Audiatur et altera pars

According to this old axiom, we should always listen to the other side. 

It is a matter of decorum to level the playing field so that parties can resolve conflict on an equal footing. This is why golfers play off a handicap. This applies – or at least should apply – equally in professional life. But there have recently been some extremely problematic developments in the business world.

Let’s take Vestas for example. Vestas’ chief marketing officer Morten Albæk has a self-proclaimed professional approach to business. He seems, however, to have set aside any sense of fairness in how he has handled reporting the company’s former group director Hans Jørn Rieks to the German police. 

This was apparently done without dialogue with Mr. Rieks. The report was of an undefined nature, simply alleging that there were irregularities in how Mr. Rieks had conducted his office. No when, what or how much. On top of this, it should be noted that Mr. Rieks is now European director of Siemens – Vestas’ biggest competitor.

Knowing nothing of the facts of the case, this column is not intended as an analysis of Mr. Rieks’ conduct; it is instead a criticism of Mr. Albæk’s methods, revealed by his public handling of the case.

Mr. Rieks is an individual person who has long since left Vestas. As an individual person, you leave a company without the documents to support your side of the story.

Legal representation has to be paid for from your own wallet. There is great stigma attached to having a press release about being reported to the police hanging over you. 

In corporate cases there can be years of processing time before charges are dropped or prosecution begins. Years of dispositions. Years during which the individual fights against the big company’s machinery and endless resources.  

Mr. Albæk gets failing grades, not for having reported Mr. Rieks to the police, but for doing so in a propaganda-driven, one-sided and unfair way, without warning or giving the opportunity for Mr. Rieks to comment. 

When companies attack individuals, whose ability to defend themselves is weak, it’s expected of a responsible and professional leadership that the details of the case are disclosed, also the accused’s point of view.

Audiatur et altera pars.