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Those who say it cannot be done, should not interrupt those doing it.
— Chinese Proverb

Informed Resolutions™: How to Treat the Pain

Workplace FactFinders has been interviewing business people, human resources executives, attorneys, and executive consultants while researching our upcoming book, Company Confidential: The Secrets to Effectively Resolving Internal Conflict. Last week we began a three-part series on “pain trends” in the workplace.  This week we address how to treat the pain described in the various scenarios we presented in the first article. 

Let’s see how our fictitious CEO is doing.  The head of HR asked to meet about a new harassment allegation; the accounting manager needed an answer on next year’s budget; IT had a security breach and needs a plan on how to move forward; in-house counsel must update the CEO on a pending deposition; the PR team is asking for guidance on the media requests regarding the harassment allegation; the CEO’s assistant called in sick for the third day in a row; internal audit needs to inquire about Sarbanes Oxley compliance in relation to the security breach; and the phone lines in the call center have a glitch. 

When is the CEO supposed to find time to grow and manage the business? Which fires does the CEO put out and which ones can be delayed or ignored?  Putting out fires should not be the way any business owner or manager spends most their time.  What is the answer? Workplace FactFinders contends that these issues are only “fires” because the culture lacks resiliency, flexibility, and empowerment.  If the company had a healthy culture, the issues confronting the CEO would be manageable and the resolutions potentially innovative and growth-inducing. 

As Seinfeld says, “yada, yada, yada.”  Sounds like New Age double-speak.  Ok, here’s part of the reality of what the CEO is facing:

  1. The team is (a) not empowered to make decisions, (b) afraid to make decisions, (c) failing to enforce internal controls, (d) does not have proper internal controls in which to base decisions, (e) works in an environment where poor communication and ambiguity rules.  Any one, or all, of these could be true.
  2. The CEO is not growing the business. S/he is putting out the current fires and has little time for future thinking and planning.
  3. The culture of the company is such that problems eventually escalate to crises rather than being solved immediately when they are discovered.
  4. The chaos of the culture may be hurting employees by having a negative effect on their health.
  5. The CEO’s desire (if one exists) to implement a reputable and effective internal culture is supplanted by the need to fix immediate challenges.
  6. All this affects the bottom line in a negative way.

Does this sound familiar?  If so, maybe it is because dealing with avoidable problems are what business people do repeatedly every day.  Some issues may be resolved easily, but not all of them. A company ends up spending time and money in an endless loop of inefficiency. Einstein famously said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  American companies are leaders in external innovation but fail miserably in extending that same creativity to address internal issues.

Typically, the immediate “fires” described above are handled through a variety of solutions such as training, implementing hot lines, hiring consultants, severance packages, and legal advice.  These solutions are costly, time consuming, and lacking in vision. Because companies often just treat the symptoms, they mistakenly believe that the underlying illness will go away.  Bottom line: if the symptoms are treated disparately, without addressing the underlying illness, the company will find itself in a cycle of repetition--the workplace version of the film, Groundhog Day.

An article published by the Society of Human Resource Management on February 23, 2016 about Organizational Values stated,

“Culture is the driver of behavior in every organization. One of the ways an organizational culture is established or grown is based on the foundation of the organization’s values. These values allow us to understand what is acceptable and unacceptable to our co-workers, our customers, and our community. So, when culture is clearly defined, it makes it easier for leaders and employees to demonstrate better judgment. Because culture is born out of our values, then we should know how to behave, interact, treat each other, and respond to events and changes in our work environment.”

The overarching issue that our fictional CEO needs to address is the culture, which does not appear to be clearly defined and has led to the issues s/he is currently facing.  As the SHRM quote underscores, cultural values must be created, codified, and communicated.  Our Informed Resolutions process is predicated on the belief that once a successful company culture is established, the organization will organically expand and contract to meet the internal stresses, which then rewards the business with reduced exposure to liability and the opportunity for growth. Next Wednesday our article will discuss how the pain of a failed corporate culture can be transformed into a healthy organism that gives, rather than takes. 

Informed Resolutions is Workplace Factfinders’ concept that non-biased, comprehensive fact-gathering and analysis creates an opportunity to resolve internal business issues efficiently, effectively, and economically.  For more information about our services, including employee hotline management, internal investigations, policy and procedure consulting and auditing, and our Informed Resolutions process, please contact Cynthia Fenton or Stephanie Woodhead at (844) 321-9733 or email us at

The information contained in this article is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.  Employers should consult their attorney for legal advice.

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Look for our upcoming book, Company Confidential: The Secrets to Effectively Resolving Internal Conflict