First, I want to say thank you for investing some time into this subject matter. Integrity is a term that is common in many arenas.
Purpose: My purpose is to provide readers with information, insight, links, and more to help add to their leadership toolkit. There is a lot of jargon thrown around these days about what makes a good leader. I think one key fundamental value that is overlooked is integrity. Integrity is defined by Meridian Webster at
Process: My intention is for this forum to be a place for people to voice ideas on integrity. I also strive for people to share not only real life examples of when integrity was properly utilized as a model for good behavior but also examples of when ignoring integrity led to harsh consequences or failure. The purpose of the latter is to be a learning tool of what not to do. As leaders we are constantly having to adapt and change. I want people to be able to open up with confidence for feedback when situations arise. We all have a wealth of knowledge to share. This can be through statements, memes, stories, quotes, or anything that can constructively make someone into a stronger leader. The world is constantly changing. We need to reflect on what it takes to build strong bonds with those we lead.
I believe without integrity the bond between a leader and follower is easily broken. Here are a couple memes to highlight a few basic integrity tips.
Both of these highlight integrity yet give two different viewpoints. The big idea is that in order to act with integrity, one needs to have a firm grasp of their values. It also means putting self-interest aside for the better of the whole.
In looking at the business realm, the term “ethics” is used a lot. Ethics has a reputation for being a norm or expectation that is a guideline from an outside source. For example, society believes telling the truth is ethical. If someone tells the truth because it is expected that is acting ethically. Someone telling the truth because it is a core trait can be described as acting with integrity.
Who is welcome: Anyone looking to add value to the page. This is a positive space. The more the merrier. I challenge people to look to expand the people involved to add viewpoints on topics. Also, there is too much information these days for a few people to wade through. I look for this page to be like a vast library full of books as opposed to a personal collection that suits a small number of people. We can all learn from each other.
Reflection: I believe one needs to act with integrity as a result of self-accountability. I propose people share personal reflection on what integrity means to them. This will help others to apply those ideas to themselves. For example, one core value I try to demonstrate in my leadership approach is fairness. I believe fairness if often most apparent when it is absent. We think back to when we were kids in school how there was the “teachers pet” that seemed to get special treatment. This leads to dissention and friction. I believe this concept of favoritism is inherent in most group settings, but a leader needs to do his or her best to minimize this idea. This idea is usually held by those who are not meeting expectations or do not want to take accountability for their actions. It is a way to justify their shortcomings. A leader needs to hold all those they lead to the same standard. If two people act in the same way, the result should be the same. This allows the leader to gain respect from the followers.
Goal: The end goal is for people to build a solid foundation of integrity. This will require people to keep an open mind to the views and opinions of others. We manage people that have views different from us. By learning to work with people who disagree with us or have a different opinion it will allow us to use those same skills in the workplace. Almost every industry has a leadership structure to some degree. Presidents, vice presidents, managers, teachers, owners, captains, and of course parents are all valued as a part of this process. The idea is there is no wrong answer or idea. I welcome people sharing their success stories to inspire others to never stop growing.
So far on my blogs, I have given a lot of examples of how behavior and values of an individual should be aligned to be acting with integrity. There is a conflict when our values differ from another’s values. This can be a significant value or behavior or a discrete difference. So far, I have given examples of integrity related to an individual. This deals with when an individual acts in line with or contradictory to his or her values. This likely will follow one from job to job. A successful leader is reliant on a strong following. This is different than someone getting leadership merely from title. When we think of a large organization, usually a direct supervisor or manager has a more significant impact on an individual than a director, owner, or corporate leader. The latter play a part, but the leader one sees all the time has more opportunities to make an impact; positive or negative. A problem may come when one individual’s values differ from another. The individual may believe he or is she is acting with integrity due to following one’s values, but the other person may believe the individual lacks integrity because the behaviors do not match the other’s behaviors. This creates a dilemma for the leader. Who’s values matter more? I have a Ted talk I found to hit this idea right on the mark(Galef, 2016).
I want to propose that over the last 25 years, this has become more prevalent in politics. I am not looking to get into a big debate on this idea, but use it as an example. For that reason, I will stick with generic criteria. A political figure (state, federal, local, etc) may follow their own agendas after election. This may match or not match what they campaigned on. Regardless, the politician may believe he or she is doing the “right thing”. Of course, this opinion will vary from person to person. For example, lets say Politician A believes in idea XYZ. For simplicity, we will assume the Politician also campaigned in support of idea XYZ. He or she may be acting with self integrity if the behavior matches the individual value. Civilian A also believes in idea XYZ. As a result, Civilian A may believe that politician A is acting with integrity. Civilian B is strongly against idea XYZ. Civilian B likely will have a view that Politician A lacks integrity. This difference between Civilian A and Civilian B shows that the same action can have different impacts. We see this in business as well. This can create a lot of stress or uncertainty for a leader. This becomes especially difficult if a personal value contradicts company culture. The question becomes, which value should a leader follow, self or others?
We all come from different walks of life. We have different backgrounds, beliefs, life experiences, religious beliefs, ideas for a company’s future, and more. The bigger the group, the higher probability for a difference in values, big or small. This is often why a decision by a leader(s) will not have absolute acceptance. This also is the reason we have different types on leadership. In a dictatorship, a leader can follow one’s own values. This can have a high amount of opposition. In a true democracy, the idea is that the majority view will win out. The reason I bring this up is I suggest in a dictatorship, a leader is more prone to follow self values. In a democracy, a leader is more likely to follow others values. I propose that it is important for an individual to have a very firm grasp of the environment the business or entity possesses. This is not an all or nothing. As we know, there are “dictators” that keep public interest as a focus and “democratic” leaders that pursue self interest once in charge. This can be applied to any group. Below is a post (Daskal, 2018) that supports the idea that leadership that benefits others first starts at the leader being true to oneself. I found this talk incredible.
The reason I bring this concept up is integrity is tricky in a business setting. We make decisions every day that impact others. There likely is no clear decision that will make everyone happy. Sometimes we have to sacrifice the interest of individuals for the sake of the business. At other times, we may have to sacrifice the interst of others for the sake of the business. For example, lets say a new version of the iPhone and/or Samsung Galaxy is coming out. For simplicity, lets say each costs $1,000. A business has 1,000 employees. Situation A: a leader made a decision strictly pursue the interest of others and buys every employee a new phone free of charge. This would cost the company $1,000,000 dollars. This would make everyone “happy” at a high cost. Situation B: a CEO buys his or herself a new phone. This would cost the company $1,000. This would make one person happy at a much lower cost. The sheer cost per unit is exactly the same. So, what does the leader do? The correct answer is likely somewhere between Situation A and B.
The sheer purpose of this blog is to draw awareness to the fact that integrity is complicated. Unless we work for ourselves with no other employees, there is going to be this dilemma. There will be times where we have to make tough choices that may upset others. It is easy to follow our own values, but that likely will upset a higher amount of people. We may want to merely follow the values of others, but the cost for a business may be high. The right answer for what to do will vary from company to company and person to person. Awareness is the key. For any company with 5 or more people, I could probably provide an example of where there is no clear right or wrong. The right answer is the one that yields the highest net “profit” for the company(that’s the accountant in me).
