Strategy focused group, Ron Thomas, Tuesday with Ron

The Importance of Eliminating Bad Behavior That Damages Your Culture

In hearing a complaint from a client, the other day, I thought of a situation that I was involved in a few years back.

“Ron, you know someone needs to talk to XXX because he does not know how to talk to people. He is so rude.”

The other gentleman in my office said, “You must realize that he has worked here for seven years.

That statement changed the conversation immediately.

Everyone knew that the person he mentioned was beyond difficult to work for. It was like he had a vendetta against anyone that walked through the door. 

We have all run into these types of bosses in our careers. If you have not, my father has a favorite saying for you — “Just keep on living.”

Learning from a bad boss

I had a boss in my previous job that took pride in that approach. She was proud of the fact that when she visited one of the other offices, no one would look her in the eye because when she did show up, layoffs always followed. She simply loved the dynamic of that perception.

I have always felt that the greatest learning environment is working for a terrible boss. You get a front-row VIP seat to hypocrisy, favoritism, and fear-mongering. These types of activities undermine honesty and integrity at work. They are the trifecta of the biggest ethical problems in the workplace.

I have always felt that the post-covid back to the office mindset has caused shudders in a lot of people. They knew the workplace was toxic, microaggressions, etc.

They do not want to deal with it, especially in the new workplace.

Employees feel comprised by the day-to-day hypocrisy and broken promises they frequently see. I was involved in a situation year back where I was told by senior leadership that I would be a candidate for a top role. Very excitedly, I prepared — and prepared some more.

A little later, I got a call from a friend who is an executive head-hunter who told me that my company was going to focus on looking outside. I was told yes, that I would be in the mix to find out later that they were now going in a different direction. I learned this from an external source.

When I requested a meeting with senior leadership to get some clarification, all of a sudden, everybody was too busy to talk, and I could not get the appointment. With that, I made my decision, and I was gone within two weeks.

A manager’s word is your bond. Once you lose that and you are perceived as a person that could not be trusted, no one believes in you anymore. In my situation, the trust was broken and that could not be repaired. In hindsight, it was the best career move I ever made.

Hypocrisy and favoritism lurking around

Hypocrisy and favoritism are detrimental factors that will ignite a troubled workplace. But they are not the sole province of leadership because they can also come from employees and departments within the organization.

This was a finding that caught my eye when I was reviewing turnover metrics because the numbers were creeping up, and there was considerable churn within the company. Once I started digging down into the turnover metrics, it became apparent that the driving force for our company turnover was in one department. That department was run by a manager who would not step up and manage. His departmental No. 2 was full of hypocrisy and favoritism and wore them like a badge.

He was completely out of control and he was just a first-level manager.

Once we addressed that situation, the turnover numbers stabilized. The point is we always pair leadership with bad behavior, but in the right atmosphere, this can permeate an entire organization.

Setting the wrong tone in Your Workplace

Like cancer, if not treated, bad behavior will spread rapidly through the organization. When employers play favorites or look the other way on some questionable behavior, they are doing more harm than they realize in what is an already ethically challenged society. Yes, they are setting a clear tone of unethical leadership within an organization.

Like actors, some will emulate that ethically challenged profile and play it to Oscar-worthy performances. In grade school, it was called being the “teacher’s pet.” Once, someone felt that they plowed through everyone else with the force of an out-of-control car.

These types of situations are the root causes of dysfunction in the workplace. The focus of a business will always be the bottom line, however, creating a fertile work environment should also take center stage because there is a direct connection between the bottom line and the organization’s work environment.

Listen closely to your troops

I’m not talking about the perks we read about from Google or Facebook. I’m talking about an incubator that creates a workforce environment that is stress-free, collaborative, and, most of all, free from all the self-serving foolishness that goes on in all-too-many organizations.

As you take a culture audit of your workplace, listen closely to the voices of your troops. They are on the front line and can help target the miscreants that make everybody’s work life miserable.

This will take more than a mission/value/culture statement because words on a document mean nothing unless everybody buys in. Let the miscreants know that you will not tolerate their bad behavior for a second, regardless of their rank.

After a few of these are met head-on, the word will trickle down, and your workforce will love you for it.

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