You Get the Organization You Compromise For

Hands up if you recognize the following scenario: You have a productive, skilled member of the team, but you’ve noticed he doesn’t play well with others. To make matters worse, some of your other employees have brought his behavior to your attention.

What did you do? Did you tell them that you’re aware of these problems, but the person is too big of an asset to lose? That you know he’s a bully, but he has the skills the company needs to grow and succeed? Or did you take action and dismiss the person who was creating a toxic environment within your team?

To quote marketing guru Seth Godin,“The negative people who do nothing functional are an easy decision. It’s the little compromises around people who seem to add value that corrupt what we seek to create. Build a team of people who work together, who care and who learn and you’ll end up with the organization you deserve. Build the opposite and you also get what you deserve. Function is never an excuse for a dysfunctional organization, because we get the organization we compromise for.”

My philosophy is similar. I believe exceptions ruin excellence. One bad seed can throw off the entire team dynamic and destroy a company’s culture.

If your organization is in a dysfunctional state, it’s up to you to make changes. If you don’t, you’re on your way to building a troubled organization made up of the bullies and bad seeds you failed to stop. When you create excuses for toxic employees, you get the organization you compromise for.

Here are some tips to recognize, come to terms with, and fix an organization built on compromise.

1. How to recognize there’s a problem:

One person is always putting others down. There are many ways bullies can put others down in the workplace — from ignoring them to undermining their work. You must be the eyes and ears of your organization. Take the time to analyze what’s going on in your workplace and note any harmful behaviors or relationships. Members of your team should be inspiring and encouraging one another, not trying to tear each other down.

Employees are on edge around one person. Take the time to read people and situations. When you hold staff meetings, does the majority of your staff seem nervous or less confident when a certain person is in the room? Do you notice a positive difference in the team vibe when that person is out of the office for the day? Look for patterns that may indicate your organization has a bad seed.

You receive many complaints about one person. Another way to know if you have a toxic employee is if you get repeated complaints about one person. Also, if you’ve noticed these problems yourself and are receiving concerning statements, it’s a strong sign there’s a problem. It isn’t a coincidence. Don’t make excuses for problematic behavior, no matter how valuable the employee is.

2. How to stop the problem:

Admit you’re part of the problem. Understand that problems within your organization will only be resolved when you take the responsibility to do something about them. Your role as a leader is to make a positive difference within your organization.

Recognize compromises you’ve made. Have you been sticking up for the bully because he’s a loyal worker? Have you been making excuses for the bad seed because she has top skills? Take an honest look at how you’ve let the problem get out of control.

Reframe your thinking. It’s never too late to admit your mistakes. Once you own up to your past mistakes you can begin taking action to eliminate the problem in the future.

3. How to reverse the problem:

Stop making excuses. You could have the smartest, most experienced person on your team, but if they’re creating a negative environment within your organization, you need to stop them. The only way bad seeds can thrive and grow is if the leader allows it. The sooner you stop making excuses, the sooner you can get rid of the problem.

Take action. Letting go of employees can be one of the toughest parts of being a boss, but it needs to happen if your team will benefit. If you don’t take action, you’ll get exactly the organization that compromise creates.

Plan for the future. Use your experience to make sure you don’t allow small compromises to add up in the future. At the first sign of trouble, it’s up to you to take action. It’s a top-down issue, and you must prove to your team that you’re committed to creating the best possible company.

You deserve an organization built with people who care, who want to learn, and who create a positive workplace atmosphere. That means committing to ending your compromises and demanding the workplace you want.

Do you have any tips for recognizing and fixing comprises you’ve made within your organization? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.