Why EMPLOYERS Don’t (Appear to) CARE…Culture Leadership

Fear of Culture Change

Culture Leadership and Employees Caring

Recently, I published a blog titled:  “How to Get EMPLOYEES to CARE.” I received several emails from readers who shared experiences and examples of “employees” who cared,  but “employers” who didn’t. To all who sent emails, thank you for suggesting this topic.

So, now for a different twist:  “Why EMPLOYERS Don’t (Appear to) CARE… Fear of Culture Leadership”

It doesn’t matter if it’s a direct report manager or the president of the company, all too often; it appears that employers don’t care.

I’d like to focus on a few reasons why employers might not care and the impact of culture leadership.  NOTE:  This may frustrate some, making it even harder to have a good attitude at work; however, it’s good to know what may be, behind the apathy. In virtually every instance where employers appear not to care, the root cause can be traced to their practice of outmoded, ineffective, inefficient and obsolete LEADERSHIP SKILLS. After all, hardly any business schools in the U.S require courses on this topic. This lack of knowledge causes fear of changing the culture — the civilization we work in.


Culture Leadership – What You Can Do

The upshot of this behavior is a “culture by default.” Where, more often than not,  fear and distrust permeate the workplace. People feel they’re walking on eggshells. Most employees feel discouraged and have a “we vs. them” attitude. Their performance slips and either they try to hang in because after all, “it is a job and money,” or they leave. While this is going on, customers sense the negativity and take their business elsewhere. Vendors, suppliers and other stakeholders are also impacted. And perhaps worst of all, the longer an employer continues to accept a culture by default, the longer the business suffers.

A few other symptoms include, employers who:

  • Are not models but rather exceptions to the values they encourage and thus destroy their own credibility.
  • Spend so much time working “in” their business that they have little time to work “on” their business.
  • Are too often driven by performance and profit, rather than creating value.
  • Tend to be so focused on “bottom line” that they miss the big picture.
  • Are not strategic thinkers and therefore, justify their existence by micromanaging.
  • Don’t seem to appreciate the value of intellectual capital.
  • Are in denial that “they” be may be the reason their employees are “disengaged.”
  • Fail to recognize how much happy, productive employees, impact the business in a positive way.

Now, as much as I hate to admit it, there is little that can be done to get employers to care.  There are heads of organizations that simply just don’t care.  They’ve made it to the top, are making big bucks (with the lifestyle that goes with it), and if someone quits, they can be replaced. They don’t effectively communicate or interact with their employees; they give orders and expect them to be carried out, and typically are not interested in changing their own behavior. These heads of organizations either don’t know how, or are not interested in creating value for the business.

Fortunately, culture can be changed when employers are ready and willing to make improvements. However, the process requires employers who know how to listen and willing to modify behavior. There are several chapters devoted to this topic in my new book UpStream — Are YOU ready to turn YOUR business around?  I’m also a strong advocate of periodically bringing in, an outside expert. Someone with “fresh eyes” and “fresh ideas,” who can coach key managers to become practitioners of todjay’s effective leadership and management styles.  

When there is an (intentional) strong positive culture — employers and employees CARE and COLLABORATE.  The results are endless.  Just like the title from the classic Dr. Seuss book: Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

They say that great leaders are great influencers. And while we know that many great leaders don’t in fact, “lead” anything, they still can be great influencers of others, to do the right thing.

   Please leave a comment about organizations where employers and employees CARE. It would also be helpful if you could share an example of how they do that.

About Alan

Alan Adler is an executive coach, speaker & author.

26. September 2012 by Alan
Categories: Business leadership, BuyButtons, Customer Experience, Human Resources, Marketing, Non-profit, Recruitment & Re, Social Media/Busines, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 25 comments

Comments (25)

  1. G’Day Alan,
    A prime example of a manager who clearly cares is Ricardo Semler of Semco in Brazil. I work exclusively with managers in small/medium business. I suspect that the “uncaring ‘ manager you describe is more likely to appear in larger businesses.

