This morning there were two telling articles on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. One article was about the now infamous “involuntary re-accommodation” by United Airlines. The other article was a report about Wells Fargo’s sales fraud.
And, not too long ago there was a series of articles about Volkswagen executives’ role in the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal.
In all of these cases, in response to pressures from the senior levels of the organization, lower level employees did something heinous, and in two of the cases, outright illegal.
At one time, these had all been reputable companies.
What has happened to them? All of these scandals reflect their corporate culture and this comes directly from the CEO and other senior executives.
It is crystal clear in the case of Wells Fargo and Volkswagen that the CEOs were putting intense pressure on the organization to improve financial performance. It appears as though the CEO at United Airlines was doing the same. Costs were cut, workloads increased, customer-focus diminished and anything was permissible as long as it increased profits.
Furthermore, it appears that Boards of Directors at these troubled companies didn’t care about anything except short-term financial performance.
Have we as a society become so limited in our focus that broader values of caring about customers, honesty, and integrity no longer matter? Apparently!
In one of his YouTube videos about his research on motivation, Dan Pink says something to the effect, “When companies lose touch with their greater purpose, bad things happen.” I would modify this to say, when the purpose becomes solely to make money, bad things happen, and there are a lot of bad things happening these days.
I may sound very populist here, but let’s reground our society to caring about each other and our customers. Let’s focus attention on the executive suite, asking leadership to develop a compelling purpose that is other than making money – both for themselves and their organizations.
I hope you are as appalled as I am by this spreading corporate culture of greed.
What are the real values coming from your executives?