What Went Wrong?

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Wells Fargo managers interviewed women and people of color for already-filled jobs to make it look like they were trying to boost diversity, Joe Bruno says.

A Dollar Tree in Indiana is going viral after a strongly worded hiring notice was plastered to the front door of the store.

Hundreds of Allied Pilots Association pilots picketed in front of the New York Stock Exchange, demanding for better scheduling and tools to make flying more efficient. Pilots of the APA say erratic delays and cancellations resulted in an increase in fatigue.


What went Wrong News Archives –

Drexel pays $189K to Cover Professor’s Strip Club Spending: Feds

Penn Dead Resigns Over Doctoral Lie

Bronx Man Fired from MTA continued to Collect $250k in Paychecks

Outsourced: Employee Sends Own Job to China, Surfs Web


Would you like to be the director on whose team any of these employees work? Personally, I would be mortified and would probably call out of work for a couple of days on account of emotional distress. I don’t think I could face my superiors, let alone my direct reports. How could one even begin to explain the mis-steps and lack of oversight that allowed these situations to occur?


Aside from clear violations of policies, ethics,and laws, these employees were likely aided and abetted by their team’s or organization’s communication, alignment, and documentation practices. In other words, these employees were able to get away with these behaviors because of the organization’s culture. Indeed, culture is nothing more than the way an organization does things regardless of whether such is consistent with the organization’s written policies.  


What does this have to do with compliance? Oftentimes, the root causes are the same. Employees engage in unacceptable behavior or blatantly violate policies repeatedly and sometimes with increased brazenness because they have come to know the organization’s culture, which tells them  what they can get away with for 10 years, i.e., Drexel pays $189K to Cover Professor’s Strip Club Spending: Feds. In other instances, certain areas of accountability are lax as a function of organization culture, which invites even less cultural accountability because it allows people with questionable ethics to come into and find a place within the organization, i.e., Penn Dead Resigns Over Doctoral Lie. On the other hand, communication and documentation problems contribute to situations that give rise to practices whereby an employee who was terminated can continue collecting paychecks for several years, Bronx Man Fired from MTA continued to Collect $250k in Paychecks. Not only is this tremendously embarrassing, but the MTA is not likely to ever recover those funds. Moreover, when an employee is brave enough to outsource his own job, Outsourced: Employee Sends Own Job to China, Surfs Web, he has to be pretty certain that documentation and oversight practices are amiss. Finally, a toxic culture purportedly contributed the loss of life during the recent Boeing 737 Max crisis


Embarrassment aside, when these management failures occur, especially as it relates to compliance matters, it translates into increased liability. Inconsistency will get you every time. Inconsistencies are not only gaps between your written policies and your actual practices, but varied, unpredictable, and inexplicable ways of managing employees as well. 


Consider this: a few months ago, I provided anti-harassment training to a large team. Thankfully, I separate the supervisors and leaders from the staff because what happened next would’ve been even more terrible had the room been mixed. As I explained core elements of the client’s harassment policy, the supervisors said, “That’s not what we do here.” What they shared with me was wholly different than what the Director of Human Resources told me that they were supposed to be doing. Just imagine how much more vulnerable this client would be if the team hadn’t discovered this gap? Imagine them trying to explain their process to an EEOC investigator and tell a judge that they were certain that front line employees understood the complaint process when all of the supervisors were handling them differently?  


Are you certain that your organization’s culture around communication, alignment, and documentation practices are consistent? How are you insuring that your leaders are truly on the same page, especially the leaders with substantial tenure? If you asked them to explain various policies and procedures on the spot, could they? If they can’t, it’s likely that your culture told them that it was okay to be unsure and unclear. 


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