Families vs Organizations and Organizational Culture, Part 6

I'm (finally!) circling back around to Joe Berkowitz's statement:

There is no template for how to be a good man in the #MeToo era.

I said that respect provided that template. (And, we can say “good people” instead of only men because abuse of power is not limited to men. See Power, Management, and Harassment: It’s a Cultural Problem.)

Here's the kicker:

The culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate. — Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker

Gruenert and Whitaker were talking specifically about schools, and I find their observation relevant for workplaces.

When we tolerate abuse of title-based power, we create an unsafe environment for everyone. Too often, the managers don't know about an unsafe environment because it's not safe enough for anyone to complain about the problems. That creates a feedback loop that encourages the power abusers and discourages the people without power.

One way to see problems is to look for the “revolving door” problem. People arrive in a team, department or product line, and they (all) leave within a year or two. That's very long as a feedback loop, but you can see it.

Instead, consider how you can be part of the organization that creates and reinforces an organizational culture that assumes adults, responsible adults, work there. We can then ask that everyone work as a professional.

Professionals respect themselves and each other. See Organizations Are Not Families, Part 1 for more. I'm using the definition of respect meaning consideration and regard.

Professionals build physical and psychological safety for themselves and each other. See  Build Respect in Organizations, Not Families, Part 2.

Managers must also be professionals. Professional management has a responsibility for respectful interactions with people in Build Respect in Organizations, Not Families, Part 3.

A culture of respect can help diverse teams succeed. Otherwise, I find it too likely that the “diverse” people find themselves at the bottom of the power chain. See Build Respect in Organizations, Not Families, Part 4.

We can ask people in love or lust to act as professionals. See Respect and Romance in Organizations, Part 5.

If we start with consideration for others and creating a comfortable work environment where people can feel safe, we might have a start on the answer for the answer on how to be a good person in the #MeToo era.

Organizations are not families. We expect different kinds of relationships with the people in our families (and with close friends) than we expect at work. Our families have a different culture (and should!) than our workplaces.

Schein said that culture is what we can discuss, what we reward, and how we treat each other. Respect plays into each of these. If we can discuss unsafe environments, if we don't reward abuse of power and reward people who speak up, and if we treat each other with respect, we have a culture of adults who can succeed.

Managers can lead that culture reinforcement by considering all three of these pieces of culture. I find that assuming servant leadership, creating a culture of respect, works. Even if you're not a perfect manager.

It's not easy. It's necessary.

A list of these posts (and I'll update all of them with all the links):

Thanks for hanging in there with me while I wrote these. Please do comment because I am learning from your comments, too.

5 Replies to “Families vs Organizations and Organizational Culture, Part 6”

  1. Your Gruenert and Whitaker quote triggered a memory of a place I worked long ago. I didn’t know it at the time, but the CEO had gotten his entire exec team to lie in court so he could beat a civil suit brought by a woman he sexually harassed in the office. My story is about how the work environment went from great to toxic.


    In the wake of that suit the parent company hired a psychologist guru to keep the CEO in line. The guru wrote this pretty scathing article about him, without naming names, in Inc. magazine (in 1997 — hard to believe the article is still available online):


    This happened almost half my life ago. Since then I’ve worked at several other companies. I’ve learned when I interview for a job to ask questions that get at company culture and the character of the leaders there. There usually isn’t time to go in depth but a few key questions around company culture can reveal some red flags.

    1. Wow. I wonder—if people think they can get away with one thing (the harassment here), that they can then get away with more? (The eventual overtime and bad product decisions, etc.) Good thing you no longer work there.

      Yes, some key questions can help you understand the erstwhile leaders’ behaviors. I have a post, Terrific Question for Assessing Culture in a Job Search that touches on possibilities.

      I have a little ebook I have not yet published about hiring managers for integrity. Gee, maybe it’s time!

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