When You Need to Say “F… Off” to Culture Change

Hidden behind the banner of performance and culture change, born again evangelists are trying to get under your fingernails with bamboo shoots. You need to be vigilant about people like me who claim to know how life – in particular – your life – works.

Of course, I’m different….

Cultural Cleansing – When Corporate Culture Turns Discriminatory and Toxic – Be Ready To Defend Yourself.

Character assassination is the current trend in corporate HR, hidden behind a rhetoric of Culture Change and Values. Character assassination follows a familiar theme that’s permeating western society right now. “If I don’t like it, label it as counter cultural, it must be wrong.” It’s an idea that comes from the notion of “my watch tells the right time, you need to change yours.”

First Nation People’s have experienced this righteous rhetoric for hundreds of years. Character assassination based on an arbitrary collective of values that, in the eyes of a religious or equally righteous corporate culture, devalue the individual based on their actually unique and sometimes discordant behaviour.

Yes, we know, there are limits. Whenever I present the essence of diversity and self-leadership to a group, the arguments against inclusive culture’s are always, 100% extreme. “what, should we allow an axe murderer in our midst?” The extreme is used to justify the means of racial, personal and cultural cleansing.

Take Bhutan as an example. It’s a great place, has a culture of happiness. Tourists love it. I do too. But to achieve it’s squeaky clean tourist proposition as a no brainer holiday for those who don’t want to get their hands dirty in the mud and crud of the truth of life, Bhutan turned hundreds of thousands of its residents into refugees through a policy of “ethnic cleansing.” Don’t believe me? Read the Wiki Story here.

Maybe your business – under the guise of Cultural Values, is doing the same thing. Check this headline that was the banner for an article on LinkedIn, and received ovation like applause.

Are you serious? Here we are with diversity at the heart of corporate culture and yet, a “jerk” is unwelcome. Well, I’m standing up for all the “jerks” in the world. All of us, all who don’t want beige as our favourite colour, all of us who want to climb mountains, bring up our families with love and integrity, all of us who don’t want to be trampled under the feet of the vocal minority or the subterfuge of poorly qualified HR professionals who don’t think for themselves.

Yes, the newspapers deliver your news. You can swallow it or question the integrity of the journalist. Do they too have an axe to grind and are presenting the facts in a neat way to cause you to “kick the jerk.”

In a recent keynote I asked for a show of hands “how many people stand for and agree with the notion of the importance of diversity in corporate life?” 1,200 hands shot in the air, zero stayed down. My next question was “how many people think it’s important to weed out those who disagree with diversity.” Again 1,200 hands, in fact more because some put two hands up. It’s an ironic twist isn’t it? Diversity is defined by conformity, kicking out those who disagree is a form of racism, in which we say “let’s coat the world with leather instead of wearing sandals.”

Everybody thinks their watch tells the right time. Bhutan will argue that they made the remaining Bhutanese happy, by their ethnic cleansing. Corporations will argue that by getting rid of the “jerks” they make a happier workplace. Societies will argue that beige is the best colour because it makes it safe to buy milk from the corner store. But they are wrong.

In Bhutan, if you just get off the tourist route at night you’ll find the drunks, the street fights, the sexual promiscuity, the “normal” pain that exists in all communities. If you go to Prince Edward Island in Canada, you’ll get more polite hello’s and “god bless you’s” than anywhere else in the world, and yet, scratch the surface, there’s more obesity, more domestic violence, more emotional manipulation that parallels the dark underbelly hidden by the “culture” of a “jerk free state.”

And so it goes, in Corporate. Give power to the “beige” corporate terrorists to shoot down diversity, to make meetings go smoothly, to cause culture to be so restrictive that it’s a straight jacket on improvisation, diversity and wild ideas, and you’ll kill the key to competitive and human inspiration, you’ll kill the human spirit, and once that’s gone, you might feel good just like Bhutan, but all you’ve done is to send the opposite to your cultural straight jacket home, to a place your HR department may not feel obligated to measure. But I do, I coach execs, and their personal problems are rarely about work.