What signal is your organisation sending?

By Ron Thomas

PayPal issued an official tweet: “Rakesh Agrawal is no longer with the company. Treat everyone with respect. No excuses. PayPal has zero tolerance.

With that statement he was out. It appeared from all indications that Mr. Agrawal’s rants about his colleagues had created a firestorm on Twitter. He had launched into obscenity-laced tirades against some of his colleagues.

What caught my eye was PayPal’s response: “PayPal has zero tolerance.” In other words, the badly behaved need not apply. If you are already in the fold it applies to you too. Simply put, we will not tolerate bad behavior.

The organisation as a beacon

Organizations should recall one of Newton’s Three Laws: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” PayPal’s response created a powerful message about the company’s culture. Every action that organizations take sends out a corresponding signal. I have always viewed the organization as a beacon that sends out this signal. You could define it as employer branding.

Organizations at one time completely owned their image and were in sole custody of their brand. That is no longer the case. With the advent of social media websites like Glassdoor and Vault and platforms like Twitter and Facebook, your company has been relegated to the back seat driver position for your brand. That is why it is important to use every opportunity to transmit your corporate signal. Don’t let the message overpower the brand, but to try and take charge and get your message out as much as you can.

Getting it right from the start

I was recently conference chair at an HR event held in Dubai last month and one of the speakers stated that his company will not in anyway tolerate bad behavior. His organization let it be known at the onboarding stage that it does not want to foster that type work environment. He summed his presentation up by saying if companies wanted to increase engagement and performance, they should start by getting rid of bad managers. Everyone in the room laughed but in the final analysis he was right.

The most tenuous relationship within an organization is the manager-employee dynamic. That is why in today’s hiring environment, it is soft skills that will drive that relationship. When departments/teams get the relationship in sync they are on their way to bigger and better things. If it is out of sync, you may as well chalk it up to inefficiencies and lack of a productive workspace.

Soft skills as the performance filter

Top companies today are using a soft skills approach as their filter for bringing in high-performance individuals. Soft skills are a highly desired trait for anyone that is managing people. Soft skills help inform how you relate to people, communicate, listen, engage in dialogue, give feedback, cooperate as a team member, solve problems, contribute in meeting and resolve conflicts.

If you began hiring people using soft skills as your filter, you are strengthening the productivity level within not only your department but throughout the organization as well.

Bringing it to the table

A lack of interpersonal skills is often learned from an early age. In a lot of cases we learn by doing. We pattern our behavior after others. This pattern over the years hardens and reinforces the way people are dealt with. That is why when you notice toxic behavior in the workplace and do not address it, it manifests itself to others and serves as an incubator for that type of behavior.

Flip that concept. If your managers exemplify this relationship-building process from the executive suite down to the supervisor level, you will not only see the fruits of their labor but the behavior will be modeled throughout the organization. In other words, model the behavior that you want.

Often times, though, managers are more disengaged than their staff. Managers are at the highest and most dangerous level of engagement because they are in charge of motivating people. That is why I applaud Zappos and Amazon for launching a policy in which they pay people to leave the company.

Amazon is taking a cost-effective approach to pruning the organization tree. Delivered with the headline “Please Don’t Take This Offer,” the pay-to-quit offers start at $2,000 for an employee’s first year and rise by $1,000 a year up to a maximum of $5,000.

“The goal is to encourage folks to take a moment and think about what they really want,” said Bezos. “In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.”

Let’s face it — you send a message with what you say AND what you do. If words aren’t supported with consistent actions, they will ring hollow. Someone once said, “Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions.”

By consistently tweaking your organization’s culture and creating an environment of support, encouragement and reinforcement, your organization can achieve the desired return on one of its biggest investments – its people.

Ron Thomas is a Chief Human Resource & Administrative Officer currently based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He was formerly Director, Talent and Human Resources Solutions at Buck Consultants (a Xerox Company) and is certified by the Human Capital Institute as a Master Human Capital Strategist (MHCS) and Strategic Workforce Planner (SWP). He’s also worked in senior HR roles with Martha Stewart Living and IBM. Ron serves on the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly Executive Online Panel, and HCI’s Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy. Contact him at ronaldtthomas@gmail.com, or on Twitter and LinkedIn.

This post first appeared on CEO.com

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