Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest. ~Mark Twain
In another example of an organizational culture gone awry – this time with devastating consequences for one young man and his family – the Marine Corps’s Third Recruit Training Battalion talks about its “Culture of Toughness.”
In this case, there is the line between abuse and teaching recruits to be tough. Based on this article, it’s clear this division had a reputation for crossing that line. The leadership encouraged and allowed extremely abusive behavior and unfortunately, it took a death for the culture to be scrutinized.
We’ve all been involved in situations that are awful because a leader or someone in power is behaving inappropriately. Often times we do nothing because we are not in charge and fear the repercussions. This is how negative or non-productive cultures take over – by people doing nothing. It’s also how bullies get away with bullying behaviors.
The problem with doing nothing is that we go against our own values. At the end of the day, the only person that can stop you from doing the right thing is you. The situation may not turn out as you hope, but you will have acted with integrity and alignment with your values. In an organization where the culture has veered from its stated values, the only way to get it back on track is by those “in it” to reclaim the values by doing the right thing. There is no honor in condoning abuse, hatred, bigotry or any other horrific form of behavior. Silence is agreement which only emboldens the leader and they become worse.
Yes, standing up for what you believe is right may make you unpopular and have negative consequences, but do you want to be in an organization whose values you oppose? Only when the majority say no, will things change.
As a leader, it’s up to you to set the example. Ask yourself if you are behaving in a way consistent with the values of the organization. Are you living the values and setting good examples for your team? Are you measuring and monitoring the behavior and results of others so the entire organization is aligned with the values? Are all your processes and procedures consistent with your values?
Changing culture is hard, often you have to start at the beginning and create a new foundation with the basics of values, understanding, training and a reset of everything in the organization, (which can potentially include removing some of your people). Maintaining a good, productive culture is much easier. It’s about knowing when to pull up the weeds of unintentional culture as soon as you spot them and rewarding “alignment” of the values.
At the end of the day, it’s about doing the right thing and that’s on all of us, not just the leader. Because we are all leaders in our own lives and we will end up becoming what we tolerate. So know who you are, know what you value and doing the right thing becomes much easier.