Post by Jane K. Stimmler, contributing Women on Business writer
Earlier this month, the Navy removed Captain Owen Honors from command of the USS Enterprise because of his role in a series of videos shown to 6,000 male and female crew members. You may have had the misfortune of seeing clips from these inappropriate videos since they were widely broadcast on television stations and over the internet. According to a statement by Admiral John C. Harvey, Jr., commander of U.S. Fleet Forces, Honors showed “extremely poor judgment” in producing and starring in the crude so-called comedy videos. That is clearly an understatement!
Harvey went on to say that “The responsibility of the commanding officer for his or her command is absolute” and that the incident “completely undermines his credibility to continue to serve effectively…” To make matters even worse, those under his command who raised concerns about the videos were apparently ignored while others were reluctant to speak out fearing reprisal.
As I learned more about this, I cringed as I thought about what it would be like to work in the type of atmosphere that existed on that ship. Not that this was the first or the last time we have heard about toxic workplace cultures. But still, it made me wonder how it was that the Captain didn’t realize his poor choices in actions and words would affect the workplace culture for thousands of men and women. These actions, by virtue of his leadership position, set a tone for the entire ship and the behavior of everyone on it. That is a responsibility to be taken seriously.
Each organization has its own personality and reputation – these usually start at the top and permeate down. They heavily influence how individuals view others and behave towards their co-workers. Culture is usually very ingrained and values are difficult to change unless you are at the very top of the organization with a legion of loyal supporters. That’s why it is important to analyze the culture in which you work – the key players, the unstated protocols and the unwritten rules. And, once you gain this understanding – ask yourself some questions to make sure that it is an environment in which you feel you can survive – and thrive. Do your organization’s values match your own? Is the environment a respectful one? Is good work rewarded? Do you understand the organizational priorities? Once you determine the culture and how it fits with your working style, you can make an informed decision about your future there.
The USS Enterprise is an extreme example of poor organizational culture. In most cases the lines are more blurred and there are a lot of factors to weigh before deciding whether to stay or move on to another organization that more closely matches your style. Once you understand what you’re dealing with, you can make the best decision for you.
What do you think? Please share!
Donna Chmura says
I wholeheartedly agree that the tone and culture of an organization come from the top down. What the boss *does” (in contrast to what the boss *says*) sends a message. Being “one of the boys” is not leadership, and in my opinion, compromises the ability of the leader to enforce tough or unpopular decisions.