Kennebec Valley Chamber

Serving the Kennebec Valley, Maine Region

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Friday Report ~ February 20, 2015

Boiling Frogs - Life in the business world is easy. We are never faced with moral or ethical dilemmas and each day is a breeze… okay, vacation’s over let’s get back to reality.

            Today’s work environment is complicated. Each day, in our workplaces, many of us face common ethical challenges. Some of the most recognizable include; employees conducting personal business on company time, people taking credit for other people’s work, and the most challenging, harassing behavior. Many companies live in fear of any situation that may result in a lawsuit or complaint. HR departments are full of procedures and policies that address grievance procedures. There are countless websites that offer assistance in handling these workplace issues. In fact, a Google search on “Maine workplace harassment laws” resulted in over 200,000 items in less than a second.

            While I strongly suggest that your company have a set of standard procedures to ensure that you are responding to these concerns properly, I also suggest you take a look at how to prevent the violations in the first place.

            I don’t believe for a moment that any business owner ignores the need for ethical standards or encourages poor workplace behavior. So how do businesses wind up there? The experts call it Ethical Drift. Over time, little things are ignored and before you know it, an unhealthy workplace environment exists. Consider this comparison;

It is said that many chefs prefer to cook frog legs while the frog is alive. Unlike our Lobster friends, if you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will instantly leap out. If you put the frog in cool water however, and slowly raise the heat, its legs will be paralyzed before it realizes that it is too hot.

In the workplace, we often overlook the “little” things in favor of being a “supportive boss” or a “great place to work.” This can be a much more dangerous practice than you may realize. This leads to an unspoken approval of employees disregarding the rules. If you have given them permission to ignore one rule, why not all of them? Contrary to opinion, you are not creating a “fun place to work.” In fact, you may find that most employees appreciate a fair but firm set of guidelines that are enforced much more than the “cool boss” approach.

So while the snow may slow down your customers, take a moment this week to look at how well you are managing your workplace with regards to this. Make sure you can still feel your legs, and get out of any situations that might be getting a tad warm while you still can.