When you come to a cross roads on a decision, think to yourself what values are involved for yourself and others. Think about the long-term consequences. I have to make decisions every day. Some big and some small. I tell myself that I need to not lose sight of my values, but consider what is the best decision will yield the highest satisfactory rate at the lowest cost. We cannot only pursue self-interest or we will lose followers. We cannot only pursue the interest of others or we will sacrifice so much of ourselves that we will be miserable. There needs to be balance. Imagine a peanut butter and jelly sandwich(bread and allergies aside). For some of us, the right answer may be 50/50 peanut butter to jelly. Others may benefit most from a 75% peanut butter and 25% jelly. Conversely, some may benefit from 75% jelly and 25% peanut butter. If we use just peanut butter, that is not a PB&J just PB so it does not meet the requirements of a solid sandwich. There will be times where we have to favor self interest. There will be other times where we need to favor others. I pray you make the right decision when the time comes. If not, I hope the cost is minimal. Like with any blog, I welcome feedback on this idea. Can you think of ideas where only self-interest or others interest should be considered? What times have you struggled with which should win out? Pursuing integrity is tough, but with proper consideration of self and others the decision is more likely to be correct. For when they go wrong, here is a little advice.
Via Power of Positivity on Facebook, April 15, 2021.
Galef, Julia. February, 2016. Why you think you’re right-even if your wrong. TedxPSU. YouTube.
In a work environment, there will always be times where people disagree. This can be on a specific matter, opinion, action plan, company direction, or more. Since the dawn of time, people have disagreed. What can be very destructive to a work environment is someone who undermines others. This usually involves an element of lying, but not always. Sometimes a person withholds something from someone and then shares it with others. For example, lets say there is a work meeting. The leader or an employee gives a recommendation for a solution to a problem. He or she asks “does anyone have another idea or have a problem with this recommendation?” and everyone is silent. The person is legitimately looking for feedback and no one speaks up. Then following the meeting, someone says “I can’t believe we are doing this. It would have been so much better for us to ……”. In this case, the person had the chance to speak up and chose not to. The person is undermining the person and the group that agreed on a plan. This is how problems start.
We know there are some work environments where people are not comfortable coming forward. A leader may ask for feedback, but if feedback is given than it is always shot down. That idea will be discussed in a later blog For this purpose, I want to discuss when there is an individual that intentionally starts problems instead of bringing up matters for discussion. There is strength in diversity as it fosters new ideas and thinking. A leader needs to create an environment that is receptive to feedback and discussion. I want us to imagine the environment is open to feedback and yet the person undermines others anyways. This can be very toxic to the community. Usually people who do this look for company. They try to seek agreement and support. The hard thing is, this often is done in a way that is not constructive. Sometimes leaders are blindsided by a culmination of dissent that started with one person being deceptive.
We know that a strong team and work environment needs conflict to foster creative thinking. Groupthink sometimes keeps the right choice from coming to the surface. Undermining others is an attempt to bring up a different idea without giving it the opportunity to be discussed. People may do this for the following reasons:
Lack of support
Lack of a voice
Lack of knowledge
Lack of training
Lack of Trust
Lack of confidence in self
Inability to communicate idea
Need for attention
Inability to accept unwanted decision
Trauma or residual feelings from prior event, either at current company or prior company.
Changing mind after having opportunity t voice ideas.
In looking at items 1-4, these are likely due to the environment or leadership. Item 5 may be due to the environment or the person. The remaining reasons likely rest with the individual. Most companies have some sort of policy for “insubordination”. This is to create a sense of order. This is related to someone directly violating an order or directive of a superior. This idea is a portion of undermining others, but not all of it. Someone can also undermine peers, subordinates, regulatory officials, or even customers. Insubordination is normally very direct. Undermining others is normally discrete. It starts small and then grows. It is like a virus. One person gets infected, then another, and then another until there is a need for it to be addressed. The reason this behavior is so costly is usually it does not give those responsible to opportunity to address the matter correctly.
Lets say a company is having an issue with employees using their cell phones for non work matters. I discussed this in Behavior vs Value #34. For this discussion, lets imagine a management team comes together to address this matter. There are formal and informal meetings giving everyone the opportunity to present ideas and solutions. A proposal is offered and everyone is given the chance to share changes. It is finalized and put into place. Shortly after, an employee begins talking about how the policy is ridiculous and should never have been put in place. For conversation purposes, lets say it is the start of the NFL season. The person “needs” to check his or her fantasy football team to stay on top of it. Also, the same employee needs to use his or her phone to text a new partner to flirt or make plans. Neither of these are related to work. The employee begins bashing the policy and trying to get others to join the revolt. This leads to a slow trend of the policy being ignored. As a result, work efficiency declines, those following the policy complain, and customer service falls. The policy was established to benefit the business as a whole and yet one person believed self-interest was more important. Instead of meeting with a supervisor to discuss concerns, the person undermines the policy. This is just one realistic example of an individual undermining others. It is a result of an individual choice that seeks to disrupt the environment.
When we look at the values this violates, it is a direct violation of respect of others. It sometimes involves insulting those that supported a decision or idea that is being undermined. The purposed is to discredit those in opposition. This sometimes does not give the other person the chance to defend their case. It also shows a lack of respect for the process. In the example above, the person was given the chance to voice concerns. The employee could have brought forth ideas to be discussed. Perhaps breaks could be extended or amount increased to allow for employees to handle personal matters. Another idea that could have been discussed is a transition period to allow for employees to gradually adjust to the change. It undermines respect for oneself due to this behavior can cause others to question the character of the person doing the undermining. If the person is undermining Employee A while talking with Employee B, Employee B may be concerned the individual is undermining Employee B as well. Also, it can make someone seem like a “poor loser”. This likely happens when someone makes a case he or she is committed to and does not accept the result.
Another value that is violated is professionalism. Most organizations are becoming more open to the sharing of ideas. The key is that it is in a controlled manner. It also allows for there to be a protocol for how a decision is arrived at. This can be democratically like having a vote or a leader taking into account all views/opinions and then making an informed decision. If we think of a court room, both sides present their case, discuss evidence, equally interrogate witnesses, and then give a closing comment. The judge or jury makes the ultimate decision. Now, imagine during the trial people from the audience are allowed to talk at will among each other or with the lawyers. People are allowed to lie in an attempt to deceive the judge or jury. This would lead to chaos. That same concept can be applied to a business setting.
I have been approached by subordinates where other subordinates are being disruptive. This can be blatantly not following a policy when others are not around, speaking ill of co-workers or superiors, applying policies inconsistently, giving inaccurate data for why something is the way it is, or of course speaking out against someone or something in an improper manner. These sometimes are hard as it is one person’s word against another. It also is hard if there is not concrete evidence like surveillance, documentation of discussions like emails/texts, or multiple witnesses. These make it hard for a leader to address a matter and also can lead to others also acting like the guilty party. I see this behavior becoming more common these days than it used to be.
The proper action to counter this behavior is difficult. Sometimes confronting the person will work. However, if the person denies the allegations without evidence than it may not fix the problem. Discipline may work, but if the person has created a following the person can become a martyr. Revising policy may work, but only as long as it is enforceable. Another option is having an open forum like a meeting or town hall for the individual and others to talk. This can be time-intensive and also lead to people sharing unsupported views, irrelevant data, or bringing up distractions. The upside to this is it allows people to have their voice heard. The answer is it may take a few different approaches to solve the problem. Below is a video that sheds additional light on how to deal with someone who as an individual undermines others.
