COMPANY CULTURE

When Company Culture Encourages Risky Behavior

This sad story should serve as a reminder for every boss: your words and actions can have a bigger impact than you realize.
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This morning I was forwarded a story about how bestselling author Jill Konrath's husband was rear-ended by a driver who was speeding while answering a "Where are you?" text from her boss.  She was late for work.

The driver struck Fred Konrath's car, propelling him into two pedestrians, a married couple. The husband, who tried to thrust his wife out of the way, was killed and the wife so seriously injured that she needed over 5,000 stitches and staples.

The texting/speeding driver will probably see jail time and rightly so.  However, I also blame her boss for creating a work environment where being on-time was so important that an employee felt it necessary to put innocent people at risk.

What could the boss have done differently?  For one thing, it's stupid and careless to text people when you know they're probably driving.  But texting while driving is a symptom, not a cause.

Both the driver and her boss were focusing on getting things done rather than thinking of how their actions might hurt others. The real problem is creating a corporate culture where outcomes are more important than people.

Fortunately, it's possible to create an environment where people matter more than outcomes.  Here's how:

  1. Become a good role model.  As every parent knows, "Do as I say not as I do," never works. If you're taking thoughtless risks (like driving aggressively because you're late), you're teaching your employees that such behavior is OK.
  2. Don't force employees to do dumb things.  A former boss once demanded that I drive 50 miles in Ireland (left side of the street, right side steering wheel) after an overnight flight.  I obeyed because I knew my job was on the line.
  3. Expect reasonable work hours. People who are tired and stressed make bad decisions. Even when bad decisions don't end up killing people, they can wreak havoc with your company and customers.
  4. Fire the jerks and assh*les.  Jerks make themselves successful at the expense of others. If you tolerate jerks, your best people will eventually leave and those who remain will be the jerks and wannabe jerks.

Note: Please consider joining the Henson family's Stop the Texts, Stop the Wrecks initiative. Take the pledge and don't drive distracted.

IMAGE: Simona K / Flickr.com
Last updated: Mar 24, 2014

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for Inc.com, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed over a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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