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Monday, 9 April 2012

Having Culture Problems? It’s the Job of the CEO to Drive it Into the Business!

A recent discussion with one of my Vistage Group members brought to light an issue which regularly surfaces and is perhaps one of the hardest to solve.

In essence this particular problem involved two valued employees who had been with the company for a total of 50 years and who had seriously contravened Health and Safety regulations which the company takes extremely seriously.

What made the situation worse was that their line manager, also a long serving employee, defended them and effectively said that as it was a “one-off” happening, it could be overlooked in this case.

In another case, the Vistage member had instituted Drug and Alcohol policies which were transmitted to all the staff with the warning that any contravention would be taken seriously as Health and Safety considerations could be compromised.

After a random drug test, one of the best (wouldn’t you know) employees failed and was warned a to his future conduct.  He was tested again after six weeks, failed again and was subsequently dismissed.

The problem in both these cases was a level of indecision intruding into the situation simply because of the past records (as far as they knew) and because some very dangerous words had been inserted into the Policy document.

They were “at the discretion” which meant that a coach and horses could be driven through the policy by managers not wanting to lose a valued member of staff.

I have said on many an occasion that the definition of the culture of a company is the province of the Chief Executive and he/she is the one to drive in into business.  The culture is based on values which are, or certainly should be, immutable.

How can there be any compromise in honesty, integrity, commitment, communication and so on which are the bedrock of the values which underpin the culture?  How, then, does one deal with situations like those above?

The problem is that taking a generous view of the incidents and giving the miscreants a second chance undermines any policy never mind the culture and the values of the business.

Moreover, it could be seen by others in the business as a green light to behave in the same way.

This all sounds like taking a very tough approach to misdemeanours but it must be remembered that contravention of Health and Safety/Drug and Alcohol policies can not only be potentially dangerous but could also contribute to a relaxed approach to their compliance.

So how to deal with the two problems?  In both cases there was a disciplinary meeting and it was decided that dismissal was the only option.   That would maintain the values of the company and send a message out to say that contravention would not be tolerated.

Terrorists are members of staff who a great performers but have a bad attitude; in both these cases we had good performers with bad behaviour which is slightly different but just as difficult to manage.

Who ever said it was an easy job being a leader?

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