“Ruthlessness, callousness and arrogance don’t belong here”

Do you like the quote that headlines this blog post? Isn’t it an important statement for a workplace with a heart?

Uh oh. Too bad it came from Enron’s code of ethics. Alas, great policies do not always translate into great leadership.

Such is the message from management consultant Stephen Paskoff in a piece on ethical leadership and civil workplaces for Workforce Management (link here). Paskoff invokes the Enron policy as a prime example of what happens when organizational leaders don’t practice what their policies preach. It starts at the top:

Building a legal and ethical workplace begins at the top. Successful leaders use clear, candid language when communicating their vision of a civil, inclusive and productive workplace, and they back it up with specific actions for which team leaders, their direct reports and others are accountable.

We live in an age of hype, spin, and message control. The way institutions portray themselves, in print and online, can be at unfortunate odds with the realities of their organizational cultures. As Paskoff further notes:

Creating a culture where employees are encouraged to raise their concerns and are protected from retaliation when they do so is integral to the strength of the organization. Unfortunately, many companies do just the opposite by allowing employees who speak up to be bullied, harassed or ostracized, thus discouraging others from coming forward. This is not only bad business practice, it is illegal.

It’s one thing to say that ruthlessness, callousness, and arrogance do not belong in an organization. Transforming that statement into practice is the real test of institutional integrity.


Of related interest: My 2008 article, “Workplace Bullying and Ethical Leadership,” which can be downloaded here.

7 responses

  1. The problem shows its true nature when it’s the people in charge of implementing the policy who violate it. There is no accountability.

  2. I fear that much of that sort of language (“Ruthlessness, etc.)is just cynical marketing. No one in charge has any intention of living up to the lofty standards or even trying.

  3. I wish I could be more optimistic than the comments to this post, but I tend to agree.

    You know the line, “the real test of your health care plan is what happens when you get sick”? Similarly, the real test of organizational integrity is what happens when someone alleges wrongdoing or an ethical lapse.

    Unfortunately, too many organizational “leaders” dodge, duck, and delay once a concrete concern has been raised, especially if the finger points at or near the top.

  4. Great Post Mr. Yamada. Following the Management chain and also meetings with a Human Resources rep,a letter to the CEO and the Ethics Committee is exactly what got me fired last week by a classic bully boss. I was, and still am in counseling with a great Psychotherapist that is a vendor for the company I was fired from! Why would someone go to this length, knowing that the outcome was going to be what happened!
    Lawsuit? Probably could and should. I prefer to move on, waiting and expecting the best is yet to come!

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