True story: Leaders Behaving Badly in a Values-Based Culture. Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent…
Me: “You need to address his behavior. If it doesn’t change, we need to let him go. He’s a bully. <Gives examples.> He creates a toxic environment, and goes against the values and behaviors we said we expect from our leaders.”
Executive Leader (EL): “We can’t run the risk of pissing him off or losing him. He has a few big deals coming in. And his clients love him.”
Me: “I understand that. And yet his behavior with his colleagues is unacceptable and against our values. It causes our employees to lose productivity, which has cost implications. Not to mention it’s just wrong.”
EL: “There is just too much risk to our revenue if we lose him.”
Me: “We’re also risking revenue by not addressing it. His colleagues on the sales team don’t want to work on deals with him, and their productivity drops when he’s involved.”
EL: “I know he can be a jerk, but they need to look past that.”
Me: “So what we’re saying is that we’ll accept his behavior, even if it’s against our values, and that others have to get over it.”
EL: “We have to. He’s too important to the company.”
Me: “We don’t have to. And I advise you not to. And to be clear, this impacts YOUR credibility — you can’t talk about building a values-based culture and have people buy-in if you let this continue.”
EL: “I’ll think about it.”
EL: <🦗🦗🦗><That would be crickets.>
We all have examples of Leaders Behaving Badly. Manipulating. Shaming. Bullying. (Oh, the bullying!) Harassing. Creating a toxic environment.
But too often, executives won’t address it, even if they espouse a values-based culture. Why?
Because the Leader Behaving Badly is a rainmaker. Or great with clients. Or an industry expert. Or has some super special knowledge. Etc., etc., etc.
The executives are afraid to do anything about the behavior because they worry about the impact on financials.
⇨ But those financials ARE impacted by letting it continue. ⇦
The irony (or maybe not, it’s pretty obvious) is that if the behavior is addressed, people notice. And they say “Hey, they mean what they say about those values.” And engagement and productivity go up.
It’s pretty simple: If you’re espousing a values-based culture, don’t let your leaders be a**holes. If you do, the failure of your culture initiative is on you.
I’d love to hear about your experience. Have you witnessed this story? How did it end?
Image by Sammy-Sander from Pixabay