Two weeks ago I wrote about the toxic culture at Crown Resorts, which led to the dismissal of most of their board, denial of Crown’s $100million NSW gambling licence, and could cost the state $400million in lost tax revenue.
This week, we’ve been faced with the harsh reality that even our highest institutions are susceptible to toxic and corrupt behaviour with allegations of sexual abuse in Parliament House.
It’s times like these that institutional and organisational values and codes of conduct are truly put to the test.
What are the consequences for violations of our trust and behavioural codes?
How an organisation responds to people who abuse power and think the rules don’t apply to them, determines how the rest of their culture rolls.
Bek Chee, Global Head of Talent at Atlassian, Australian software powerhouse valued at over $50billion AUD, calls these people ‘brilliant jerks’. She describes them as ‘people who are extremely bright and talented with respect to the way they execute their role but aren’t necessarily concerned with the impact they have on others’.
We all see variations of this in our own organisations:
All of these behaviours serve to damage psychological safety and send a message that our organisational ‘values’ are meaningless, empty words on the wall.
In these organisations and teams, people withhold discretionary effort. They do the bare minimum necessary to get by in the role. They’re using the rest of their energy to protect themselves from what is an unhealthy and hostile environment, or look for opportunities elsewhere.
Values are truly put to the test when organisational leaders are faced with a decision to keep or let go of their ‘brilliant jerks’.
So what do you do when you’re faced with a decision to let go of rainmakers (people who deliver results) who also happen to be jerks?
You follow through.
Take the short-term hit to play the long-term game. Not delivering on your promise to hold people accountable for repeated behavioural offenses is a surefire way to render your company values meaningless, kill engagement in your business and generate disenchantment for your employer brand. No-one, no matter how effective their results, is above the company culture. Holding onto your ‘brilliant jerks’ is a short-term ‘solution’ that will eventually erode performance and engagement across the whole group.
Culture is crucial, and true commitment to culture starts with the leaders of the organisation taking responsibility for their behaviour and role modelling the kinds of behaviours they ask of everyone else.
If you want to learn more about how culture impacts performance and more importantly, how you can amplify a positive and constructive culture within your leadership team – I’d love to talk.