Lessons From The UK: How the Hugging Culture at Work Can Force The CEO to Resign?

source: Wikimedia Commons

Ray Kelvin, the founder, and CEO of the British luxury clothing Ted Baker has resigned his position following allegations of misconduct at the workplace, including ''forced hugging."

In an official press release Monday, the company confirmed Kelvin's departure, highlighting on its immediate effect. Since December 2018, Kelvin had been on voluntary leave after the staff's allegations of harassment went viral. 

Earlier last year, numerous Ted Baker's employees signed an online petition revealing that Kelvin had the habit to stroke people's necks and to discuss his sex life in public with his team members. 

One of the signatories confirmed he once saw him asking a young female colleague to sit on his knee, cuddle him, and let him massage her ears. When the anonymous witness raised the issue with the HR, he/she was told "that's just what Ray's like.''

The Ted Baker's employees posted their petition on the platform Organise which is famous for running workplace-specific campaigns. Since it went online in December 2017, more than 300 people, either current or former Ted Baker's team members, and brand's clients signed. 

They raised a voice to demand an end of the hugging practice and an improved internal system of reporting harassment allegations. The signatories also accused Kelvin in ''inappropriate touching'', pointing out that the current corporate culture leaves harassment unchallenged.

In his turn, Ted Baker confirmed that hugs were part of the company's culture, referring to the personal character of Ray Kelvin, who tended to greet people he was meeting with a hug, be they shareholders, investors, suppliers or colleagues. However, the company stated the hugs were not required. 

Kelvin declines all the allegations for inappropriate behavior in the office. The outcome of a third-party investigation on the issue and on Ted Baker's policy on handling sexual harassment complaints is due by the end of June.

Ray Kelvin,64, founded the brand Ted Baker in 1988 in Glasgow. He never wanted to be the face of the company, so he named it Ted Baker, a name he heard in a random conversation. Kelvin who has been avoiding media attention ever since can be rarely photographed without a prop to cover half of his face. 

Nowadays, the brand is world famous, having 500 outlets across the globe. In 2011, the Queen appointed Kelvin Commander of the Order of the British Empire, an honor one rank lower than a knighthood, for his contributions to the fashion industry. 

Have you ever witnessed a similar hugging culture at your workplace? Do you think it should be forbidden?