I found these recommendations useful. I also believe that positive conflict should be addressed. By looking for ways to promote conflict, it may help those who feel they are just not being heard. The speaker below discusses dysfunctional conflict. This is likely created by someone who is undermining others. I found it interesting he also brought up disagreements in the legal system.
I found the three steps to conflict being key. When someone undermines a decision, it gets in the middle of a clean end. It likely means that the effort put forth to come to a conclusion will be wasted.
Order is necessary for a business. It does not mean that everyone has to agree, but that people behave in a proper way. Undermining others can be toxic. We need to first get to the bottom of why someone is undermining decisions. We should give them a chance to voice their side. As leaders, we need to be very careful to not undermine others. This can create a slippery slope where others do the same. It starts with us. We need to be secure that if things do not go our way that in time it will either show us why the decision was wrong or give us another shot to voice our opinion if things go bad. We need to lead by example and not turn a blind eye to those that seek to disrupt the process. A solution needs to be found so they either change their behavior or vacate the organization, of course the first being preferred. However, remember to take the high road and do not fight fire with fire.
Camberato, Joe. July 23, 2019. How To Deal With Employees Who Undermine Your Authority. YouTube.
We have probably heard the lines “it’s not my fault”, “I didn’t know(when they have been told)”, “It’s not a big deal” or more. In a workplace, these can be frustrating to managers. We want to work with people to guide them so they can correct their behaviors. As in past blogs, this is assuming that managers have informed employees of what was expected, there is a clear expectation for behavior, and/or the person was properly trained. This also is assuming there is clear evidence of wrongdoing. In my blog immediately preceding this, I shared a great Ted talk from Jocko Willink where there was a situation and instead of blaming others, he took ownership of the situation. As Operations Manager, I report directly to the owner. There have been a lot of times I have had to bear responsibility for situations I had no idea were happening. I did so understanding that responsibility flows uphill. For this discussion, I want to discuss when a leader goes to speak to someone about a behavior that needs to be corrected and the employee just keeps making excuses or passing blame.
In a blog Behavior vs. Value # 12, I discuss how employees violate company policy. This of course usually means the employee needs to be spoken with to correct the action. There also are times where employees act unprofessional or are a detriment to the work environment. This concept has been directly or indirectly discussed in multiple prior blog posts. I want to address when happens when leaders try to help the person and help is deflected. There are many defense mechanisms someone may use when they are “in trouble”. One may be the play the victim. In this case, the person may use tactics to try to get sympathy or leniency. Another may be minimalizing the situation. They may say something like “It’s no big deal”. These both require a different approach from someone deflecting. I personally find Deflection to be more common and harder to manage. I see this defense mechanism also usually means the person is not open to change. The big question is, why is this behavior a violation of integrity? Below is a Ted talk on blaming others and why we blame others.
When someone plays the victim, it may be a conscious or unconscious move. They may truly be emotionally distraught or found in the past it works. For example, lets say a person is speeding. If they become irate, start crying, begin beating themselves up, or something else, they may be intentionally or unintentionally using it as a way to get out of the ticket. For minimalizing, they may say “I was only going …… over the speed limit” or “The road was not that busy so I thought it was not a big deal to go a few over”. While these are still excuses, the person is taking ownership of the fault. Deflection would mean someone uses the saying “Everyone else was speeding”, “I am late for work because of traffic”, I got in a fight with my spouse so my mind was elsewhere”, or something similar. In these situations, the person passes blame to someone or something else. It likely means they do not believe they did anything wrong. I have seen normally trying to explain to someone who is deflecting what they did wrong or why it was wrong is rarely effective. They just come back with another excuse. Usually these people need hard evidence to be presented to get them to be open to change. Even discipline will likely lead to them blaming the boss for something “they didn’t do”. This undermines the system. It also means repeat behavior is likely. If we think of why someone does not have a job, they may say “there is no work out there”, “there is nothing that pays enough” or “I have someone else to pay for things, so I do not need to work.” Sometimes it gets down to they could find some form of work if they want, but they are not wanting to take what they can. The excuses are easier.
As mentioned earlier, the obvious value that is violated is ownership or accountability. The whole reason this behavior happens is someone does not want to take the blame. It is easier to blame someone else. Sometimes this happens even without us knowing. It is hard to do. One may be afraid of consequences, afraid of losing respect in the face of others, have a personality attribute of passing blame, or something else. It is hard to say “I was wrong”. This plays into the humility element. Someone may want to preserve their reputation instead of taking blame. We know blame has to go around. The downfall is that passing the blame can lead to others losing respect for the individual(especially if they get affected). When I have to discuss with an employee a situation, I would say those that are most concerned with consequences or image are the first to pass blame. There also is a certain element of honesty that comes into play. If someone is legitimately at fault for a behavior and they blame someone else, it is in essence a lie. Usually, the person knows it is a lie. Again, sometimes they may lash out and pass blame and then once reality sets in stick with the original claim.
The biggest way we can fight this problem is to hold ourselves accountable. This is the case even when it is not our “fault”. We need to look at what we could have done different to prevent the problem. I found the below video interesting as it not only deals with different concepts on ability, but shows how someone who takes accountability can succeed.
I found this talk interesting as it was from a TexYouth talk. It was amazing to see how someone years younger than me could shed light on something I have dealt with all the time. Of course, it is also exciting that she leg pressed more than I ever have. It is easy for us to put blame on leaders, other employees, the system, or “fate”. We need to see that we can sometimes be the solution. If we act differently than we can help ourselves or others. We need to understand why people say “it is not my fault”. Once we look deeper, we may get a good solution. Deflection is a natural part of human nature. We need to see this not as a curse, but as a symptom. We can work with people to battle it. Sometimes as leaders we need to take the fault for others to allow them to grow. We need to “take the bullet” so others can improve. The key is not letting up once we take the bullet. We need to work to grow others. We need to see failure as a learning tool and not a punishment.
Mitchell, Desyre. June 28, 2018. Don’t blame me, but blame me, TEDxChallengeEarlyCollegeHS. YouTube.
For those of you who have been following my blog or are now going back through my blog posts, you are seeing a pattern in my posts. They are structured, methodical, and in depth. I wanted to take a break to expand on something I realized from my Behavioral vs. Value post #13 (Here is link if needed). Recently, I had a discussion with someone who had never heard of a Ted Talk. It was someone who was very educated, well-read, and anxious to learn. They did a lot of reading of online journals, books, and other print items. I brought up how I had never seen a Ted Talk until I began my MBA program. During my undergrad, I was bombarded with PowerPoint slide presentations, outdated videos, lectures that seemed to be as painful for the speaker as the audience, and more. Before I started my MBA program, I had no idea we had such a great forum in the Biggest Little City(Reno). Now, I wish I could go back and be a part of it. As I look for videos from Tedx, I am amazed at where these events have been held. Some are large forums while some are smaller and comfortable. The key is that no matter the size of the forum, quality of the video or audio, or the popularity of the speaker, every post has a quality idea that we can learn from. In keeping in line with my blog principle, I wanted to share a Ted Talk from University of Nevada Reno(Sabini, 2018).
During my current MBA program, I have had an instructor who has used Ted Talks as an excellent tool to share ideas. Coincidentally, he was/is a cornerstone of the Ted Talk events at University of Nevada, Reno (Thank you Doctor). Below is a TedX University of Nevada Reno talk (Willink, 2017) I was shown that made a huge change to me as a leader. It is a little graphic and intense, but highly constructive.