    Certainly, there are some “cardsharps and crapshooters” in small/medium business. But my general experience has been that SME managers are far more receptive to new and different ideas about people management than those in larger businesses. It’s also clear from my experience, that the really innovative initiatives are being taken in SMEs.

    I have some clients here in Australia who are very successful and innovative too. Perhaps it’s because SME managers can see the total management picture and less concerned with political pointscoring and shoring up their own fiefdoms.

    Hope this helps


  2. The problem of both employers and employees not caring, is getting worse in America. I’m glad to see you discussing this and we need to get to the bottom of this. Both – the people at the top – and the people at the working level are responsible for the falling society.

    We all need to care, and to do that we need to understand how to care. People who believe in upholding high standards of living, need to work together. Sometimes I see the necessity for a militaristic approach. If the country falls apart, we will all be at that level anyway, where we will be concerned with basic survival.

    JFK asked us to figure out what we can do for our country. Average people should go ahead and do that and then follow through with good deeds for the country.

    Then the people at the top should go ahead and return the good deeds with genuine valuable good deeds.

    We either work together or we all go to what could be called hell. Everyone is responsible.

    • Thanks for your comment, Alan. Interesting perspective. I really believe in my heart of hearts that example setting and cultural modeling runs pretty much “top down.” When leadership, in any institution, destroys their credibility, it’s that much tougher for the common folk to CARE.

  3. Terrific read, Alan, thanks so much. Couldn’t agree more that employers need to lead culture change – and also that some can be more amenable than they at first let on. It’s so often their fear of change that makes them give out the signal that they’re not up for anything, as you know well.

    It’s a great blog, thanks again.

    • Thanks for the comment, Pete. Look forward to hearning from others that are on the same page and “connect the dots.”

  4. Well summarized, Alan.

    A quick comment on how easy it is to check out how the effective leadership is in an organization…how happy and eager to help customers are all employees?

    Just returned from a trip to New York. Stayed at the TRYP New York Times Square South hotel and was amazed at the happy, genuinely smiling employees at all levels. All eager to help and very engaging.

    I would be surprised if they are not treated well or valued by their superiors and owners.

  5. Many people like me before I retired after 46 years working for primarily 2 companies was always an owner where I worked through profit sharing, significant, as much as 25% discounts on stock purchase, ESOP’s, retirement plans, 401-K company matches, etc.
    Today a high percentage of people are part time or independent contractors due to our unfair regulations, government interference and tax laws so many of today’s workers and owners are only looking out for themselves.
    We need to get back to making it easier to be owners again which will really ignite our economy.
    Chuck Sawicki

  6. Chip Conley was a great example with his Joie de Vivre boutique hotels. He has stepped down as CEO but continues to inspire with his books – Peak and Emotional Equations. He also spoke on TED if you want a preview.

  7. Some employers do not care for the reasons cited in your blog but there are other reasons.
    1)In America ,the life of a Fortune 500 CEO is just 17.4 months which means that they are looking for their next big role almost as soon as they begin their current job or are like my old boss at GE Capital,70% focussed on the job but spending 30% of their time schmoozing headhunters and building their networks.
    In the UK the process takes 2.8 years so with one eye on their future they have little time to care for anyone other than themselves.
    2)The earnings gap between CEO,s and people on average pay is now as high as 400 to 1 or even 1000 to 1 if the CEO is a “Master of the Universe”.
    Socially,emotionally and in terms of lifestyle these CEO,s have nothing in common with their staff or for that matter most ordinary people.
    So in many cases this earnings gap and the massive inequality associated with it makes communication almost impossible as CEO,s and those who work at the front line almost operate as two separate species of people,rather than the statement about “All men being created equal”.
    This is contrary to what the American system is supposed to produce(egalitarianism and opportunity only limited by ability,hard work and motivation),but it is becoming a reality which corporate America and even the American Presidential; hopefuls seem unable to acknowledge.
    Mitt Romney,s statements about the 47% of American voters he has effectively written off are not just an expression of his thoughts but reflect what a great many wealthy people and CEO,s really think

  8. Very thought provoking, Alan. Having successfully managed people and led businesses for more than 30 years, I am convinced I know what works as a leader of people. Having said that, despite my success at the approach, I can point to business leader after business leader who fit your negative description, and still manage to be personally successful –and seemingly lead successful businesses.

