If you’re like, me, you’ve been watching the recent ‘outing’ of sexual harassment cases of major celebrities and executives with, I’m sure, some very personal thoughts. Whether this is a tipping point of the relationship between the sexes I’m not sure, but clearly workplace dynamics have fundamentally been impacted and there’s a lesson for us all.
I had the pleasure of working with a wonderful organization (approximately 125 employees) which had one superstar that had risen through the ranks and was a wildly successful employee. This was a top biller in the company who had a long history of successful relationships with clients, but they were caustic on many levels. Although not sexual harassment, what they provided was a never-ending cycle of verbal abuse against their fellow employees and a demeaning style to all that worked underneath them.
The firm allowed this to go on for years because it never seemed to get to that ‘tipping point’. Fellow employees just figured that this was the way it was, and we were all afraid to rock the boat. We all knew it was wrong, but no one wanted to be the first to raise their hand and really make a stink about it.
One company party had this employee show up drunk, get up onstage in the midst of a comedian’s routine, and rant and rave saying what a lousy job he was doing and trying to get him thrown off the dais. It was the scene that we all think of where someone walks around the holiday party, sloshed and with a lampshade on their head. Almost a cliché!
Well, the executives of the firm huddled the next morning and let this person go. What was feared might happen (i.e. losing clients and a significant chunk of business) never happened. There was a small dip in revenues for a short period of time, but more importantly we all felt this breath of fresh air among us. The company had drawn a line in the sand and acted on it. They weren’t willing to stand for this case of plain bad behavior.
Let me be clear. This was a great organization with a wonderful work ethic and the company really cared about doing the right thing. A bad apple had crept into the fold and it made us all wonder if the importance that we placed on doing the right thing was real, or just more company ‘blah, blah, blah’.
Culture matters. It’s critical in clarifying what we stand for and it’s fundamental to ensuring that we get the right people on board. That is, people who really ‘fit’ within the culture that we’re trying to create and to grow.
As you go through your planning process and deciding who should stay, who should grow, and who should go… we should ask ourselves the following four questions.
- If I could do it all over again, would I rehire this person?
- Do they take my stress away?
- How would I feel if they quit?
- What if everyone in my business was just like them?
As you answer these questions for each and every member on your team (leadership or otherwise), make it a new year’s resolution to get more stars on board. You’ll be a happier leader, have a ton less stress and you’ll have a better company for the decision.