I believe as leaders we need to show Extreme Ownership or our employees will not support us. I have lapses where I fall to blaming others. I am working on it to be better every day. When we think of leaders who are described as having integrity, I believe it is likely they exert Extreme Ownership.
I found it incredible that these talks were done 30 minutes from where I live. I may have walked by the young man from the first video at a grocery store, been standing next to him at a bar, or passed by him on campus. I have never personally met him. I had never heard of Jocko Willink before I saw his speech but was moved with his tenacity, passion, and of course accountability. I have been in positions like him at work where we can take ownership or blame others. It shows that we have so much knowledge to be shared. We been through some tough times over the last year. I had to work through Covid-19 closures. I did not have the “opportunity” to be at home with free time. As I delve more into Tedx talks, I see that someone could dedicate 20 minutes every morning to watching a talk and learn so much. I bring this up as my blog is intended to help cultivate new thoughts and ideas on leadership and integrity. It is intended to be not only a way to provide information, but receive information. I welcome new sources of information or new ideas.
As I have been doing posts on integrity, I have tried to use Ted Talks as support for my posts. It is what I am familiar with. The reason I do this is I believe it is easy to get lost in all the information on social media these days. If you do a search in YouTube about a subject, you will get some highly qualified videos and some not so quality videos. I usually use “Ted Talk” in my search for a video on an idea. I am finding that videos can be so useful for those looking for raw information. They are a way to be entertained while receiving knowledge. It also can be daunting to find the right video. When we think of decades ago going to a library, we would have books sorted by genre, numerically sorted, and there was a librarian to help us find just the right book. The printed word is starting to fade away. I am not familiar with a video organization system like libraries have(aside from Google). It seems like luck to put the right search words in. If you have a way to sort through the millions of videos, please share with me. If not, perhaps this is a business opportunity for a young entrepreneur.
As leaders, we encounter new problems every day. Our workforce is becoming more diverse. Training is just as important as before. When I think back to my undergrad, we did not have to ability to quickly stream a video. I recently had a presentation for my work where the presenter showed clips of the tv show “Everyone loves Raymond”. The videos did not appeal to me as I saw them as a diversion from the subject matter, but perhaps there was someone that valued these and it recaptured his or her attention. I am seeing that there are so many powerful tools for us to use as leaders. Tedx talks are just one example of how to bring a breath of fresh air to a presentation. I have found that using videos to supplement a presentation has been so powerful. I have spoken with people at my work how working Ted Talks into training can have a huge positive impact. Have you found the same to be true? Is there a new tool that you did not have when younger that today really creates value? Finally, have you been to a Tedx event? If so, what did you think of it? Please share your experiences so we can continue educating others on how to be better leaders. I shared the below out of appreciation for all you leaders working to grow and learn like I am.
Sabini, Joe. Feb 15, 2018. Simplifying Humility And Integrity. Tedx University of Nevada. YouTube
There has been a lot of changes in the ideas about groupthink and herd syndrome over the last decade. This is the idea that someone goes a long with everyone else to fit in. When we were young and in grade school or high school, we may have thought we were supposed to dress a certain way to fit in. There may have been an idea that certain speech or music was “cool” so people may have faked liking it when others were around. There are also some schools that have a lot of structure like dress code, code of conduct, and more than standardizes certain behaviors. I had a dress code for grade school and high school. It had its pros and cons. When we look at college campuses, there usually is a higher level of individuality than in high school. There may be a larger focus on being true to oneself than fitting in. When I got to college, it was almost foreign to wake up and have to be concerned about what to wear. When we get into a work environment, we likely get the same experience as in high school. There may be norms that are tempting to follow. It can be in things like dress, speech, mannerisms, and the like. It also can be in the way we think. In looking back in time, we were supposed to go along with what was expected. If a boss had an idea, it was safer to agree than disagree. If our coworkers behaved a certain way, it was dangerous to go against the current. There is a movement away from this behavior. Originality in thinking is becoming more welcome. We learn now in the education forum that we offer more by thinking outside the box. This allows us to voice our true opinions(while being professional) and understanding that we do not have to all be the same. However, when it comes to attitude and social behavior, those that conform to the norms seem to be accepted more than those that do not. Someone may believe being quirky and “odd” makes them an outsider. Someone may believe that if they are always overly chipper that it will make those around them also chipper. This can have the reverse affect. I propose we want someone to be themselves over putting on an act. I found the below video from (Gelfand, 2018) that discusses “social norms” and why we have them.
I thought the idea of tight and loose cultures was remarkable. I think we can apply the idea of tight and loose cultures in countries to business cultures. I believe in a business setting we are moving more towards loose cultures. We may not be as far on the loose scale as other industries, but I see the shift. When we think of dress for professions like accounting, banking, law, or medicine, the dress used to be very standard. Doctors may have had the standard white coat and a pair of dress trousers. Some doctors are now wearing scrubs just like nurses or PA’s. For business, the standard used to be black or blue suit, white shirt, and a tie. Now we are seeing a wide array of types of suits, shirt/tie combinations, or even businesses moving more towards business casual. There is a loosening of behaviors.
When we talk to someone going on a date, we may be used to saying the line “be yourself” or “keep an open mind”. A sad reality is from a young age we are taught to go against this in group settings. Now, I am not saying we should act without regard for others. People still need to be considerate of others. However, they need to also not be afraid to be real. We can sometimes get a sense from someone that they are “overacting/underacting” or “putting on a fake face”. This means they are reforming how they act to appease others. While it may be believed that this makes others feel better, it can have the reverse affect. It may lead us to not trust them. If they are covering their personality, what else are they hiding. This is a clear violation of integrity. We are not behaving in a way that we believe we should. We behave how we believe others want us to behave. When we think of a party, the center of attention is normally the one who acts spontaneous or without any reservations. In most reality shows, the ones who get a lot of attention are the ones who speak their mind and do not hold back. If we really think about it, why are we drawn to these people over the one who is reserved or quiet?
If someone is being open and true, we do not have to guess what they are thinking. This can be what they think about a situation, us, or even just an idea. We may not agree with them, but at least we have a certain level of trust. This plays into the two values I want to discuss. Openness and honesty are a cornerstone of a relationship. Whether it is a romantic relationship, friendship, business partners, or any other relationship, we want to feel someone is being straight with us. The same holds true for a work environment. There can be a lot of tension when we do not believe someone is being straight with us or is holding back. It is not only with what they are thinking, but also how they think about us or others. This tension can get in the way of people being able to work together or share ideas. This can likewise intrude on open conversations about business matters. We may have had that awkward silence during a meeting when we ask for someone’s opinion and they withhold it. This deals with openness. Likewise, we can sometimes tell when someone is saying something and there is no conviction in what they are saying. This deals with honesty. These two values are critical to have open dialogue. Of course, we may know that person who wants to do all the talking(that is for a later blog). This deals with when we want other people to share and they do not. This can be a result of a culture. It also may be that someone does not have the confidence in his or herself to share. It may be ingrained in them. We also may know that person who is always bubbly and seems to never be in a bad mood. These people are often easy to get a long with. However, there are people that seem to force being positive. These people are not easy to get along with.