    For the record, my belief is that the right culture (core values) of a business with 5+ employees is the greatest element of business success. Work hard to have everyone work well together, allow everyone to contribute, and consider it your leadership job to mentor and make each employee better. The difficulty for the leader with that philosophy is to still lead, to still be decisive and not go to 100% consensus management, and to not continue to mentor an employee forever when the competence is just not there.

    Focusing on those issues just described, one can conclude that the current business environment and troubling economy makes those potential negatives even more fatal – there is pressure to get more done with fewer people (e.g. where’s the time for team building, training, etc.?), there is no time to get input before making decisions, and a leader cannot afford to keep anyone that needs much time at all to be effective in the job.

    Why in some industries did it used to be that you were employees for life — but now no one expects that? It is because of the toughening, more competitive business environment and the poor economy. So to some extent, I dispute the suggested premise — that the old employer management techniques continue to be used in newer times to the detriment of the employee. I submit that there have always been good and bad leaders and managers, and frankly it used to be that they kept employees forever. And that a lot of the concern by employees today, despite those of us that I believe understand how to properly treat employees, is caused by the changing environment.

    A lot more could be said, but in reality, despite my suggested cause of the situation, there must be an effort by employers to still maintain human decency and promote employee improvement, while still dealing with the current business and economic environment. I personally think it can be done.

  9. A beautiful write-up Alan – and very well articulated too.

    I agree with you that some of the reasons are culture based. I will also like to point out that Communication (or rather lack of it) can be a reason why employers appear not to care. An organisation with no communication or with bad communication culture will most certainly convey the wrong impression to its stakeholders.

    Marissa Mayers efforts at Yahoo! speaks volume on the importance of communication in showing how much leadership or executive management cares.

    • I really like your comment Benson, thank you. You are “spot on,” as they say. COMMUNICATION is a bottom line fundamental… that eats most other corporate disciplines, For LUNCH! Yes, extraordinary communication skills, modeled and practiced, are the cornerstone of every well-run organization.

  10. Alan, good article and discussion piece. After working for IBM when I started my business career, and then watching other companies manage people, I have seen the biggest issue.

    Very few companies, and I mean very, very few, train and then coach people to manage and/or lead. For some reason most companies expect people to know, I guess through some great personal, or mystical discovery, that when they are promoted to manage and lead, they should automatically know how.

    I run into this all the time in sales and marketing people. Very few of them are trained either.

    For some reason, most managers, who are already bad managers and leaders, seem to think that by promoting somebody, this person will become a good manager and leader.

    Companies spend millions on training technical skills, but very little if any money, on training and coaching life, management and leadership skills.

    if someone had not spent time teaching kids the three R’s, no one would be literate, because very few people spend their own time, or money, learning new skills. It has to be built into the corporate culture. But as mentioned by others, so called leaders are too busy looking for another job.

  11. Insightful as ever Alan! Personally, i feel it is the fear factor that has brought about this image — whether deserved or otherwise. We live in turbulent times. Too much has changed too fast in too short a time. The old signposts are gone and in the still shifting sands new ones are yet to establish themselves.

    In the absence of a map, both employers and employees fear the unknown that lies beyond the next corner. Yes there is mutual distrust. But then both are skating on thin ice, in mortal dread of going under. Survival in the here and now is of paramount importance. Even the next step after that doesn’t carry too far. It still remains within personal home-ground, staying back to light one’s own fires to keep out the cold for longer than the next man.

