In Greek mythology, the Sirens were temptresses, luring mariners to destruction on the rocks surrounding the islands on which they lived. They sang songs which the sailors just could not resist. In the early scenes in the Bible, Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent, and Eve, succumbing to the temptation, was lured to the dark side, with catastrophic results.
A tempter or temptress does not lead individuals to good, but rather to give in to desire to break the rules. Such people are not just stories from our deep past or mythologies- they still exist in the business world. Those with bad intent are one story. They intentionally create mischief or worse, sabotage others in pursuit of a personal agenda. But perhaps worse, otherwise intelligent and well-intended leaders can unintentionally become tempters, leading to the demise of individuals or entire organizations.
- A state in which employees feel that the leader is not paying attention, or worse, doesn’t care.
- A state in which there are no set rules, regulations and policies.
- A state in which rules, regulations, policies and standards are applied randomly.
- A state in which leadership sets a negative example.
- A state in which there is no accountability and there are no consequences.
In all of the above scenarios, breaking a rule would seem to be a low risk situation, with perhaps a high reward. Who could resist? Leaders who allow the above states to exist are creating temptation that many will fall prey to.
Workers who sense that they could be rewarded for non-compliant behavior are at the vanguard of the destruction of the organization. Once they start taking liberties and nothing happens to them, it causes others to either follow their lead or leave the organization in disgust. What do these behaviors look like? They fall into four broad categories:
- Ignoring goals and targets where there are no consequences for missing them. This leads to an overall lack of accountability, which inevitably leads to no standards, a fall in productivity, a decline in business results, the departure of those who care and ultimately failure.
- Not living up to the brand promise. Customers, vendors and the public start to have uneven experiences with the organization. Previously loyal or satisfied customers start to look elsewhere for services and products until sales fall below sustainability.
- “Forgetting” the organization’s values and the behaviors that support them. This can be reflected in a change in interpersonal relationships within the organization. Bullying and harassment may take hold. A hostile or unfriendly workplace may arise. Backstabbing may become the order of the day. Again, good employees who seek order and rationality will bolt, leaving a horror show behind.
- Stealing. If the boss raids the supply closet for personal reasons, others may begin to do so. Then it may be false expense reports, mileage claims and worse. The most valuable asset these employees steal is time and productivity.
Leaders need to look in the mirror and take responsibility for creating a tempting environment. They need to act to turn things around before it is too late. Creating order out of disorder is hard, but not impossible. They need to wake up, take a look around and get things back the way they need to be. Those that can’t comply with the movement back to sanity have to leave if the owner wants to save the organization. And if the owner cannot do it, he or she has to leave or the organization dies.