Right after my article “When Silence Isn’t Golden” appeared in The Globe &Mail, I received this e-mail from a reader:
I just wanted to send you a note to let you know how much your article today resonated with me … you hit it bang-on and helped me resolve something in my professional life.
After a very successful nine years leading a large marketing division in a very large organization, a new vice president came in and within three months showed me the door. I have struggled to come up with a solid and simple reason for why this happened. But I finally realized what really happened when I read your article.
When I was hired, there was a ‘no moose on the table’ culture — over the past number of years, with a revamp of the organization’s leadership structure (starting with the president and the vice presidents) there had been a huge cultural shift. No longer was candor valued or welcomed. Everyone clammed up talking about the tough issues in fear of their jobs and what might happen to them — the moose was there, everyone knew, but no one did anything about it. Outside of ‘official meetings’ where people all agreed with the boss, people openly expressed their confusion and frustrations about not being heard and not agreeing with where we were headed. The pendulum had shifted and there was a lack of candor.
As this shift happened, I realize that I did not adapt well to it and I could not change the direction of this Titanic organization alone. I continued to be myself, provide candor and ask tough questions. But this was no longer the organization’s culture. So I was no longer a fit. Exemplary performance in the past didn’t matter. Stifling opinions and agreeing with all the top bosses was the only way to survive.
Reading your article, I was reminded of Jack Welch’s (retired GE CEO) emphasis on candor as well. As I’m sure you’ve read in his books, this is something that he lives by and values almost above all else in any organization.
I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to finally realize this and how it will help in my search for new opportunities.
What are your experiences dealing with bosses, senior executives, or a culture that shuts down frank conversation and kills candor? How have you dealt with this problem? I’d love to get your thoughts and experiences at Jim.Clemmer@Clemmer.net.