Time to move on

Too many school bullies wait for their parents to move to a new school district before they become the nice boys and girls they have long wanted to be.

Some jerks in our organizations are waiting for the same “opportunity”.

Give it to them.

That donut sure looks yummy

We all know someone who carries an unhealthy amount of excess weight. Despite all the warnings from the media, doctors and loved ones, they don’t change their habits. And then, inevitably, a health crisis hits and they are forced to change.

A similar thing happens in an organization with a poor culture. Despite all the warnings from the media, ethics officers and employees, they don’t change how they do things. And then, inevitably, a compliance crisis hits and they are forced to change.

Yes, that jelly donut looks yummy. Yes, that jerk of a CEO drives profit.

Is it our life’s mission to eat donuts or promote jerks?

Surely we can do better.

The jerks we protect

Is there someone you work with that is so toxic that if they were to be fired you would feel compelled to thank leadership for getting rid of them?

If so, why wait to speak up? If you truly feel that leadership would welcome your thanks after the fact, rest assured that they would prefer that you speak up now before it gets worse.

(And it’s fine to do it anonymously)

Two key steps to realign your culture

The company Workday is ranked #7 on Forbes’ Best Companies to Work For this year.

When the company was founded in 2005, its leaders decided to create an employee-centric organization, banking on the intuitive notion that happy employees do what’s best for the customers.

As the company grew, its leadership noticed that not all managers and employees were living by the stated values. Culture was heading in the wrong direction. In response, they did two things:

  • Created new processes to realign the culture (remember: culture is an outcome of your processes);
  • Separated top performers who didn’t play nicely with the other boys and girls.

Most leaders still do not understand the process-driven nature of culture. And most leaders don’t have the guts to terminate top-performing jerks, especially when business is bad.

But if you can do these two things, you can turn your culture around.


“He’s a mad dog!”

“She’s a bully!”

“He’s a snake!”

When we see people out of control, we often compare them to animals. That’s because we know that humans, unlike animals, have the ability to reason. We can choose not to surrender our reason to our passions.

The jerks in the office – those who constantly yell, pound the table, denigrate others – have lost control of their human ability to reason. They mistake their weakness for strength. They behave like dangerous animals. People around them spend their time trying to stay safe rather than taking risks and innovating.

Jerks don’t get more out of people. They are a drag on your business. Fire them and reap two benefits: less drag on your business and more drag on the competitor they join.

Facing reality

According to Harvard University expert Ronald Feiftez, “the role of a leader is to help people face reality and to mobilize them to make a change.”

Many business leaders fail at this because they speak of a change without an accurate description of reality.

Let’s say your organization has faced several cases of harassment. The leader stands up and says “We have seen poor behavior recently and we need to change. We need people to respect each other and communicate better. A respectful workplace is conducive to better performance, which is good for everyone.”

That’s not facing reality. Yes, there has been poor behavior. But why? That’s what needs to be discussed. The people listening to the leader know that it’s partly because of the emotional and financial pressures put on employees. New hires are not qualified, compensation is not adequate and incentivizes shortcuts, jerks are promoted, etc. So when the leader paints a beautiful picture of a harmonious workplace but doesn’t acknowledge the root cause of today’s daub, no one is inspired.

Leaders must face reality first if they want to help others do the same. That’s how change is made possible.

Performance tax

The jerk we don’t fire.

The metrics distracting from the real work.

The third approval on an expense requisition.

The sales bonus that’s not in the best interest of the customer.

Communications focused on “what” and “how” but not on “why”.

They all impose a tax.

On our compliance.

On our business.

On our culture.