We all know (and repeat every day) that corporate cultures reflect social trends and pressures. Businesses face extraordinary political and social pressures, which translates into their workforce.
Without being too dramatic, we are witnessing a fundamental social degradation of belief in our institutions. This is not a recent phenomenon – it has accelerated over the past 20 years and, interestingly, has fluctuated over the course of our country’s history. For some reason, however, this recent trend appears to be more prominent – challenging the basic norms surrounding our government, science, and other common beliefs.
In this age of political and social cults, organizations must be sensitive to the beliefs and tendencies of employees. Some companies have observed an increase in “group thinking”, adoption and adherence to a common understanding among senior management, management and employees.
What am I getting at?
Sometimes corporate cultures can blur the lines between good and bad. Common explanations for questionable behavior can be adopted and possibly remove an employee’s individual concern or willingness to question a specific action. As these events continue, sometimes with the repetition of “incorrect” explanations or justifications, a corporate culture can eventually be dominated by this so-called group thinking. Everyone is engaged in questionable behavior, no one thinks the behavior is questionable, and when asked about the behavior, everyone denies that they are wrong or that they have done something wrong. .
It is a cult of “wrongdoing” without blame, responsibility or accountability. When confronted with an email that clearly highlights wrongdoing, the employee may recognize the writing but say, “I see my words in black and white, but I did not intend to. do anything wrong. ”
Let’s dig a little deeper into this phenomenon. The employee asked his boss about a specific action. Asking the question itself reflects that the employee has a concern and needs guidance. The boss responds, asks the employee to take the “wrong” action, and the employee relying on the direction and the boss’s explanation follows the direction. As the pattern repeats itself, the employee ends up not raising the issue because he is now following the supervisor’s “group thinking” direction and thinks what he is doing is correct.
The cynical approach of this same model, however, is much more damning. The employee’s question itself reflects the employee’s understanding that conduct can be bad. By requesting direction from his supervisor, the employee engages in a classic “CYA” email communication to eliminate, in the employee’s mind, any responsibility for the action. E-mail communication and channel provide an outlet for the employee.
Frankly, I have seen both situations occur. I have observed “group thinking”, especially when it comes to matters where discretion is involved. Such patterns, however, often collapse on themselves because group thinking stretches beyond rational justification to the point where anyone gathering the facts can see what happened – a group has rationalized his behavior knowing that the conduct was questionable (even illegal).
The second scenario is more common – the actors know what they are doing is wrong, but they themselves find a way to CYA in the false belief of “denial”. In both cases, the actors have engaged in wrongdoing with the requisite state of mind – but beware of the “cult of group thinking misdeeds.” This is perhaps happening more often than we realize.