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The culture of a company: it can make or break you

The news of Rod McKenzie’s departure from the BBC isn’t so much a surprise as a shock. The shock is that action was finally taken. That so many people felt under such threat for so long, complained and absolutely nothing was done about it, speaks volumes about the culture still well-entrenched at this bastion of British broadcasting. You would think, on top of all the allegations made about former BBC personalities, ranging from indecent assault to sexual assault, and that’s without even mentioning JS’s name, the BBC would be the safest of safe havens; somewhere where you can do your work free from intimidation. But it’s not; not yet.

Then there’s the case of Lord Rennard and the complaints that went unheeded until other reputations might be impugned. (Too late there I fear.)  And what about all the hospitals where staff were too frightened to complain in case they lost their jobs, or had to falsify data or risk further bullying? And let’s not get started on care homes… All of it’s a disgrace; at the very least lives have been made a misery, at worst lives have been lost. And for what? To look good? To have an easier life? To enjoy other people’s torment. This culture thing is pretty powerful stuff.

The culture of a company is like a stick of Blackpool rock, it runs all the way through it; unlike the rock, culture can be diluted and mean different things to different people at different times unless it is constantly reinforced by good examples. And those good examples have to be set by the people at the top. There are lots of excellent companies where their culture is so engrained you just feel it. You know it’s right. And it’s contagious.

It might pay broadcasting grandees, politicians and directors to take a good hard look at John Lewis, a company where its respect for its staff and therefore its customers, is beyond doubt. If we were to judge all these people who have been in the news recently, we’d have to eventually reach the conclusion that their behaviour, by being ignored, was condoned by their bosses. And, in doing that, these grand fromages demonstrated their total self-interest and their complete lack of respect for all of us. Culture is a top-down thing and when it goes wrong that’s down to those at the top.

Decades ago the BBC produced one of its most brilliant serialisations, I Claudius, about the eponymous Roman emperor. We all liked Claudius because, among all the duplicity and depravity, he was the one with a conscience. The only one in that powder keg of power. And he was bright too. When he said: “Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out…” he could almost have been commenting on today.

(And I haven’t even mentioned the banks!)


Posted in Brand values, Crisis management, Don't lose reputation, Honest broker | Leave a comment

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