Behaviors That Are Not Acceptable

There are certain behaviors that have a lasting effect beyond the moment they occur. With these behaviors, unless you eliminate them completely, they can set poor standards, establish values contrary to the interests of the company, and create a toxic culture that can be hard to clean up.

If entrepreneurial ventures had, for example, a “curse jar” that required a five-dollar “donation” for every curse, we might be able to solve the national deficit pretty quickly. You must establish a set of ideals and perspectives that are non-negotiable for everyone. Here are some:

  • Speaking Negatively about Customers. When you or people in your organization say things like, “Our customers are clueless” or, “We can sell that to them,” it sends a clear message not only of disrespect, but ignorance about the role customers play in your company’s success. When you think, “Our customers won’t care if we take a little shortcut” or “Our customer will not know the difference,” you have lost your way. If negative talk becomes habitual, you are more likely to think of your customers not as allies but scapegoats. After all, it’s easier (and faster) to blame the customer for everything that is going wrong than to take a good, hard look at yourself, your product, your service and your people. Organizations must develop products and services that have a clear value—a value that customers understand and are willing to pay for. That’s hard to do. But if you adopt the negative perspective above, you’ll miss a critical opportunity to take stock of your own flaws and make progress. Speaking of customers in a negative light also sends a message to your employees that it is acceptable to blame customers instead of addressing the issue and troubleshooting a creative solution to problem.

“We WILL be there with you every step of the way.” 

  • Speaking Negatively About Employees. If you or others in your organization speak negatively about employees, it sends the message that the company does not value people and is only in the business of advancing people when it serves the company’s needs. There will be times when the skill level of your employees is deficient or part of your team is underperforming. There will also be day-to-day frustrations that come with managing employees. Finally, there will be times when employees leave the company—either by their choice or because they are let go. Speaking ill of individuals who are underperforming or leave the organization (e.g., “It’s good that “Steve” is leaving. He was not that good anyways”) sends the message that employees are not valued and that the organization lacks respect for those supporting it. Regardless of how your employees leave, take the high road. Wish them well and hope that they had a positive experience and that you contributed to their personal and professional goals. You want every employee who works for the company to feel that they are better off than they were before. Speaking poorly of current or past employees causes mistrust and tension for your existing employees who are probably wondering, “Is this what they’ll say about me?” It also prevents you from taking the opportunity to see areas where you can improve your company culture and build dialogue, trust and loyalty with your employees.

You must also have zero tolerance for anyone in the organization who exhibits these behaviors—including yourself.

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