Prairie State Wire

Prairie State Wire

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Report: Hickey offers Ill. Speaker’s Office workplace culture feedback, recommendations

State Government

By Rich Peters | Aug 31, 2019

Madigan
House Speaker Michael Madigan | Wikimedia

Editor's Note: After more than a year of outside investigation, a report has been released surrounding claims of sexual harassment and overall workplace cultural issues within the Illinois House of Representatives, Office of the Speaker. This is Part 6 of a report on the 202-page document.

As part of her investigation, Maggie Hickey and her Schiff Hardin LLP investigative team sought to learn about the Speaker’s Office’s workplace culture, identify any issues and recommend ways to address any issues.

Hickey and her team interviewed over 100 members of the Capitol workplace, including more than 80 current or former members of the Speaker’s Office. These members included workers on the Speaker’s staff and in the Clerk’s Office as well as more than 12 representatives from the Democratic Caucus. The investigative team also reviewed thousands of pages of documents – including memoranda, personnel files, emails, social-media websites, the Speaker’s Office’s policies and procedures, and relevant Illinois law.

“Overall, most people spoke positively of their experiences working in the Speaker’s Office and in the Capitol workplace,” the review states. “But many also conceded that the workplace culture has unique challenges and struggles. In the Speaker’s Staff, for example, high turnover yields inexperienced workers and a continuous need for training. Specifically, in the Clerk’s Office, many workers expressed that they felt undervalued … many people criticized former Chief of Staff Timothy Mapes for, in their view, purposefully creating an environment that used fear to motivate people.”

Hickey highlighted several times throughout the report that during the interviews a number of witnesses – workers of different categories throughout the House – expressed the similar concern that Mapes inflicted the fear of being publicly ridiculed, fear of losing their job and fear of losing future job opportunities.

“Mr. Mapes held substantial actual and perceived authority over the lives of the people in the Speaker’s Office, the Democratic Caucus, and the Capitol workplace overall,” reads the report. “Mr. Mapes used fear to motivate. Whether he intended it or not, many workers said that Mr. Mapes caused them to believe that they were easily replaceable, and therefore, they made sure not to make waves, even if they would have had workplace harassment concerns that they believed warranted attention.”

While Hickey also several times highlights the positive feedback she received from many workers that she interviewed, the one common theme among all of the negative feedback was the overwhelming feeling of being expendable. This played a major part in the fear of coming forward with allegations as well as the fear of standing behind the accusers. That instilled fear is the root of the workplace culture that brought on the investigation after decades of misconduct.

“Just as many of the workplace issues overlap, so do the corresponding recommendations,” concluded Hickey’s workplace review in the report. “Efforts to incorporate one recommendation will also help incorporate other recommendations. For example, workers frequently expressed their view that they were undervalued by the Speaker’s Office. If the Speaker’s office provides workers with clear job descriptions and then evaluates their performance based on those job descriptions that will go a long way toward improvement. Workers who understand what is required of them can aim toward those benchmarks. Management can then provide workers with consistent feedback regarding their ability to meet those benchmarks during, at minimum, annual performance evaluations. These performance evaluations—done correctly—take time and effort that have previously been spent on other, important activities. This opportunity cost is a worthwhile investment in the workforce. Workers who receive this investment will be incentivized to improve their work product and raise any genuine concerns—including harassment issues—that can lead to improvements in the workplace.”

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