Workplace Culture

How NOT to Fix Workplace Culture

In February I wrote about the reports of sexual harassment at Uber and how CEO Travis Kalanick had created a culture that promoted this sort of behavior. However, I was enthused to hear that high-profile board member Arianna Huffington was stepping in and vowed to make sure that Uber would no longer be at the mercy of “brilliant jerks.”

Sadly, my rejoicing was premature. Huffington told CNN today that she and the head of human resources at Uber had spoken to hundreds of women at the company and they had found only “a few bad apples” but “this is not a systemic problem,” she said.

This is an amazingly shortsighted. Employees who work for bullies are highly unlikely to confide anything in the HR department, which is generally seen as being on the side of management. Nor are they likely to confide in a celebrity whose chief goal is damage control. An independent investigative team should have been called in that could guarantee anonymity for the people with whom they spoke. It’s already been shown that HR failed the young woman who reported her experiences on her personal blog, which went viral.

The fact that Huffington reported all of this on national television brings home how self-serving this report was. Even if, as Huffington indicated, Kalanick has “evolved,” and Uber does hire a chief operating officer to help Kalanick run the company, it is naïve to assume that this would do anything to change behavior is ingrained in the workplace culture.

It is perhaps ironic that this report dropped the day after the sitting president of the United States was proven to be a liar. I would imagine that the employees of Uber are like the rest of America—they have no idea who in power they can trust.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

What Do You Know About Your Workplace's Culture?

It’s important to take the time to assess your own workplace culture, and how you fit into it. As I’ve written before, and in my new book (out in January!), there are a few types of workplace cultures, and being both self-aware and aware of your workplace is important to finding a job that will be psychologically safe. And, to take it one step further, if you work in a position where you have the ability to enact change on your workplace’s culture, then do it! Too many professionals today pay lip service to workplace culture without actually trying to make positive changes where they can. Is Your Workplace Culture a Good Fit for You?


Are Two-Thirds of Your Employees Ready to Walk Out?

While I’m not sure if I’d agree with every idea in this article, but the statistic that two-thirds of Canadian employees are ready to walk out the door of their offices should be startling for employers. While some businesses may think that turnover isn’t a problem, a revolving-door attitude towards employees can be extremely disruptive to a workplace culture. Creating disruptions in workplace culture can, at best, lead to the loss of difficult-to-replace senior employees; at worst, disruptions in the culture can lead to catastrophic organizational scandal. Managers need to show employees that they’re valued, not just on an intellectual level, but through substantive measures like salary, time off, and fair maternity/paternity leave. Find the details here: Two-Thirds of Your Employees are Ready to Move On.


Wage Theft at Domino's

This is an absolute affront to working people everywhere. The way that a large franchise corporation, like Domino’s, can take advantage of people already making minimum wage is despicable. Wage theft is a real and systemic problem, but the reason why this particular case is so arresting is that, for the first time, there seems to be substantive evidence linking the corporate heads of a business to the use of software designed to keep low-wage workers from tips, overtime, and their regular pay. This isn’t just a bad workplace culture – it seems to be a business model built on employee exploitation. Oftentimes, in workplaces where I’ve seen similar types of bullying, other aspects of the business are being run unethically as well. If these allegations of wage theft are true, the government should step in and audit all of Domino’s business practices – if they treat employees this way, how are they treating vendors, food safety and sanitation, or other aspects of business?

One other point I’d like to make is that many people may call for a boycott of Domino's as this case moves along, but that would only further hurt those employees at the bottom of this chain trying to support their livelihoods. This needs to be sorted out in court, and subject to continuing investigations. You should read more at The New York Times.

Photo: A Domino's in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn; Image by Sam Hodgson for NYT

How Surprising: Another Volkswagen Indiscretion

Volkswagen’s continual dishonesty is barely surprising anymore. Even after the emissions scandal, they have insisted on deleting data routinely despite Department of Justice requests for them to stop. They dismissed a whistleblower who tried to make VW’s consistent lack of cooperation with investigators public. You would think that diminishing trust and sales would encourage VW to attempt changing their culture of deceit, but it appears that it’s difficult to teach an old dog new tricks. Read more at Fortune Magazine.

