The Price Of Ignoring What’s Wrong

When I used to pull my sister’s hair as a kid and our babysitter used to ignore it while my sister howled and complained to her, I would chuckle and continue to create havoc. My sister hated that babysitter.

Strangely, I find that the same thing goes on in corporations everyday. Mistreatment of employees is a subtle thing in this day and age of litigation. It now takes the form of sarcasm and ill-disguised digs that pass as humor between peers and direct reports alike.

The importance of feeling good about your work environment has been often demonstrated. In 1997, The Gallup Organization interviewed over one million employees worldwide to analyze their attitudes with respect to 12 key areas that relate to Retention of Employees, Productivity, Profitability and Customer Loyalty.

The 12 areas were then distilled into statements and some of these were:

-My supervisor or someone at work seems to care about me as a person

-I have a best friend at work

-My associates are committed to doing quality work

The degree of agreement of an employee to these statements directly correlated with high scores in all the above mentioned performance indicators. This meant that these employees were a rare breed indeed–happy AND productive!

In my favourite team leadership book, Patrick Lencioni’s ‘5 Dysfunctions of a Team,’ he tells the fictional story of an executive who is let go despite her stellar performance, simply because of her negative attitude. As the CEO puts it to the shocked team in making the announcement, “seeing me ignore her (the fired manager’s) attitude and how it affected all of you could have risked all of our success, so I let her go”.

The price of ignoring what’s wrong is ironically also often ignored.

Some examples of things that go wrong in companies are the following:

ð the mistake that never finds a source or solution,

ð the on-going feuds between employees,

ð the boss who is a tyrant to her direct reports

I’m sure you could go on…

But what is the cost of ignoring these?

Well, first off, it’s a loss of morale in the workplace. The symptoms of this beast are high absenteeism, lack of sustainable high performance or productivity, absolute lack of friendships or outside of work socializing, as well as a high amount of cooler gossip and malicious back stabbing.

One company that I worked for had such low morale in the department that there were individual work teams that were continually excluded from being invited out to Friday lunches. You can imagine the working relationship in that department!

Another consequence of ignoring things that go wrong is a loss of confidence in the leadership. For example, when there’s no accountability for an individual taking every Friday off, employees who work faithfully from 9 to 5 begin to feel taken advantage of. Worse yet, when a mistake is covered up and blatantly ignored and there is no resolve to what caused it in the first place, teams often face the same issues over and over again.

The gravest consequence of leaders ignoring what’s going wrong in their teams is the loss of employees, especially good ones who find it easy to be offered other jobs. When workers see their leaders choose to avoid confrontation with bad-attitude employees or employees who make mistakes, they feel disillusioned and mistreated. Then they leave. The estimated cost of replacing such an employee costs two and one-half times the person’s salary.[1]

Do leaders who avoid things that are going wrong not know all this, you ask. In my experience, I often find that these managers belong to the same corporate culture where avoidance is a staple of the business or they’re inexperienced new managers who are unsure about how to operate when faced with the difficult task of confrontation.

If an e-zine could be a call to action for leaders and managers all over the corporate world to take a closer look at how they are affecting their work environment when they continue to ignore what’s wrong in their workplace, then please consider this to be that e-zine. I urge you to stop ignoring and to make a step in the right direction.

With kindness as always,


[1] 45 Effective Ways for HIRING SMART!: How to Predict Winners and Losers in the Incredibly Expensive People-Reading Game ( Ten Speed Press: Berkeley / Toronto) © 1998 by Pierre Mornell