every step, so you can hold us accountable. Where we’re falling short, we’ll work to get better.
We know it can be hard to come forward when you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. The IPG hotline is always available. And if you’re not comfortable with the hotline, in the next month we’ll be providing other ways for you to share how you’re feeling.
We’re also going to reach out to our peers in the industry to start a new conversation about how we can all get better. One that goes beyond talk to create tangible things we can do to make create positive change.
One or both of us will be in the gallery all day tomorrow to talk about anything that’s on your mind. We want to hear from you.
This has been a sobering, sad, frustrating moment of reflection for us. It’s a moment that will last far beyond the painful events of the last few days. And one we promise not to waste.
–Matt and Beth