How a Toxic Corporate Culture Can Sink an Organization. Could You Be the Next VW?

toxic corporate culture Two men with differing placards loudly disagreeing with each other

Do You Have a Toxic Corporate Culture?
What is it like at your organization? Do you feel you can ask questions of and raise issues with your boss without recrimination? Are you able to speak openly and make suggestions as ideas are presented in meetings? Is constructive debate encouraged and rewarded?

These are questions that highlight the openness of communication at a company. Where free and easy communication is the norm, ideas are exchanged and evaluated comfortably until the best one is agreed upon. Where communication is closed, decisions are made unilaterally and often arbitrarily.

Where would you rather work?

Communication and Information Sharing to Prevent a Toxic Corporate Culture
Our recent Organizational Alignment Research of 410 companies across eight industries identified the timely and open flow of communication as one of the top seven factors that creates higher profits, faster growth, more satisfied customers and higher level of employee engagement.

In highly aligned companies, 81% agreed or strongly agreed that information flow was timely. In lower performing companies, only 6% agreed.

What Culture Would You Choose?
Most of us would choose the open, collaborative culture. Culture is how things truly get done in an organization. It can be measured by understanding the way people think, behave and work. This includes the values and assumptions that enable key behaviors and practices.

The Consequences of a Toxic Corporate Culture
What might be the consequences of a culture that is closed and toxic? We only need to look at a company that has recently been in the news for its illegal practices and see if we can find seeds of the problem in the culture that existed there.

Does VW Have a Toxic Corporate Culture?
Early in the fall of 2015, Volkswagen was the target of an emissions scandal in which the company admitted to cheating on U.S. air pollution tests. The question now is who was responsible for the decisions that led to the cheating.

The CEO Had to Resign
The CEO when the scandal hit the news, Martin Winterkorn, has since resigned but has not taken responsibility for the illegal actions. His resignation was made, he says, in the interests of the company “even though I am not aware of any wrongdoing on my part.”

Leaders Are Responsible for Corporate Culture
Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt as to whether or not he was privy to the decisions made to fake emissions testing, we can hold him responsible for the culture he allowed to pervade the organization. The new CEO has stated that it is “very, very clear” that their 600,000 people worldwide have to be managed in a different way.

Create a New VW Culture is Imperative
VW now talks about how they need to create a high performance organizational culture where problems are not hidden but can be openly discussed; where there is no fear in questioning superiors; and where there is far less pressure from an authoritarian leader to perform without appropriate inquiry.

The Old Culture Created Problems
There is no doubt that Winterkorn was a strong leader with great ambitions for his company. He wanted to make VW the world’s biggest car maker. But his management style reportedly could be unforgiving, overly demanding and remote.

Apparently, he could be disrespectful of other VW executives and would often lose his temper when bad news was reported. Reports are surfacing that there was a pervading sense of fear if called to his office. Overall it appears he was unapproachable and apparently closed to debate.

The Bottom Line
The VW culture was just the opposite of an open atmosphere and the consequences were earth shaking to a brand that had always commanded respect. It was a toxic corporate culture with closed doors and closed minds, no one in the chain of command raised the questions that might have steered the emissions software in another, more legal direction.

Time will tell if and whether VW can survive and create a high performance corporate culture that encourages the free and healthy exchange of ideas in the pursuit of high growth.  We hope they figure it out.

To learn more about avoiding a toxic corporate culture, download How to Build a Purposeful and Aligned Corporate Culture.

Share:
Facebook Twitter Google+ Email LinkedIn

Comments are closed.

Over the years, both at 3Com and now at Redback, I’ve found LSA Global to be a valuable resource. The recent compliance program that they delivered for Redback’s executive and management team was the right solution, of the highest of quality, and customized to our business and culture. I would highly recommend LSA to any company looking for top quality solutions.

Gina Fulton
Vice President of Human Resources

Understanding and conforming to legal compliance was very important to our company. We turned to LSA Global to provide a quality and cost effective way to ensure that we were AB 1825 compliant. Their interactive eLearning program was top-notch. It allowed our managers to learn at their own pace, and on their own time. The program was tailored to include our logo and our internal harassment policies. It was interactive and met all federal and state legal requirements. I would highly recommend LSA Global to any company looking for an efficient and effective and top quality way to train their managers to be in compliance.

Kelly Warren, SPHR
Director, HR & Compliance

In the Next Generation Management Development courses, I was trained with skills and tools that have made me and my team more productive, motivated, and successful at communicating with other departments.

 

Kevin Ashman
Firmware Engineering Supervisor

I have worked with LSA Global at previous companies and welcomed the opportunity to bring them in to support my new organization. We worked closely with LSA to design a solution for our Client Partner Teams and Management Training on both coasts. LSA designed a customized solution for our business and organizational culture. LSA is a quality organization, one that I’d recommend to any company looking for a first class training and consulting partner that makes an impact.

