One commenter left a link to the interesting LinkedIn article about signs that a company suffers from the toxic culture. You can read the whole article here, and I will quote the first part of it just to prove the point from my title:
Chairman, JetBlue Airways. Stanford Business School
I once asked an executive to share the essence of his company’s culture with the members of a business school class I was teaching. His response was that in his company, his view was, “We don’t need no stinkin’ culture.”
But that’s exactly what they had: a “stinking culture.”
“We don’t need no stinkin’ culture” can become the motto of Emirates Airline managers. It sounds similar to “We don’t need no education”, but I don’t think that Pink Floyd meant it in a way in which many decision makers in Emirates Airline comprehend this song.
I am more harsh than usual today because I forgot how arrogant and nervy e-mails from EK top management can sound. I just got one today and it made me think about the motives of one airline president to treat his staff like a flock of sheep.
Never forget that organizational culture starts from the top and for Mr.Tim Clark’s information these are the symptoms of the toxic organizational culture:
1. Unhappy people. When disgruntled people are in management positions, culture quickly become toxic, resulting in high turnover or the wrong kind of turnover (where the stars leave and the “dead wood” stays).
2. Unclear values. A management team that can’t articulate the priorities of the business or quantify them and set up ways to measure success won’t have value clarity – a culture killer.
3. No common language or folklore. The best cultures tell great inside stories, remember their history and celebrate heroic culture carriers.
4. Power-hoarding managers. Where leaders withhold information and use fear as the key motivator, the odds of developing a high-trust culture go to zero.
5. Second-class citizens. Bad cultures have a caste system. If the output of only one kind of producer is recognized and valued, it’s impossible to build a great culture.
6. Superficial diversity. Where managers only use race, gender and politics to create a superficial diversity, instead of ensuring that people with different life experiences are represented in the workplace, they can create cynicism.
Emirates Airline has all of these symptoms on very high levels, so what is Mr.Tim Clark’s contribution to it?
It’s simple. Mr.Tim Clark has no contact with his company’s reality or maybe he does have it but he ignores it. If it wasn’t so why he would continue to send quarterly updates which severely insult his employees’ intelligence? Mr.Tim Clark has a situation of massive dissatisfaction among his employees. Cabin crew department suffers from mass exodus. He doesn’t have enough crew to operate the flights and he had to fire three top Human Resource managers due to disappointing results on survey about employees’ satisfaction. Airport Services is barely alive.
Yet, this report doesn’t mention survey results or the fact that three top managers left the company. Instead, Mr.Tim Clark painted a picture with butterflies and roses, telling the staff things he usually tells them, which can be translated as:
Everything is fine, Emirates is still a powerful company, we are earning loads of money, everyone is happy and proud to work for EK, but (and there is always a “but”) unfortunately some mysterious circumstances, outside the boundaries of your understanding, MIGHT occur and we will give our best to resolve it, but your profit share, which you have earned with your devotion, hard and proud work, is endangered. Maybe we will give you some charity, but don’t hope for much.
Mr.Tim Clark’s quarterly report
Someone could just ask a question: Is it wiser to mislead intelligent and educated employees, already demotivated and humiliated or is it wiser to deceive media and competition? You can’t deceive them both at the same time. This is Mr.Tim Clark’s decision, and I have no intention to interfere in it. He is an experienced and skilled top manager with a lot of difficult issues and decisions to deal with. But I want to send him a message that it is a very bad idea to treat people like previously mentioned flock of sheep. And you must think that your people are sheep if you tell them that they might not have their profit share because of the “falling rates of major currencies against the strong US dollar“:
Plunging oil prices have reduced our fuel bill greatly. But this has been partially offset by another challenge – falling rates of major currencies against the strong US dollar. As a large part of our revenues across the network are earned in foreign currencies, we now get much less when these are converted to the US dollar. And because of intense competition, our yields and route profits are under pressure. Our teams are working hard to reduce this twin impact on our business.
If this sentence was not so ridiculous, in circumstances where most of the customers buy their tickets with US dollars and credit cards, and the prices in local currencies are always equivalent to US dollar where company takes the highest rate of conversion, it would be just sad how one company president tries to justify the fact that he will not (maybe) pay his hard-working staff their deserved profit share.
Moreover, Mr.Tim Clark has the nerves to advise his employees how to save money (??).
How can you help? Be firm about costs. With the financial year-end in March, don’t feel compelled to spend any surplus in your budget. Invest only in important projects that give solid returns. And rather than add more resources, work smart, think different. The more layers you add to the business, the graver the danger of losing speed and agility.
Mr.Tim Clark’s e-mail
Mr.Tim Clark gives a personal example for this last paragraph. He is very firm about his costs. He pays his ground staff 3500 AED salary, he doesn’t give profit share (or he gives just couple of weeks of it), he punishes pilots for flushing toilet paper in their homes with 600 euros salary deduction and so on.
On the other hand, Mr.Tim Clark “works smart” when he gives his unnecessary managers salary which is many times bigger than the salary of an average worker who deals with his airline’s safety, he spends money on failed projects (failed ABC check in and boarding system, for example) and he “thinks different” when he sponsors many sport events and teams, while many of his staff are ridiculed and humiliated with the salary and working conditions in his company.
I guess my End of Service Benefit, which I am expecting for 5 months now, is also lost in all the conversions from Serbian dinars to US dollars to UAE dirhams and back to US dollars and this is the reason why I didn’t get it so far. And as stupid as I am, I really do need Mr.Tim Clark’s advice on how to save the money which I don’t have.
But the important thing is that we are all proud that we worked or we are still working with Emirates and that our president is quite “touched” with our feedback on his report. Everything else, like profit share, survival in toxic organisational culture, deterioration of working conditions, massive turnover rate and incompetent management, is less important than the fact that we are all proud of being the part of it.