Photo Information: Jens Meyer/Associated Press via Mashable

Thai Workers on Israeli Farms

The conditions on these Israeli farms, if true, constitute modern day slavery. These Thai workers are forced to work unconscionable hours, and much of their pay is “sent back to Thailand” by their employers – though they have no way of verifying that. Additionally, they’re paid far less than the minimum wage, and are oftentimes forced to sleep in former animal shacks and containers that used to store chemicals. Workers feel like money-making objects for their employers, and have no recourse to ask for help or a fair shake. This is a horrible way to treat workers, and deserves more investigation. Read more at BBC News.

Photo Credit: BBC News

Bullying: One Of The Greatest Risks To The Organization

I recently wrote a featured piece for Directors & Boards about workplace bullying's harmful impact on organizations. Here is the first paragraph:

Rarely a day goes by when there is not a story in the media about abuse of power, inappropriate behavior, and corruption and greed on the part of leadership in every segment of our society worldwide. Whether it is business, industry, government, military, police services, education, law, social services, health care, sports, journalism, media or religion, none have been immune...

Read the rest here!  

Emotion Revolution in the Workplace

Dr. Marc Brackett, Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, announcing the new initiative.

Dr. Marc Brackett, Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, announcing the new initiative.

I'm proud to announce a joint initiative with The Faas Foundation and the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence to create the Emotion Revolution in the Workplace. In order to build positive work climates, this groundbreaking initiative between business and academia will investigate the role emotions play in the work environment, including:

  • How employees feel about their work
  • Why they feel the way they do
  • The impact emotions have on individual and organizational performance, overall health, and well-being
  • How to effectively build positive workplace climates

"We are excited that The Faas Foundation has decided to partner with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence to bring emotional intelligence into the workplace. Last year, we successfully launched the Emotion Revolution in school settings with the Born this Way Foundation, founded by Lady Gaga and her mom, Cynthia Germanotta. Now with support from the Faas Foundation we can launch the Emotion Revolution in the Workplace in order to promote psychologically safe and healthy workplaces for all employees," said Dr. Marc Brackett, Director of Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

The project's mission is to empower employees at all levels to increase their engagement, productivity and wellness through identifying and reducing unnecessary stressors in the workplace. To accomplish this, the Emotion Revolution in the Workplace will conduct a survey of 10,000 employees across North America beginning May 2016.

The need for an Emotion Revolution in the Workplace is greater than ever before.  Gallup reports that 70 percent of American workers aren't engaged and a Stanford University study indicates that more than 120,000 deaths may be attributable to workplace stress. Up until now, it's been difficult for business, industry and politicians to gauge the perspective of the working class. Because of that it's been difficult to break the code in order to quantify the value of workplace culture.

By collecting anonymous data about these conditions, this initiative will be able to further the scientific understanding of how to effectively build positive and productive work climates and connect workers with the emotional tools they need to reach their potential and achieve healthy and happy lives.

What Myers-Briggs Misses

This is a great article debating the merits and relevancy of the Myers-Briggs personality test, which many businesses use today to understand their employees. Nearly fifty million people have been tested over a fifty year period, and while some business leaders swear by the test’s accuracy and helpfulness as a tool, I would agree with the assessment that it’s more theory than science. In my view, the results do not capture the qualities that are most important, both in a work environment and in life: authenticity, trustworthiness and empathy. Read more about this at The Financial Times.

Image Credit: Financial Times

Changing the Canadian Armed Forces's Outlook on Sexual Misconduct

In the wake of what is clearly a horrible, systemic and organizational-wide problem, the Canadian Armed Forces’s attitude towards sexual misconduct and assault is leaves room for cautious optimism. After years of encouraging an attitude of indifference towards sexual violence, the Canadian Forces’s new initiative has created a confidential reporting system that operates outside the chain of command, giving it the latitude to investigate and follow up on cases that in years past would be brushed under the rug. Most of all, the cultural changes that need to happen seem to be taking initial steps – instilling the idea that sexual misconduct is not just a “women’s problem.” I’ve found that in organizations where inappropriate or illegal behavior is condoned by employees, targeted individuals do not come forward for fear of retaliation. The steps the Canadian Forces’s leadership is taking should be closely followed, but if the culture successfully adapts to better serve targeted persons, it could serve as a model for other organizations seeking to make similar changes. Read more about the steps being taken at The Globe and Mail.