Guident Newsletter – October 2017 – Issue 18

Culture: Enablement or Accountability?

The business owner, “The Boss”, establishes the culture in an organization.  It can be a culture of enablement or a culture of accountability. Often when I am asked to help with a company I discover the culture is one of enablement.  Even worse The Boss is the worst enabler of them all.   Enablement hurts productivity, causes safety issues, and undermines company morale.  Here is an example that drives the lesson home.

I was working in my office one day and I got a call from Dave, he was our area OSHA representative whom I knew well.  It is important to get to know these people before they show up at your door for an official visit. I knew Dave from some volunteer work we did together for the area YMCA. He was a good guy and we were on a first name basis.  Well, he called me to tell me he was sitting in his office looking out the window and he saw one of my service technicians working in the bucket truck fixing a lighting fixture.  He said the technician had his lanyard hooked to his belt, not the bucket.  Of course, this was an OSHA violation and that was why Dave was calling.  I said I wanted to meet him on sight and so we did. Come to find out the technician was Jim, a twelve-year veteran and the head of my installation and service crews.

Fast forward, I laid-off Jim for five days without pay, according to our Employee Handbook rules, and worked with Dave to lower my OSHA fine to $5,000.  I could have left Jim off the hook with a warning but what message would I have sent to the other crew members and every other employee in the company? The word was, “If The Boss laid-off Jim he would have no problem laying me off, so I had better stay clean and mind the rules”.  Did it cost me more than the $5,000 fine, sure it did as I lost one of my top guys for five days.  But in the long run, I felt I saved future dollars and more important I might have prevented one of my employees from being injured or worse.

If I would have left Jim off with a “slap on the wrist” I would have been enabling all other employees to bend the rules and potentially cause the company a larger exposure in the future.  I would have been undermining my efforts to create a culture of accountability and avoid a culture of enablement.  It is important that you enforce the rules equally across the board, what is good for one is good for all.  As The Boss you set the culture, what is your call?  Enablement or Accountability, it’s your choice.