As leaders, we need to work with our staff to help them know we welcome their true self. This is a tough challenge. For some we will be battling years of influence. Imagine someone from the United States trying to drive in England for the first time. Using the other side of the road can be daunting. The same holds true for someone who has either continuously held in behaviors or behaved in a way to suit others. Below is a video that highlights some ideas of why non-conformity can be powerful when properly applied.
Now, there are some norms that I argue are being lost and shouldn’t be. For example, manners like “please” and “thank you” are dying away. Holding the door open for a lady or calling an elder “sir” or “mam” are becoming abnormal. Some behaviors like smoking cigarettes that was once a norm is now seen as abnormal. Smoking marijuana used to be heavily frowned upon but now is getting acceptance. The big takeaway I give you is when you feel the urge to behave a certain way just because it is the “norm”, question why. If it will hurt someone else, hurt oneself, having a negative consequence, or something similar, of course thing hard about changing a norm. If it is beneficial to you and others and it is simply confidence or conformity, perhaps consider alternatives. I am not saying break rules, be rude, or have a complete disregard for others. I am not. I am simply proposing to identify moments when you are conforming just for the sake of conformity. Also, I recommend evaluating when people are acting in a way they may not want to and question why. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Social norms are changing. However, the norms of some are not. Keep an open mind on why they do what they do. Perhaps the change is too much for them to bear. Be understanding. Walk next to them as they change. Do not push or pull them to force change.
Gelfand, Michele. November 30, 2018. The Secret Life of Social Norms. Tedx Palo Alto Salon. YouTube
Whether it be sports, military, business, bands, or any other area of life, when we look at strong performing teams there is a strong concern for other team members. There needs to be selflessness among members. We have all heard “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link”. This normally notes that a poor performer brings down the rest of the tam. This can also be someone who only is concerned with self-interest. When we think of a work environment, it is a living and breathing machine. It requires all parts to be working together. Now, this seems like common sense to most of us. However, there are those that put a significant part of their focus on themselves and a very small amount towards others. The sad thing is this behavior is often reciprocated. This often can be due to an understood lack of mutual respect. It may be believed if one person does not help others, they do not deserve help. This can be an isolated situation between two members, between one member and a group, or multiple parties of individuals or groups. The key as leaders is to address this when it starts so it does not escalate.
When we think of why people are self serving, there are a few potential reasons. It can be due to:
Historical factors from prior environments
Lack of trust
Personal Upbringing (for example not taught to play well with others as a kid)
There can be potentially more causes. The purpose of providing this list is to show, like other behaviors, this can be rooted in individual or cultural factors. The first four deal with environmental problems. The last five deal with individual factors. Leaders can try to change the last 5 factors, but normally all they can do is help to improve someone’s temporary attitude. Leaders need to identify a root cause before trying to diagnose the issue. It also will affect how to proceed with handling the problem. If someone is geared towards rewards in an environment like tips or commissions, working to fix weak relationships will yield minimal results. Conversely, if someone was raised to look out for “number one” at the cost of others, even in a strong environment they may still behave selfishly. There is an inverse relationship of where people fall in regard to teamwork verse self interest. If -10 is completely selfish, 10 being completely team focused with zero focus on self interest, most of us likely fall somewhere between -5 and 5. Organizations have a massive mix of people all along the scale. One’s position becomes apparent when it affects others or the organization as a whole. I found a Ted talk from (Grant, 2016) that highlights this concept very well. I had seen this video before and believed it hit home on this idea.
I found it interesting that by keeping the Takers out(purpose of this blog) the Givers can thrive. This makes sense after seeing the video. When we think of how good a team player is, it is important to evaluate the factors that make them mesh well with a team or not mesh well with a team. Below is a link from a Ted Talk by Patrick Lencioni. I wanted to share this specific talk as it is a part of the Ted Talk series from the University of Nevada that I am currently attending. It is unfortunate, but TEDx University of Nevada has run its course. We will still have an event in Reno, just not at UNR.
There is a multitude of talks out there about teamwork. You could spend days watching just Ted talks on teams. I think if we all look to strengthen our Hunger, Humility, and Smart we can be much stronger team players. I really appreciated the 3 types of people lacking the 3 needed attributes. I think when we think of someone that is not a good team player, we normally think of the Skillful Politician. I appreciated this talk as it showed me there are other ways people can disrupt a team.
The values this relates to are fairly obvious. We can easily see that teamwork, specifically being concerned with the strength of the team, will likely be sacrificed. One important element of being a part of a team is knowing one’s role in a team. It is also important to believe one’s contribution is valued. These can be shaped by a leader. The value of self interest above common good is likely a personal belief. A leader can work to sway this, but it is unlikely they will change this belief. It will be hard to make a Taker a Matcher. A person may also believe he or she is able to contribute more alone that by working with others. This also is a core belief that can be affected but usually not changed. This does not mean leaders should not try. It means they need to understand that the approach is different.
Citizenship is similar, but not exactly the same. When we think of teams, they may be smaller pieces of a larger group. We may be part of a marketing team that is a part of a television station. The station is the community. There are some people who work well with those they are close with, but have little regard for others. We can look at professional sports. A defensive end may want to have a strong defense yet have little concern for how well the offense plays. In a restaurant, a cook may want to work well with other cooks to serve food quickly and with quality, yet not be concerned with how great the service staff in the dining room performs. The reverse may also hold true. A person may not get a long with their team members, yet want to company as a whole to succeed. They may assist other teams when needed while leaving their team members stranded.
When we think of integrity and behavior matching values, there are those that may have low regard for teamwork. They may succeed in a different environment. In looking at sports, someone may not be a great team player, but may be a great runner. They may excel in track. Someone may have strong dedication and hand/eye coordination. They may not be great at baseball, but they may be good at golf, tennis, or race car driving. The key is that the person’s values need to match the position they are in. Someone can be acting with integrity in their eyes while violating integrity in someone else’s eyes. This may come because one believes another person has the same values as the other. In a work environment, one who does not want to work with others may work alone in their own business. They may work in a position that primarily involves working alone. For example, in looking at delivery services like UPS, there are those that must sort the packages to go out. This usually means working well with others. However, someone who likes working alone may want to be a driver. For the example of cooks, someone may not want to work in a kitchen with others so they do catering service out of their home or a shop. They can contract out the delivery or serving of the food. Leaders need to identify how one values team unity. It is possible there may be a position within the company that the person can succeed in. If not, the leader needs to have an alternative solution. The hard part comes in evaluating how much effort to give the person and where the person becomes such a hinderance that the team is better without the person that with them.
We need to identify those that are takers. Some are fairly simple to identify. Some are much more difficult. However, we need to do this for the sake of the team. As leaders, we need to be givers(to some extent). We need to be at least be 1-10 on the scale I mentioned. If we take more from our staff than give, they will not support us. We are seeing more emphasis put on Servant Leadership. This is partially due to the advancement of teams. Like Lencioni said, technology is allowing teams to morph. This is both geographically and from a capability standpoint. When we identify a taker, we need to first decide it is a result of environment or not. If we change the environment, the taker may also change. If it is a matter of personal beliefs, it is likely the person will need to be moved or terminated as change in unlikely. They may change for a period, but the bad habits probably will return.
Lencioni, Patrick. February 2020. Are you an ideal team player? Tedx University of Nevada. YouTube.
