Tag Archive for: FDIC

Chris Kolenda: The FDIC scandal shows that you promote what you permit in your work environment

The FDIC scandal shows that you promote what you permit in your work environment

How consciously do you assess your culture? 

Sometimes, leaders assume that what they say leads to the implementation they want, but they don’t have a sound process for checking. This fire-and-forget method of conveying expectations can create significant gaps in what you believe is happening versus what’s actually happening.

Other leaders lack awareness of how others see them. In such cases, you tend to see your own actions in the best possible light, while your employees see them much differently. Over time, resentment builds as you give yourself a pass for violating your own standards. This seems to be the case at the FDIC.

A Wall Street Journal investigation described a culture of bullying, sexual harassment, and discrimination at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), alleging Chairman Martin Gruenburg modeled much of that toxic behavior.

An independent investigator corroborated the WSJ report, and the House Financial Services Committee directed Gruenburg to testify about the work environment. A Senate Committee is doing the same.

Gruenburg resigned but said he’d stay in place until a successor was named. People reportedly fear a successor won’t be named and the resignation was a head fake to reduce the negative attention. 

Here’s how you can avoid this situation.

Leaders often unintentionally promote or permit toxic behavior. Poor emotional trigger management leading to outbursts is not uncommon, and leaders often dismiss their behavior as isolated incidents while their employees perceive a damaging pattern.  

Poor self-awareness creates significant disconnects between how you see yourself and how your employees see you.

Inadequate accountability turns isolated incidents into behavioral habits, as leaders look the other way and rationalize lousy behavior (he’s a jerk, but he gets results). Bullying, harassment, gaslighting, and other tactics become normal, creating a toxic work environment like the one reported at the FDIC.

Two simple measures can help you avoid the FDIC’s situation.

First, you need periodic, candid assessments of how people perceive you and their workplace so you can avoid blindsides, uncover festering issues, and take action. I encourage leaders to use a simple, 10-14-question tool like this one, which I can customize for you. 

Having a trusted agent conduct focus group discussions and individual interviews based on the survey results will get you as close to the ground truth as possible.

Your next step, which too many leaders miss, is to give feedback on the feedback. Discuss the results and what people urge you to sustain and improve. Decide what you will tackle, track progress, and keep people informed. 

Do this every 90 days, and your credibility will soar because people see you taking action. Their suggestions will be more detailed in future surveys because they know you take their feedback seriously.

Second, define your behavioral standards using a tool I call the dance floor. You want clarity on what’s right and what’s out of bounds. Here’s an example of Respect.

Too often, leaders are content with platitudes that offer little concrete guidance. The dance floor is a visual image you can use to nip bad behavior in the bud. 

Joe, did you know that you interrupted Susan three times during the meeting? What message does that behavior convey? Are we on the same page about mutual respect? 

You don’t have to be like the FDIC and get blindsided by an employee revolt or external investigation. These two steps will close gaps in perception and boost your ability to inspire people to contribute their best to your organization’s success.

How are these steps working for you? Email me to let me know.