Laurie Torres
Chief People Officer

LSA’s Employee Engagement Consulting and Survey work has provided critical visibility into: how well our people are holding up under the general economic environment, as well as, the specific challenges that face biotechnology companies in their efforts to discover and develop new medicines; their level of alignment and commitment to XOMA’s Vision and mission critical strategies; how leadership practices and management systems support an environment that engender commitment, and the specific actions that our leaders can take to improve on areas that are important to our people. I highly recommend LSA’s employee engagement solutions.

Chris Wells
Vice President, HR and IT

I have worked with other training companies and found it to be more of a seller/buyer relationship than one of matching the right expertise to our business issues. That’s what LSA does – ask the hard questions, listen, and understand our business needs. We receive the benefit of their expertise from assistance with personal development plans to enhancing team performance, to looking at enterprise-wide challenges. It’s all about helping our business succeed as we grow. Right now, LSA is providing great ideas, a fresh approach, and valuable guidance as we develop our management team and accelerate our client relationship management results.

Kristin Westland-Kaune
Director, Team Development

LSA helped us design and deliver a blended learning solution for our leaders to help drive our growth plans in a way that aligned with our specific culture and values. LSA understood our business, had deep expertise in the content areas, tailored the programs to fit our specific needs, and delivered great results. They constantly strive to deliver business impact and align their solutions with our business initiates, culture, and performance management systems. I highly recommend them to anyone looking to take their leaders to the next level.”

Beth A. Taylor
Vice President of Human Resources

Thoratec

VNUS Medical has been very pleased with the effective management development programs that LSA Global has delivered for us over the last four years. The programs have been universally facilitated by experienced and best in class instructors. The knowledge gained by our management team has been put into practice very quickly. VNUS is very happy to be working in partnership with LSA because they consistently deliver excellent programs that receive exceptional feedback from our management team.

Cindee Van Vleck
Director Human Resources

We have been able to utilize LSA’s extensive network of top-notch resources to leverage our investment in employee development. The result has been the cost effective and highly efficient delivery of quality educational and management training programs.

Steve Feller
Vice President, Human Resources

Our company engaged LSA to do a specialized “train the trainer” program, and the consultant’s performance outdid our exceptionally high standards for such a program. Very crucial to the success of this program was the work done upfront to discuss our needs and to interview key members of our organization so that the program specifically met our goals. Our facilitators continue to comment on the success of the program. Thanks also for the follow-up.

Frank Abbott
Chief Financial Officer

We engaged LSA to design and deliver a 6-month custom executive coaching program for a group of our key leaders. The focus of the program was to help a core group of senior leaders to leverage previous investments in management training, to ensure the engagement and retention of key employees, and to push critical strategic initiatives forward. Even with the high expectations of our senior people, LSA has completely exceeded our expectations. I would recommend them to anyone looking to create and implement a custom coaching methodology using proven tools to drive true change.

Ivan Fukumoto
Senior HR Manager - Staffing, Training, & Development

What a personal and professional pleasure it has been to Partner with LSA. They are truly a strategic partner with Wyse. For more than 5 years, LSA has been engaged in delivering various training and development solutions for Wyse, from custom on-site programs targeting specific core competencies, to working individually with clients to build job skills, and offering invaluable services to me and my team as we continue to build our learning programs. LSA’s representatives do more than sell a product, they offer a full service solution: they understand our business, our strategic initiatives, and the needs of our customers.

Jeff Rangel
Director of HR

I’ve been associated with LSA for the last 8 years and have found them to be an extremely professional, well managed full service training organization. Since working with LSA, I’ve participated in a number of solutions ranging from Performance Management to Assertiveness Training – I’ve found that the quality of the resources is superior. They are well prepared and have definitely done a considerable amount of pre-work in order to customize our culture and business into the total learning experience – making it most beneficial for our employees.

Duane Schroeder
Human Resource Manager

We value our relationship with LSA Global. We came to LSA because we wanted to improve overall behavioral based interviewing capabilities of our managers to increase the probability of both hiring top talent and future leaders. LSA designed a highly customized solution for our business and culture. We are currently rolling out this solution to our leaders. I would highly recommend LSA Global as a top quality resource.

Rae Phillips
HR Project Manager - Training & Development, PHR

I highly recommend LSA Global to anyone who is looking to improve individual or organizational effectiveness through their top quality programs and broad range of expertise.

Greg Pappas
VP of Human Resources

Evaluate your Performance

Toolkits

Toolkits

Download key published insights and tools from industry experts highlighting best practices in the areas of talent, strategy and culture.

More

Health Checks

Health Checks

Want to know how you stack up against leading organizations?  Receive a complimentary benchmarking analysis courtesy of an LSA Expert.

More

Whitepapers

Whitepapers

Get up to speed on timely solutions critical to your business. Published by LSA Experts based upon client feedback and key industry trends.

More

Methodology

Methodologies

First we identify the key metrics you want to improve. Then we assemble a dedicated team of elite experts who have successfully solved similar problems with similar clients.

More

Blogs

Stay up to do date with the latest information on how we help high growth companies align their culture and talent with strategy.

More

Case Studies

Client Case Studies

Real world consulting and training approaches from LSA projects, providing insights on how your company can outperform the competition.

More