I have respected my colleague Joe Mull ever since I met him. I follow his blog and this weekend he alerted his readers to this article from Inc. magazine. It discusses an executive’s email that garnered a wider than expected distribution, and the resulting fallout with employees, customers, and the brand.
The Inc. article makes these points:
While I completely agree with Inc.’s takeaways, what Joe and I believe happened is that through his email this top-level leader demonstrated his attitude towards Applebee’s employees. From the Applebee’s executive’s perspective, labor is a commodity and the company should find ways to take advantage of inflation and the decrease in consumer purchasing power. As an executive, he most certainly represents the company.
If you have senior leaders who believe that employees are commodities, it will show up. This leader’s reputation was already known, I feel sure. I would guess that his colleagues in the senior ranks, as well as his direct reports, already knew his attitude. All that is different now is that the entire company as well as the public is aware of his approach.
The Inc. article says to be careful what you write in a blast email. I think the true learning is not about email, but about values. It is the CEO’s job to hire and develop senior leaders who promote and model the culture expected in the organization. More importantly, senior leaders who do not align with the organization’s culture may need to be counseled or perhaps removed. If the CEO does not take a firm stand on values, the viewpoint that employees are commodities will at some point become clear inside and outside the organization .
Policies will never hide true philosophies.