Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Culture of Criticism – Part 2

In last week’s article, I told the story of a company that prided itself on being a great place to work; where employees felt valued and where the employees were encouraged to learn and grow on the job. Only something had changed. Profits were down, turnover was on the rise, and the CEO was becoming aware of a problem in the organization.

How did a really great company, one with a high level of employee engagement and a hotbed of creativity, turn into a company where employees merely put in their time each day, where criticism was the normal mode of communication, and where the employees actively avoided talking to their managers?

A few years earlier, the CEO had begun an active program to “upgrade her leadership team” and had started by hiring a new CFO from outside of the organization. He had all the skills required for the job and seemed like a good match. He quickly became a leader in the organization; not just because of his title, but because of the influence he had on all kinds of decisions being made. People knew that he had the ear of the CEO and was part of the future of the organization. When Bob spoke, people listened.

With the downturn in the economy, Bob had made “necessary” cuts to the training and development budget, just to help get through the downturn. He had convinced HR that they needed to be more concerned about legal issues and less about that “touchy feely stuff,” turning them from a “human development” organization into a legal compliance organization. And he had insisted upon accountability from all departments, which sounds good until you realize that to him “accountability” and “blame” were interchangeable.

The transformation did not happen immediately but over a period of close to a year. Of course, some of the more perceptive employees recognized the changes as soon as they began to happen and quickly, and quietly, left the organization. When these employees left, they not only took their talents and skills but also their leadership abilities, positive attitudes, and historical knowledge.

In other words, when these people left they took the foundation of the company with them. The best employees are always the first to recognize when things have changed and these employees always have options to go elsewhere.

If we pause for a moment, we might ask this simple question….

If these really were the best employees, why did they give up so easily? Why didn’t they fight to keep the organization in tact? Why didn’t they go to the CEO and let her know what was happening to her organization?

The short answer is that they did. They worked for a great company and they knew it. They did not want to let it go without a fight, but when they approached the CEO about their concerns, they were countered by the new CFO who had her ear and downplayed the loss of a few, easily replaceable staff members.

Where do we go from here? How does a once great organization reinvent itself again, regain the trust of their employees, and instill a sense of employee engagement?

We will discuss that in our 3rd installment on this issue next week.

At ECI Learning Systems LLC, we are dedicated to helping companies get the greatest return from their most valuable asset: their employees. We work with you to align 3 key organizational factors:
• Your Company Culture
• The Leadership Styles of your key managers
• The Expectations of your Employees

When these 3 factors are aligned, you create an energy in your company that improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, increases creativity, and positively impacts your bottom line. Contact ECI Learning Systems LLC today to get your free Workplace Evaluation.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning, LLC

1 comment:

  1. Dave,

    This is a good reminder for leaders to listen. I have seen this play out in organizations where a new player came in, and in short order the talent began to leave.

    The lesson for leaders at the top is to listen. When someone from deep in the ranks comes to you, it is not frivolous. They are literally risking their career to help you. You may need to seek verification and you may need to look deeper but you can't ignore it.

    Looking forward to part III