When it comes to laws, we (should) understand they are in place to maintain order. We may not agree with them, but most of us follow them. This is to be considerate of others or also protect ourselves. When we think of laws, it is scary to imagine the chaos there would be without any laws. There would be unrest fostered by self interest, pillaging, plundering, violence, destruction of property, and more. When we think of pirates or rebels, they seek to act to benefit their own purpose. We have had laws since the dawn of man to maintain order. It is viewed as the “right” thing to do to maintain the common good of society over an individual or select group. The same need for order exists for a business. We all have different opinions of what is best. The purpose of having the procedures is to hold everyone to the same standard. It guides employees to act in accordance for what leaders believe is best for the business. This often can be paired with established governmental regulations. I work for a casino company in Nevada. Our company procedures abide by the Nevada Gaming Commission regulations at a minimum. Some even go beyond what is required. These are intended to protect society as a whole. Problems arise when individuals take it upon themselves to dictate how to apply policies and procedures. The below describes why we have laws.
I note this video is from 9 years ago. It is intended to be a reminder why laws exist. Over the last few years we have seen this concept be questioned that core fundamental principals intended to better society as a whole are flawed. I ask you apply these concepts to a business platform. When we think of the book Lord of the Flies from gradeschool, we see without order there is chaos.
There may be a multitude of reasons an employee violates company procedures. A few are:1-Lack of knowledge of company procedures. 2-Misunderstanding or misapplication of company procedures. 3-Inconsistant enforcement of procedure including discipline for violations. 4-Personal opinion of procedure relevance. 5-Perceived “loopholes” that give individual impression procedures do not apply. 6-Idea that one will not be caught or there will be minimal consequences to violating procedures. 7-Cost of discipline is perceived to be less than benefit of violation. 8-Change in personal circumstances. The first 3 deal with a cultural matter with leadership and the business. The last 5 deal with individual problems, decisions, or misapplications.
Before going further, I want to state that businesses should be open to feedback on changes to procedures. Some may be perceived as positive changes. Others may be inappropriate. For example, if an employee who has issues showing up to work on time proposes a 15 minute grace period for tardiness, this may be in his or her interest but not benefit the business. Leaders should keep an open mind when employees have suggestions. Even if the suggestions are not applied, at least it gives the employee the feeling he or she was heard. Some of the best rule changes come from those who the rules apply to. Hearing feedback also creates a higher chance of success during implementation. This requires there being communication and respect from both sides. Sometimes it is conducive to provide employees feedback on why recommendations are not implemented and sometimes not. For the sake of this discussion, we will strictly be focusing on when employees violate procedures due to their own interest. Here is a great link for those considering to update their policies.
In looking at why people break procedures, there may be isolated circumstances or repetitive events. For theft, someone may be short on rent money so they believe a one time theft of $100 is justified. After the event, the person never takes a penny again. There may also be someone who takes $100 5 or 6 times. The reasons may change. Both examples show a disregard for the rules. In the rules of the road example discussed in the opening paragraph, some people have only ever gotten non one one speeding ticket. Multiple tickets is where people are at risk of losing their license. From a leadership perspective, the second is much riskier than the first. Repetitive behavior can become more frequent and escalate. For example, maybe the next time someone takes $200 since they got away with taking $100. The fact is regardless of the frequency, consciously violating policy shows a breach in integrity. It means acting in a way that one knows should not be done, yet does it anyway. Some may argue the person is being selfish while others are strictly inconsiderate.
There are many values that may be broken by someone violating policy. When looking at the concept, I found responsibility and respect to jump out at me. For responsibility, someone is making decisions that can be costly. They are being “irresponsible” by intentionally doing what they are not supposed to. There are many potential consequences to violating policy. The obvious is getting fired. Some companies do a 3 strike system. This gives the person the opportunity to acknowledge their mistake and adjust. There are some flagrant violations that may mean instant termination. A few are stealing, violating drug and alcohol policy, breaching confidentiality, and more. In most cases, the individual puts their own self interest above the company. Sometimes the company may elect to fire someone to “make an example of them”. This is to quickly deter repeat behavior by others. The person that is impacted by the person getting fired is the person, their family, the company, other employees, and more. Another consequence from violating policy is control and detection procedures being heightened. Security may be increased. Privileges may be revoked. As with someone getting fired, this impacts more than the person who breached protocol. Finally, there may be fines, loss of licenses, legal action, government sanctions, or more. This likely can impact the person but most often impacts the business. All this is a result of someone to deciding to make a foolish decision and not be responsible. We know we are to follow the rules and yet the person does not.
For respect, the individual is not respecting the order that is in place. They may believe “they know best”. This often is the case where someone does not believe in a policy so they do not follow it. It also means they do not respect the order that is in place. Now, I am not saying people should not question the status quo. They should. However, there are proper ways to go about it. They could set a meeting with a superior to discuss a policy. They can review the source of company policies to see if things are being done the correct way or not. They can seek guidance on past practices to see if the policy is new. This may shed some light on if there was an action that caused it. Often I share with my employees that changes come about as a result of someone doing something they were not supposed to. This may be someone being malicious(on purpose) or ignorant(on accident or without knowing). If someone makes a mistake not knowing, I believe it should be handled differently than someone who knowingly violates a policy. Now, we may have heard someone use the cop out “I did not know…” and they are using that an a scapegoat for doing something they knew they shouldn’t do. This is different than someone truly not knowing they did something wrong. This gets back to intent. One is a lack of knowledge while the other is a lack of care.
As leaders, how do we address this type of behavior. The obvious is discipline. This sends a clear signal to the employee. The problem is, it can do more damage than good. If a person was legitimately unaware of a violation, they may “feel that the result is not justified. I personally see discipline is becoming a fine line. It is effective in some situations but counterproductive in others. The first step is to find out why the person did what they did. Of course there is the trust factor they are telling the truth. After the conversation, a course of action must be taken. The course is unique the person. Some need justification for why something is the way it is. Some need to voice their opinion. Others need to blame someone else. Sometimes this is legit or not (darn fundamental attribution error). In looking at the start of paragraph 2 there is a multiple reasons for violation of policy. Some people did not receive proper training. The most important thing we can do as leaders is recognize if this is a system issue or individual issue. That will dictate what the next step is. Of course no action is worse than taking any action.
I bet most of us leaders have dealt with this problem. Please share your stories. We all have had different success stories and also stories of things went sideways fast. Every situation is unique, but we are here to learn for when(not if) we need to deal with this. Have you had an employee who wanted to change policy to suit self interest? Alternatively, have you have someone bring forth a fresh idea that made the business better for everyone? We have heard the term “the squeaky wheel gets the oil”, but what if the oil corrupts the other wheels and causes chaos. I love spicy food. I know I need to carve back my desire for spicy to appeal to others. This is a slippery slope. It is hard to make all people happy with policy. The important concept is how happy would the others or the business be without a policy. For those leaders who need to evaluate if a problem is a culture problem or individual problem, I share the below link.
Author-Unknown. June 14, 2011. Civis, Why we Have Laws. YouTube.
Have you ever had an employee who is always letting their personal life impact their work? We all have hard times in our personal lives. It may be a fight with our spouse, the kids getting bad grades in school, our sports team not making it to the playoffs, bad weather, medical or financial issues, etc. Most of us are able to minimize how our personal life affects our work. It may creep into our work environment, but we are able to suppress it and keep going. However, there are those that seem incapable of checking their personal baggage at the door. It makes it hard as leaders that the cause of the problem is not our responsibility, but the result can be. We want to have sympathy for our staff. We want to help. What makes it hard is when there always seems to be something. We may have employees who feel they need to “air their dirty laundry” at work. I do not mean a quick venting session, but a massive divergence from the work at hand. This likely causes the individual themselves to become distracted, but also the people they work with. There also can be emotional problems. The person may have a bad attitude from something outside of work and it ends up making them agitated with their superiors, peers, or subordinates. In the end, we as leaders need to find resolution so it does not impact the workforce. As the saying goes, “one rotten apple spoils the bunch”.
