The Fifty Shades of Grey Corporate Opportunity

Whether or not you’re one of the more than 100 million owners of the book Fifty Shades of Grey or have contributed to the record breaking opening ticket sales of the movie, the chances of you experiencing or witnessing a change in behaviour of someone you know because of their attraction to Fifty Shades of Grey is probably very high. The fact that hundreds of millions of people around the globe have been swept away by the Grey phenomenon means that if you’re not one of the fans, you probably know one.

Now this post isn’t about taking a knock at Fifty Shades of Grey, while based on all of the reviews, protests, petitions against it, this would seemingly be really easy to do. Nor is it about judging you for either being a fan or not. It is, however, about the impact a global hit of this nature could have in the workplace.

Most organisations, and indeed all worthy ones, have a set of values that they live, work and operate by. These values provide a framework for engaging with employees, customers, suppliers and stakeholders while also being a significant influencer on company culture. Organisational values form a strong foundation for sustaining and growing a business which is why vast resources are ploughed into the creation, implementation and inculcation of these values within the entire workforce. Companies that get it right will hire and fire based on the values of the organisation; and ensures that decision making and actions are always aligned to their values.

Now if values are that important to an organisation, then it makes sense to invest some time in considering and preparing for possible repercussions a production like Fifty Shades of Grey will have on this value set. Certainly it would be naïve to assume that every person that engages with the book or the movie will come away having their personal values negatively impacted, however, by that same token it will be naïve to assume that every single person will come away unaffected. In fact there are many that will be impacted and moved to such an extent that they will change many of their behaviours instantaneously to mimic the lead characters of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey.

The fact that the Grey phenomenon is so widespread shows strong attraction to this fantasy world, a world in which respect for women is non-existent, where integrity does not feature, where teamwork is replaced by control and domination over the weak and vulnerable. And while this movie is aimed at the bedroom (or dungeon) they impact the whole person; and anyone subscribing or buying into this proposed way of living will inevitably bring traces of this back into the workplace. This means that values such as integrity, honesty, respect, humility and teamwork could be tested in the months and years to come.

In fact if we look at the role that Steele plays in this movie, she is a physically, emotionally, psychologically abused women who submits to her abuser because he is physically attractive and wealthy (and completely manipulative). If this persona is attractive to the women that watch the movie, then it puts at risk the diversity, leadership, focus, strength and determination we expect of the future female leaders in business.

And as for Grey, if the role of being mentally, emotionally and physically abusive, selfish and manipulative is appealing to the male viewer, then these traits will no doubt slowly make its ways into the workplace too. And if it does you could see an increase in sexual harassment cases (because the lines have become blurry), aggressiveness, arrogance and putting self ahead of team.

While this seems like the worst case scenario, and will occur few and far between or hopefully not at all, organisations should remain aware and vigilant and take this opportunity to proactively communicate and revive their values campaigns within the organisation. There is the other option which is to do nothing at all, but years from now when you’re trying to figure out what caused the negative shift in company culture, think back to this article and go ahead and kick yourself for not taking simple and meaningful action now.

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