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Christina Lattimer

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7 Deadly Workplace Sins


 Whatever your role in the workplace, I’m betting you would like to go to work and be able to do your best in an environment which is fun, productive, friendly, happy, inspirational and positive, makes a difference, and has a great reputation (oh and pays enough to give you a decent standard of living).

Would I win my bet?  If not, please contact me right away as I will be fascinated to know the reason why!

I’ve been in a minority at times given the grouches people have about their workplaces, as I have worked in teams where the qualities listed above have been achieved.  The problem is when you have a workplace which works really well, it’s usually rare, and doesn’t always last.

More frequently I’ve worked in places which haven’t been so positive, even though they may have aspired to be.

I’m a “towards” motivated person and am generally positive,  so am more likely to begin by describing my vision or the positive qualities a leader should obtain, or even what makes a great team.

The other day someone asked me what were the biggest sins committed by organisations or teams which prevent them from realising a “dream team”.  It’s not a place I start from very often so it got me thinking. The “sins” listed below are what I came up with.

Teams or organisations aren’t likely to create a dream team if they are guilty of the following 7 deadly workplace sins:


1. Don’t know what  a “great” workplace looks like and so lack vision

The problem is, if an organisation has never been great there is nothing to compare with.   Most businesses have great vision about profitability, levels of service, and external customer services and products.  What they often don’t have is a vision about how their team will be working together.  It’s a little like a workaholic working all the hours he can and paying no attention to his health, eventually he will collapse.

2. Are just “good enough” and don’t stretch themselves 

Being in their comfort-zone can be one of the biggest barriers to achieving greatness for an organisation.  If an organisation is achieving good enough results then the imperative to grow beyond and above the cultural norm might be fairly weak.  People need a good reason to up the game.

3. Concentrate on meeting targets instead of using targets as a tool for better service

Measures and metrics are brilliant and a must when used in context.  Unfortunately when an organisation values hitting targets and profits margins above great customer service or quality teamwork then the result is likely lack of sustainability.  When an organisation is focused on great customer service and getting the best out of the team, and targets are used as a tool to assist, the rest follows naturally.

4. Recruit based on competence instead of excellence

I know in recruitment circles, competency based recruitment is meant positively. Competencies have helped job sponsors be specific about the skills, behaviours and knowledge they need to select an effective candidate.  Competencies in themselves though are often not quite right.  They often fail to miss the “x” factor needed for certain jobs and again and again, I have seen people recruited who meet all the competencies, but interviewers know they aren’t right for the organisation, or a specific role.  The first question a great organisation should ask is:  How can we attract excellence to raise the bar in the organisation?

5. Competitiveness across teams is fostered

I’m all for a little healthy competitiveness.  Comparisons across results are a must. The problem comes when results become the bottom line.  End of month or annual results might earn a team or an individual a bonus, but quite often fantastic teams can’t get good results for a number of reasons.  It might be because they are doing the right things, but it takes longer to get better results in the long run for example.   Results must be tempered with a balanced overview.  Unhealthy competitiveness comes in many guises, one of the worst is when a team will “protect” resources, or make decisions which aren’t for the greater good of the whole, but are simply to preserve status, resources, or accolades for the individual or a single team.

6. Inadequate leadership and management skills are tolerated.  

I know this is a common cry, but seriously, it only takes an organisation to get clear and get tough and the problem could be gone forever.  It’s quite unforgivable to let this situation carry on for any length of time.

7. Allowing familiarity to preside over undignified behaviour  

Dignity at work is for me one of the most important values an organisation can prize.   The problem is, if an organisation has people who have worked there for a number of years, it can become like a tired marriage and over time the tenet of “familiarity breeds contempt” can become a reality.  I have heard many managers when challenged about less than dignified behaviour of their employees towards one another say things like “that’s just billy, (or Brenda, or bob etc. etc. ), it’s just the way they are”.  Even worse if the employee feedback survey indicates even one member of staff feels like they are bullied, then inaction is tantamount to condoning unacceptable behaviour, or even the perception of it.

Well there you are my 7 deadly sins.  Obviously not scientific and I’m sure you have your own.  Let’s try for 21 deadly sins.  What’s your biggest organisational deadly sin?   Comment below, I’d love to hear your views.

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2 Responses

  1. Love it, great article

    Thanks, really good.

    I especially like the "recruit for competence not excellence" point. Really useful.

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Christina Lattimer


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