Withdrawn and Dismissed – Kris Duggan

<<<Updated May, 2019 (information added to bottom of article identified with bold sections)>>>

In July 2017, a former female employee of BetterWorks filed a harassment lawsuit against me and BetterWorks, the company I founded. At the time, it was highly publicized in the press as another example of Silicon Valley bad behavior towards women. This was the first time for me experiencing something like this in over 20 years of my professional life.

During this process, the board of directors hired a third-party independent investigator to investigate the claim.

The findings of the investigator were that “no harassment, no sexual harassment, nor any assault or sexual assault occurred”, “no discrimination occurred”, and “no company policies were violated.” Upwards of fifteen witnesses participated in the investigation.

I am relieved to say that after a very disruptive eight months, the lawsuit has been withdrawn and ultimately dismissed. I remained as CEO during this entire process and maintained full support from the Board of Directors.

People that know me know that I care deeply about women’s issues, and that I advocate for supporting as diverse and rich an environment for driving business results as possible. I spent many years, most recently at BetterWorks, creating an open, collaborative, diverse, inclusive, respectful, considerate, and flat organization. I am proud of so many aspects of BetterWorks, including the fact that 46% of our managers are female. This is roughly double the industry average. I deeply respect women, including my wife Leah. Leah and I have committed to raising our two sons to be inclusive and respectful of all people. We are proud to see them grow up in an age where equality and sensitivity to others is paramount.

Thank you to my friends and family that supported me during this difficult time. And thank you to the numerous and wonderful female leaders with whom I’ve had the extraordinary honor to work alongside.

I have decided to move on from BetterWorks as of late 2017, in order to allow the company to flourish with new leadership and eliminate any distractions. We have hired a fantastic new CEO that will be announcing soon [Doug Dennerline], whom I am very excited about.

<<< Added May, 2019 >>>

It’s been two years since the events at BetterWorks. I thought I’d share a few pieces of information from that experience.

Email to company on my last day:

Dear BetterWorkers,

Over the last 4 years, I have enjoyed getting to know you all so much. We have had ups and down, successes and challenges, wins and losses, and learned a lot together.

As a team, we built our entrepreneurial muscle. We know how hard it is to get something off the ground and build a legacy. We also know that it takes resilience, grit, hard work, commitment, courage, and perseverance (and some luck) to make it big.  Together, we have evolved from a stand-alone goals company into a leader in the Continuous Performance Management space, a large market opportunity that literally has opened up right in front of us over the last year.

Today, I am announcing that I am going to be moving on from an operational role at the company as of this week. We are in great hands with Doug as forthcoming CEO and I couldn’t be more excited about the future of BetterWorks. I know the distractions over the summer need to be fully put behind us, and I believe that my departure will be the final step in helping BetterWorks look forward to the future, and further advance our cause to becoming the massive success that I know we can be. 

For those that have been supportive to me and the company throughout this disruptive process, thank you for your kindness and support. It means a lot. To be falsely accused in such a public manner is an experience that I hope no one here has to go through. I have always tried to create a comfortable, flat, diverse, accessible, open, transparent, collaborative, and supportive environment for all. What I have learned from the current climate is that we all need to be compassionate towards each other, respectful, and empathetic. We also need to ensure that equality, diversity, and inclusiveness are topics that continue to receive serious attention.

I love BetterWorks and will be cheering every day from the sidelines. I have some exciting projects planned for 2018 so stay tuned for that but in the meantime, you’ll find me spearfishing, traveling as a family with Leah, Colin, and Aidan, and driving my race car to prepare for my next chapter! Onward!

Your friend and founder,

Kris

Reply from one of our female employees: (I received many notes like this, but this one particularly touched me)

Hi Kris,

I am saddened to hear this news, and also resonate with every line of this email. I wanted to reach out on a personal note to say a few things:

First, it pains me to see the public accusations. We’ve worked together for years and there has not been one moment where I’ve thought you’re guilty of sexual harassment. I think all of this is extremely unfair, and you don’t deserve what’s being said about you. I hate it.

Second, I want to thank you for everything you’ve done for me throughout my career. Much of the success I had at ___ was actually because of what I got to do for ___ when I was mid level in my career. The energy you bring to [our department] ended up fueling my success!! Some of the most fun and interesting projects I’ve worked on both at ___ and BetterWorks have been thanks in part to your support and belief in [department] as a function, and me as an individual. Even your support for me joining BetterWorks ultimately allowed ___ and me to move to the Bay Area, which was a dream of ours. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me.

Lastly, and kind of bridging the two above points, I actually see you as an ally. Even in the midst of a ridiculous accusation and media scrutiny, you’ve been supportive of my life priorities (being a mom while having a career) and have been nothing but supportive of my career advancement. You have built a diverse team and you invest tons of time and energy in people (myself included). That does not go unnoticed. I will always be thankful for your support, and that we’ve had the chance to together.

While I agree with your decision to leave given the circumstances, it brings tears to my eyes. I have loved working with you, appreciate you professionally and personally, and wish you nothing but the best.

And if there is anything I’ve learned in the year… your family is most important!!! You have an awesome family and I think investing your free time with them and doing the things you love will bring you infinitely more happiness than BetterWorks ever could.

If there is anything you ever need from me, we’re here. Thanks for everything.

Sincerely,

___

Letter from the Board of Directors

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to confirm the details of Kris Duggan’s separation from BetterWorks Systems, Inc. (the “Company”).

In July 2017, a former employee of the Company filed a lawsuit against Kris and the Company.

This lawsuit was based on a claim of harassment that the former employee had previously asserted against the Company in September 2016.  Following the complaint, the Board of Directors of the Company (the “Board”) promptly performed an outside investigation of the matter, including engaging an independent investigator to review the matter.  After a thorough review by the independent investigator, the Board concluded that there was no violation of the Company’s anti-harassment, anti-discrimination or any other policies, and no disciplinary action was taken against Kris.

The lawsuit and the allegations therein were heavily covered and amplified by the press at the time.  The Board disagreed with a number of the facts and characterizations presented in the lawsuit.  The lawsuit was subsequently dismissed in January 2018.

In an effort to move beyond the negative attention from the press, Kris stepped down from his role as the CEO in July 2017 and was critical to helping secure a new CEO for the Company.  Kris resigned from the Board in March 2018 in an effort to help the Company move forward.

It has been our pleasure to work with Kris over the last four years, we thank him for everything he’s done to contribute to the Company and wish him well in his future endeavors.

Very truly yours,

Doug Dennerline

On Behalf of the Board of Directors of BetterWorks Systems, Inc.

cc: Doug Dennerline, John Doerr, Shona Brown, Jason Green

Here is a copy of the actual letter: BetterWorks Board of Directors Letter

Author: Kris Duggan

1% better every day.

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