“You are free to choose, but you are not free of the consequences of your choice.”
It may be safe to say that over the past 60 days, we have experienced a movement that most of us have never witnessed before.
On December 6, Time Magazine announced their 2017 Person of the Year; the winner … The Silence Breakers. Perhaps “persons” of the year is a more apropos name, as this year’s honor goes to a number of brave women and men who found the courage to stand up and shout – enough is enough.
Their collective voices are calling out bad, inappropriate, offensive, predatory, and, in some cases, criminal behaviour, that went unheard for far too long.
There Are Consequences
Whatever the reason for their silence, whether it was fear of retaliation, personal humiliation, not knowing what to do or who to talk to, fear of further bullying and condemnation, concern about losing their job or source of income or genuinely feeling helpless, their actions have now brought worldwide attention to someone who believed for whatever reason that their actions had no consequences.
In some cases, empires have been toppled, careers ended up in tatters, other more insidious behaviours continue to be exposed, and in some cases, the perpetrator’s behaviour ended in the destruction of their own families.
Why is this important? Because it reminds us that no matter who we are, everything we do has consequences. Now they may not be immediately visible, or life altering, but at some point in time, you will feel the repercussions of your choices. To think otherwise may be one of the biggest mistakes and costliest you will ever make.
Starts At The Top
In my work, I have witnessed a number of leaders – ranging from first level supervisors, mid-level managers, directors to CEO’s – at one time or another make inappropriate comments, or conduct themselves in a manner that is inconsistent with a professional, respectful work environment.
Every time these behaviours are repeated without a consequence, the message to everyone is this behaviour is both accepted and acceptable. When over time this has become the company norm, not only do employees treat each other in this way, but it is not uncommon to find customers and clients are treated in a similar manner. The consequence of the behaviour in this case is that the behaviour at the top becomes endemic throughout.
It needn’t digress to this. The remedy is simple. Notice I didn’t say easy. Simple, because effective leaders hold everyone accountable to the same behavioral standards at all times, not just when it is easy or convenient to do so. If different rules for different people persists, don’t be surprised with the outcomes. They are simply the consequences to the behaviours that have been allowed.
A few years ago as friend of mine worked in an organization where smoking in the work environment was prohibited, in fact, it was contrary to city bylaws. Employees were taken to task and held accountable if they were found in violation of this policy, and rightly so. Sounds good doesn’t it? However the leadership team was exempt and continued to smoke in their offices whenever they desired. It was an unfortunate decision that was yet another example of the inequality of standards. Needless to say, accountability within the ranks suffered. This was the consequence of inequity of standards.
Here’s a great place to start. If you are a leader, ask for feedback. Engage your teams and ask the difficult questions that you may not want to hear the answers to, but you need to hear.
Be open-minded and non-judgmental, ask for specifics, be patient and, above all, thank folks for their honesty.
At the end of the day, everybody wants to work is a place where they feel great about themselves and their contributions. Take time to elicit feedback, take timely action and be willing to hold yourself, not just others, to high standards.
Above all make it a critical part of your organizational culture that all your consequences are stellar examples of a professional workplace.
Trust me when I say you’ll be thankful you did.
At Strategic Pathways, we use a program called “Preferred Workplace” which leverages positive consequences to will drive your organization to record performance levels.
If you’d like to learn more, please call me at (403) 203 0343 or (888) 929 0343. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can schedule a chat.
Till we read again.