    I have seen several examples of this at various levels in organisations.

    In one, the short life span of the chief ( 7 persons in 5 years ) meant the “corporate values” remained only on corporate posters and brochures. Everything other than meritocracy operated. Dishonesty, ill-treatment,even fraud was accepted by the employer out of a fear that the coach might run driver-less. The inconsistency in corporate behaviour and the lack of credibility it had generated was noticed by the client, who then walked away.

    At another, downsizing by nearly 90% (followed by new hires few months later) by new owners of a company created a fear psychosis among the old employees. They feared constantly about losing their jobs, even though the re-structuring was long since over. The result was an antipathy to anything new — systems, colleagues, actions of the new employer. Fearing being turned out in the cold led to various activities for lining their own nests pinching whatever cotton wool they could grab. The old employees turned tribal.

    The management wasnt unaware, but feared worsening the paranoia by taking any action. It also feared the loss of continuity of knowledge of the business operation taking action would entail.

    FEAR. Fear was the operative word on both sides. Fear is what we find most difficult to own up to as adults.

    Yes, communication is a crucial element for better understanding. But communication, free, from the heart communication can’t take place till fear is removed.

    • Thanks for the comments, Shekhar. I could not agree with you more re: FEAR. Your experience is showing 🙂

  12. Thank you for this, Alan. This matter of caring is one of the issues that lay behind my new book “Third Generation Leadership and the Locus of Control: knowledge, change and neuroscience” (2012, Gower). So many organisations and leaders (whether business, religious, social or political) are locked into what I term a “red brain” perspective that is based around compliance or conformance rather than the “blue brain” perspective of engagement. Engagement requires that a leader cares and shows this caring by the way in which they communicate – powerful questioning, observational listening, and optimistic listening are central to this communication process. One of the critical tasks facing those of us who facilitate leadership development is helping people understand and shift their brain’s locus of control so that they can move from the reactionary power and authority leadership approach to an engaging and empowering one. Leon Noone makes the point that Ricard Semmler is a good example of a leader who made this shift and John Gelmini provides an excellent point as to why leaders are scared of trying to make the shift.

    • Thanks Douglas for your comments, examples and perspective. I love how YOU connect the dots and would encourage readers to take a look and consider your book, “Third Generation Leadership and the Locus of Control: knowledge, change and neuroscience” (2012, Gower).. Thanks again.

  13. Rob Slee, comments…

    Rob is widely recognized as the country’s foremost authority on the capitalization and financial management of privately owned companies.
    Alan: I’m now 100% convinced the vast majority of biz owners:
    1. Don’t have the mental constructs to create more valuable businesses.
    2. Don’t have advisors around them with the mental constructs who can really help.
    3. Will not create substantially more valuable businesses the rest of this ecade, if that.

    Owners who won’t change behavior even when convinced that it’s in their best interests. Like smokers/alcoholics, in that way.

    I just can’t see how this ends well for the majority of owners or Americans going forward.
    We’re now definitely in a period of every man for himself.


  14. Chip Conley, author of “Peak” and “Emotional Equations,” has spoken about this on TED. I just got this audio file from him today. He’s an inspiration.


  15. It really starts from the top down. Not in every situation, however I’ve worked at business’s where upper management had a poor attitude toward the owners. This rolled down hill to employees that never met the owner. Others have a problem with authority, regardless of how good or bad the owner is.
    In a small business, the owner plays every role. This includes dealing with employee problems, or basically being a counselor. I quit a job after three months due to “High School” like environment. It started with the owner and went down to the lowest paid employee. They had constant drama, and problems daily within the organization. I never fit in there because I would not get involved. I became an outcast since I went to work, did my job and kept my mouth shut.
    It’s important for the owner to show authority without being unapproachable. I could go on forever, but I’ll stop here.

  16. Leon, You’re great! Thanks again for your thoughtful comment.

    Best, Alan