The Effects of Scandal on Corporate Culture

By: Stephanie Wachman
The sudden fall of a growing number of the entertainment industry’s top figures like Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly and Charlie Rose following allegations about their harassment of women has led many organizations to revisit their corporate culture.
The sudden fall of so many big names and the thousands across the United States in business and in government who have fallen in their wake, for the same or similar allegations, have led to an intense spotlight on the internal cultures of companies and organizations in the entertainment world and in government that ignored, facilitated and covered up the level of harassment in the workplace.
It seems that while many have known what was going on, in some cases for years, there have been many who were too afraid to speak out against these behaviors.   In truth, there probably have been many who – upon witnessing or hearing about an incident – remained quiet believing that nothing could be done, or, even worse, said nothing for fear of retribution.  In fact Time magazine recently released it’s 2017 person of the year and named the brave women who spoke up as this year’s     Person Of The Year.
This led me to thinking about corporate culture in general and why employees when seeing something going on that is clearly wrong may be afraid or reluctant to speak up. Breakdowns in trust and fear of retribution in the workplace are not uncommon and can show up in ways other than harassment such as lower pay for women, lack of transparency in decision-making, not following through on commitments and undermining and overriding personal contributions.  These can all lead to levels of mistrust, which, if allowed to, can embed and result in, a weakening of corporate culture.  
Most organizations have worked very hard on their value and mission statements.  Core values support the vision and shape the culture of a company and are the principles, beliefs or philosophy that is at its essence.  Corporate values need to be the benchmark and backbone of an organization and be used as a filter to make tough decisions.
When organizations don’t abide and contradict their own values it’s sends a negative message and results in a breakdown in trust. It not only leads to employees who are uneasy and unable to speak their minds or call out questionable behavior, it can lead to contempt, anger, stress and disengagement, none of which speak well for any company nor contributes to its success- organizations are only as good as it’s people.
Ensuring a culture built on trust:
Businesses, firms and other organizations have every reason and advantage to lead the way in creating a positive work environment.
Company leadership should ask themselves….. What is really going on in the culture?  Is there a free-flowing movement of information? Do we trust one another? Are there checks and balances on behavior? Do we live our values? Do all staff adhere to our values and mission? Or is it just those lower down the tree of authority? Do rules apply to everyone? And are they enforced and reinforced? Does everyone know what the company values are? Just as they know the mission and vision?  Are there reasonable open and transparent processes for addressing issues? Is trust strong? Or so fragile it does not exist?
The answers to these questions and many more like them, may provide clues to the health of your culture.
The answers may also reveal just how strong and positive your company culture truly is. With good transparent practises, strong relationships built on trust between leadership and direct reports, open communication and an adherence to the values, can result in a strong and sustainable culture even in the wake of change and challenges.
The current spotlight on culture in the media and in government can be used as a catalyst to take a deep look at the strength of your culture and the quality of your relationships.  Are your leaders trained in how to have open conversations, are they “Conversationally Intelligent™?
As my teacher, Judith Glaser states, “For an organization to flourish depends on the quality of the culture, which depends on the quality of relationships, which depends on the quality of conversations. Everything happens through conversations that are built on a foundation of trust.”
There are many ways for leaders to learn how to build and maintain a culture based on trust, if you are ready to take the next step, send me an email and we can begin the “conversation”.
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