At a time when so many companies are struggling to simply keep the lights on and stay afloat and many employees are grateful to still have a paycheck, this may seem like an odd time to be talking about workplace culture.
However, I believe this is actually the perfect time to be having this conversation — and for corporate leaders to be paying even more attention to the foundation of any workplace culture: ethics, respect, and inclusion.
Over the next 12 months, amid numerous rounds of layoffs, we’ll hear many stories where businesses failed to operate with ethics, respect, and inclusion. We’ll hear about financial misreporting to make numbers look better than they really are or conflicts of interest as people get desperate and focus on self-preservation.
We’ll also hear about a failure of respect where business leaders prioritize business needs at the expense of the health and psychological safety of their employees who helped build the business. And, lastly, we’ll have a heyday in stories about exclusion where the “in-group” gets even more powerful and the “out-group” gets more marginalized.
These dynamics are not specific to any one business. It’s just what happens when the going gets tough and an organization lacks strong norms and practices. We just need to look at the dot.com bomb 20 years ago to see the same pattern of failures in ethics, respect, and inclusion.
Hard times define you
These are early days yet and we already have horror stories; business leaders insisting their employees continue to work at meat packing plants — despite thousands of coronavirus cases — and US state governors denying unemployment benefits to workers who are too fearful to return
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