Recently my wife and I saw “Hell or High Water.” I won’t give away the plot, but it’s worth seeing. Afterward I started thinking about what I would do to win, what it means to win, and how to measure the consequences of winning. And I’m pretty competitive.

I thought of situations when a bully was in our workplace. Now everyone makes hiring mistakes, so accidentally hiring a bully was ok. But in a few cases the bully was tolerated and allowed to remain. The bully was tolerated because of something they brought to the company, better product, more sales, stronger efficiency. What other type of bully would be tolerated?

The problem is the cost.

Now to be clear I’m not opposed to change. I’m not talking about making a deliberate change to market, strategy, culture or values.

Bullies are not necessarily big or loud people. And in a professional environment they often come in sheep’s clothing. By bully I mean someone who is permitted to behave in conflict with the company’s culture and values because of the other things they bring to the table. And don’t make the mistake of thinking bullies don’t know what they are doing or that it’s accidental. Bullies see it as an advantage.

It’s been famously said “Culture eats strategy for lunch.” I agree. Culture powers organizational health and performance. A strategy opposed to one’s culture will not succeed. Culture is not a product of external forces, but internal ones. Common goals. Shared values. The very thing that powers Collins’ flywheel.

Not all organizations embrace the power of culture. But if one does, know that when the organization allows a bully, the impact is huge. It erodes trust. And not trust in the bully, trust in you, the leader. It erodes the culture from within turning it into a facade, a shell. It might look the same from the outside, but in reality everyone knows how to behave… but not what to believe.


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