Now, I want to start by saying I am not implying we need to become cold and heartless. We want to be understanding when employees are upset. We sometimes become a counselor or unofficial psychiatrist. We want to be a shoulder to cry on. The goal of this is to help the person cope so they can get back to what they need to do. We need to be able to identify when there is a unique situation at hand or someone just thrives off the attention. When we think of an infant, there are those that cry because they are hungry, need to be changed, or are tired. Then there are those that cry for the sake of crying(my sympathies for all you parents out there). We need to treat a cry for attention different from a cry for being hungry. Or, for an adult version, think of a group of friends who go out for drinks. One friend may always be wanting to share the tiniest of frustrations about friends, work, love life, and more. The same friend may ignore when someone else has a crisis they are dealing with. This can cause the “boy who cried wolf” response from the friends. The friend group may become numb when the person is always complaining about something. The same goes for at work. We need to be able to identify if it is the time for sympathy or a time to give “tough love” and say get over it. We want to show compassion, but we can only give so much before it affects our work.
The reason this is toxic in the work environment is it is a huge distraction. It eats up the time of the person doing the sharing and the person doing the listening. What starts out as a 5 minute aside may end up taking up 30 minutes of time. This is 30 minutes of time that cannot be gotten back. This behavior is a somewhat obvious violator of efficiency. This can lead to work not getting done, deadlines being missed, or someone having to pick up the slack. It also can lead to a breakdown in morale. If this poor behavior continues, it can lead to disciplinary action or termination. These are direct consequences from on the job the behavior. Below is a link (Mann, 2019) that addresses the idea of “Social Contagion” which means that if someone manifests an emotion than it can transfer onto others.
I found this to be very interesting. There were a few other talks on this concept as well, but I chose one that was brief yet effective. This supports that if someone brings their outside negative emotions to work that it can affect others. Of course the opposite is also true. If someone brings positive emotions, it can lift others up.
Another problem that can arise is the person becomes unstable. One day the person may be in a great mood and the next he or she is miserable. This can be due to emotional problems, using something like excessive alcohol or drugs to cope, lack of sleep causing irritability, tardiness, or more. This makes it hard to know how to act around a person. We may believe we need to “walk on eggshells” when we are around them. Have you ever had that co-worker where you make a comment one day and they are laughing then the next day you make a similar comment and they instantly become upset? It can create friction and uneasiness. It also can lead to people not wanting to be around someone. This leads to a whole different change in behavior issues. The value this violates is consistency. It is hard to know who the true person is if there are so many sides to them. As leaders, we have to ask ourselves when is enough enough. We want to show sympathy, but we do not want to be taken advantage of. Below is a link to a talk from (Woods, 2021) that discusses a few ideas of how to combat social contagions. It also discuss a few different ideas why emotions manifest.
In looking at the workplace, as leaders we need to walk a fine line of how to handle distractions. We need to be considerate yet efficient. It is also important to constructively inform someone when their actions are impacting others. The idea is that sharing is ok in moderation. Excess is when it becomes destructive. A few additional ways to deal with this situation are:
Block time to talk to the person. This may be before or after work, on lunch, or on break. This gives an end time for the conversation.
Arrange a time outside of work to discuss non-work matters. This allows focus to be on the matter at hand.
Consider the aid of a third party. This can be human resources or a mentor.
When a situation is in process, find positive topics to divert attention.
It is understandable that our work lives and personal lives may cross. It is natural. When we identify these situations, it is important to make every attempt to minimize backlash. Even the most stable of workers can have a bad day or breaking point. We should understand there will be those that may prefer to converse with their peers over superiors. We need to consider how to keep the welfare of the individual and the welfare of others in mind. Of course this is a critical part of the culture. It needs to be tactfully embedded in the framework of the organization. Timing should be considered. Waiting too long may create damage. Too early may mean drawing unnecessary attention to a temporary event. I propose discussing with members of your organizations a strategy on how to handle these events. It means creating a safe space. There will not be a one size fits all approach. How have you handled these situations in the past? Do you believe the Social Contagion phenomena exists? Finally, what alternative solutions can you think of? In closing, an image that may help those battling outside baggage.
Woods, Jessica. Feb 17, 2021. How to avoid catching prickly emotions from other people | YouTube.
Poor work performance ranks in the top reasons for someone’s employment to be terminated. However, this behavior is more complex and diverse than behaviors discussed in past blogs. It is part of the reason why I saved it for later blogs. As I already discussed in blog Behavior vs. Value #2 Tardiness, Tardiness can be a reason for poor work performance. This deals with when someone starts work. For today’s blog and subsequent blogs, I am referring to an individual’s performance while on the job. In later blogs, I will discuss poor performance by leaders like communication and lack of vision that lead to poor employee performance. I will be starting with someone who just does not have the daily need to excel. This assumes even in an ideal environment they just do not want to shine. The reason this becomes tricky is there can be multiple contributing factors. It also can be confused with other reasons for poor performance.
For an employee who is underperforming, it can be due to oneself, leaders or co-workers, external, or a combination of multiple reasons. It can be due to workplace factors or outside factors. When we think of our workplace, there likely is two or three stars that pop out in our mind. They may receive recognition like employee of the month, impressive performance reviews, or some other indicator that they are doing a great job. It may also be that they are the one who leaders want on their team. If we watch sports channels like ESPN or other sports telecasts, there may be discussion about the G.O.A.T.(Greatest of all time). I have been involved in many discussions about this topic and it gets down to opinion. A clear frontrunner for the greatest G.O.A.T. is normally Michael Jordan. However, there may be people who feel there are others like Bill Russell, Lebron James, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Walt Chamberlin, or others that are the G.O.A.T.. The key is what performance factor does the individual value most. Michael Jordan is not in the top ranks for blocked shots or rebounds. When we look at our workplace, there also are those who are the “weak link” or people do not want to work with for performance issues. When we think of picking teams, this person would be the one picked last. In the latter case, the result is normally that someone is not meeting the expectations of the organization.
Most of us want to get that sense of success and accomplishment from our job. We want to feel we are making a real contribution. This can be due to wanting advancement, more compensation, more respect, or even just our own personal pride. This can drive an employee to perform well. However, there are those who may be content with the status quo. Both perspectives are acceptable for a workplace in the right situation. There are those employees that do not have this drive. They may want to show up and do the bare minimum. They may need close supervision to stay on track. Every employee has something to offer. The reality is, there are those that are not interested in succeeding. This can be due to lack of focus, lack of organization, inability to change, poor decision-making, abrasive personality, does not work well with others, mental issues, physical complications, and more. As stated, there can be multiple reasons for this. Today I want to discuss those that lack the core need to feel a sense of accomplishment. They may try multiple jobs in multiple fields with no success. Imagine a truck trying to pull a big boat(in honor of summer being around the corner). With a small engine, the truck may be able to accomplish the task, but at a very slow pace. With a bigger engine, the towing can be accomplished easier. We have those employees whose drive is very weak or nonexistent. This assumes the leaders and organization makes diligent efforts to get the employee to perform and the advances are constantly deflected. For the truck example, this would be a truck that keeps breaking down and/or not starting. These employees may require threats like suspension or termination to perform. The sad truth is, these efforts by leaders normally only create a temporary improvement. The main problem is not addressed.
