Earlier this week, members of the New Orleans Saints organization, including head coach Sean Payton, faced fines and suspensions for their involvement in a bounty program that offered rewards for knocking opposing players out of the game.

As an HR professional, there’s a critical lesson to be learned from Payton’s mistakes. For one, Payton’s year-long suspension wasn’t just for the illegal bounty program. What ticked off the league even more were his efforts to cover it up and deny his involvement.

The same goes for the workplace. It’s bad enough when your organization does the wrong thing. Even worse is trying to cover it up, or simply sticking your head in the sand in the hopes no one will notice.

After all, if your head’s buried in the sand, guess what part of your anatomy isn’t covered?

Example: Joan comes to HR, complaining that her coworker, Roger, keeps harassing her, and she doesn’t feel comfortable working around him anymore. Roger’s always been a standout employee, and Joan’s accusations don’t quite add up. Should you simply ignore Joan’s complaints, in the hopes that the matter resolves itself? Or worse, tell Joan to keep her complaints to herself?

Of course not. That’s a perfect way to find yourself on the wrong side of a lawsuit.

Learn from Payton’s mistakes. If you find out about some form of wrongdoing in your organization, own up to it as soon as possible. Even if the consequences are likely to be bad, the backlash from inaction or trying to cover it up will be exponentially worse.

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