When we think of values, there is an area that has multiple words that can be used. An employee needs to have a sense of ambition, fulfillment, accomplishment, drive, etc. This is that force within them that makes them want to go. When applied correctly, this leads to positive behaviors. It is the fuel for the truck. Without the fuel, the tuck cannot go. For integrity, we compare values to behavior. If we ask someone “do you want more money”, “do you want recognition”, “do you want success”, “do you want a better life(job)”, “is there something missing in your life(work)” and they answer yes, then this is where the behavior needs to match the value. There are those that want the prize but are not willing to earn it. They do not want to put in the work. They may feel it is someone else’s responsibility to take care of the task. This means their behaviors are misaligned. In the case of being picked last, they are upset by being picked last. As leaders we need to handle this different than when an employee and environment are not a fit. An example of a bad fit would be having a wonderful sports car with no tow hitch. It has immense capabilities but is not meant to pull a boat.
The complication with fixing this problem is leaders want to be the one to fix it. They can help identify it, but the desire to change must come from within. It may take talks with the employees about what they desire and what satisfies them. The below link discusses the importance of finding internal ambition and satisfaction.
I enjoyed the song at the end. I find it interesting how the speaker discusses integrity and values. I find it appropriate that as an artist, the speaker sees the value of internal drive. Satisfaction and drive manifest in outside of work behaviors. To fix the problem with an employee, it means first getting the person to understand what is wrong. They may be at a job that is perfect for them, but they are “asleep at the wheel”. Most leaders look for this red flag when interviewing a candidate. If it is clear, the leader will likely not hire the person.
As leaders, we need to look at ourselves and our staff and evaluate how strong is the drive. Do we have enough “gas in the tank”? We need to identify those who are comfortable underperforming. The big takeaway is knowing this is a personality trait of the person. We can give them the best environment and likely it will not change them. It also requires careful diagnosis so it does not get confused with different integrity problems. This situation is where we need to look in the mirror and assess how we perform compared to our drive. Next time you have an employee not performing, ask yourself “do they care they are not doing well?” I am interested in knowing how you have dealt with someone who has had this problem. Do you disagree that as leaders we can fix this? Do you keep trying to fix it with no success? Do you cut ties and let someone else deal with it? How do you get fuel in the tank for those who are content with being out of gas?
Kellogg, Stephen. April 12, 2013. I Can’t Get No (Job) Satisfaction: Stephen Kellogg at TEDxConcordiaUPortland. YouTube.
As an Operations Manager, I am normally responsible for resolving issues that arise. One complication I have had to become more used to is employees not following common courtesy when resigning. Over the last 2 years, I have had to deal constantly with employees not giving a 2-week notice upon resigning. Some don’t even give any notice. This leaves us having to scramble to find alternative staffing. This not only is a hardship for the organization, but usually creates a hardship for the employees needing to fill the vacancy. This also eliminates us the chance of being able to find or plan for a replacement. The cause of this behavior varies, but the result is still the same. We are left having to clean up the mess.
This may occur when the employee is leaving for employment elsewhere. Their new job may give them an ultimatum that either they start in a couple days or the job will not be theirs. This means the “fault” may lie more with the organization than the employee. This puts the employee in a hard spot. They either have to sacrifice a great opportunity to maintain their values or sacrifice their values for a new position. Sometimes the employee does not attempt to get the opportunity to get notice. This may have the fault rest with the employee that is leaving. We have a lot of manufacturing work that utilizes staffing agencies to assist in filling positions. The idea is that if the employee does not take the job, there is someone else that will. This puts us in a tough spot if down the road the individual wants to return. I see this behavior not only in the industry I operate in, but other industries as well. I also reflect on this behavior used to be sporadic a decade ago. Now it seems to be commonplace.
Our organization always gives a new employee the opportunity to work out their notice with a prior employer. We even normally recommend it. We believe in providing a courtesy to the company the employee is leaving as we know it can be hard to adjust. We also do not want to make an employee tarnish their reputation or values. We know one wrong decision can create complications in the future. We try to apply the golden rule of “do unto others as you would want others to do unto you”. We also believe that if an employee is willing to up and leave their current company without notice, the chances are high they will do the same to us if/when the time comes. We are not petty when someone gets an opportunity they are excited about somewhere else. We are understanding and want them to do what is best for them. We try our hardest to show care and courtesy where we expect the same in return. It also usually means we keep the employee as a customer instead of burning a bridge.
When we think of common courtesy, we think of an employee’s concern for the welfare of the business and the other employees. I work in the gaming(casino) industry. We are a 24-7, 365 days a year business. We require constant staffing. The work cannot be put on hold until a new person is found. As a result, we have to seek alternative staffing. Sometimes this means looking for employees to work on their day off. Sometimes it means changing schedules around. This means that our company and employees are penalized for the actions of an individual. Of course, we are always very appreciative of those willing to help out. The common courtesy element also comes into play from the behaviors of the other company. They put their needs above the values of the new employee and allowing the employee to maintain his or her integrity. I speculate some of these same companies get agitated if employees exit without giving notice. It makes me think of the term that they want to “have their cake and eat it too”.
When we are hiring a prospective employee, we evaluate their prior work history(including length of employment), their reason for leaving, and how they handled the exit. We look for employees who act with dignity and professionalism. We believe these employees have few or no “red flags”. It shows they have a good core work ethic. We look for a common trend in the behavior. This sometimes is an indicator of the decision-making skills of the individual. Do they make quick, rash decisions or do they use tact and decency? We also consider the reasons for their decision. This all plays into building an idea of the individual’s character. I reviewed a lot of videos and there was a lot of common advice. The 2-week notice was a very common trend. This paired with being positive. Below is a link to a brief but effective video on how to resign.
Now, as always, there are unique circumstances. Sometimes an employee may have to move due to unforeseen circumstances. Perhaps the employee has a medical situation that needs urgent attention. We know life can throw curveballs. This philosophy is not absolute. My intention of this discussion is to consider those times where proper notice is an option but is ignored. To me, this is a violation of Integrity. It is a conscious behavior that violates the values of common courtesy and professionalism. I also am not specifically speaking of times where employees are fired and not allowed to resign. The below video discusses a few examples of when it may not be appropriate to give two weeks notice, but also reiterates the costs of not giving two weeks notice.
I am interested in seeing who else deals with this problem. How have you handled this situation? Is this unique to specific industries or is it a common trend? I believe people who are in a career position may be more prone to carefully consider their exit. Also, do you believe this is a behavior that is becoming more prevalent? I personally have never left a position without giving proper notice. At times I have even extended my notice to accommodate if the company needs me for additional training. Also, do you believe these situations occur more because of a personal decision or pressure from an outside source? This could not only be a prospective employer, but a family member, friend, or financial situation. I also am interested in hearing from those people that believe proper notice is unnecessary and if so, why. I believe as leaders we need to strive to behave with common courtesy and professionalism. This means giving the employee the chance to leave with dignity.
Palmieri, Trisha. March 25, 2019. How To Resign From A Job; What To Say When Quitting A Job. YouTube.