The biggest mistake executives make when trying to improve their corporate culture…
The corporate culture within any company, without question, effects their bottom-line day to day. Just to name a few avenues, this occurs through operations, interpersonal relationships between employees, and a level of engagement from leadership that requires consistent enforcement of their established mission and values. Because a corporation’s internal culture often remains hidden from consumer view, it’s not uncommon for leadership to simply restructure operations. Unfortunately, if every aspect of a company’s culture is not examined, this solution is just a band aid.
The Ice Berg Metaphor
When concerning a corporation’s culture, we often use the iceberg metaphor as a means of defining it. Ten percent of a corporation’s values and culture are above the water where the public and consumers can see it, and the other 90% lies below the surface. It’s that 90% that directly affects a company’s employee morale, productivity, and bottom line. A corporation often places its highest priority on how they are perceived by their consumer base, and therefore that 90% of company culture and values are either placed on the back burner, or corporations find themselves at a complete loss of how to get in front of the issues.
Some other band aid fixes for happy employees include things like discounted vending machines in the breakrooms, or regular celebrations of major holidays and birthdays. These lovely notions might improve culture for a day or even a week, but the pervasive internal problems will remain.
Happy employees are engaged employees. When a corporation’s culture is healthy, employees feel invested in the success of their companies. The company’s success becomes internalized as their own success, and they are more likely to be plugged in, to take initiative, and to think outside of the box when it comes to problem-solving.
When employees are leaning into their positions and actively working towards a company’s goals, that leads to smoother daily operations. Engaged employees are constantly finding ways to improve their processes so they can generate higher rates of productivity within their positions
When daily operations are streamlined, this yields higher levels of productivity within the company. An employee’s daily duties are no longer a monotonous checklist, but a recipe for success for their company. An engaged employee’s success is the success of everyone in the corporation, and the same is true of productivity. A single employee’s increased productivity is the entire company’s success. Not only does this set an example for all employees, but increased productivity is what helps a company grow, mature, and prosper.
This one is a no-brainer. Anyone who has ever been employed knows that a happy boss makes a happy employee. Leadership sees the increase in engagement and productivity and lean into that success. Good leadership will reward that success in tangible ways that will have long-term effects on the company’s culture. They promote or give raises to those employees who are giving 100%, empower those employees through collaboration and development, and are more open to the thoughts and ideas of employees who are contributing to their success.
When leadership is actively encouraging employees through a pure manifestation of the company’s mission and values, employees feel as if they are making a difference within their organization. This increases the feeling of purpose and desire for cooperative teamwork. These feelings inspire employees to continue their pattern of success through the diligent, genuine practice of a company’s established mission and values. Increased morale means happy employees, and that’s where the cycle begins anew, exponentially influencing a company’s success with each cycle.
Structure is Not Culture
The network of operations within a company will never have a direct effect on company morale. Poor daily operations due to structure are really just a symptom of unhealthy corporate culture—a manifestation of poor culture at work. To diagnose the problem, many corporations turn to independent firms to conduct corporate culture audits in order to identify the problems within a company or organization. These firms measure a company’s daily operations, their quality of communication, and interpersonal relations among employees—just to name a few factors. When a corporate culture audit is comprehensive and curtailed to the organization, the findings can be invaluable to leadership that seeks to grow and mature in tandem with their values.
As mentioned above, employees who see a consistent display of established values from leadership, they’re more engaged and productive. It’s one thing to have the company’s mission statement and list of values posted online or on the wall within a workplace. It’s a completely different ballgame when leadership puts their money where their mouth is, and serves as an example for the entire workforce. That example can have a ripple effect creating an interpersonal trust between employees, in which they all feel like they’re on a team, working towards the same goal. It is in the nucleus of that atmosphere where real change and growth begin.
Employee apathy may seem innocuous enough, but the costs to time and resources can be a slow, devastating drain on a corporation. Many corporations and organizations have at least one employee who exhibits all the major signs of checking out in their daily capacity. Even if your corporation has bulletproofed human resource operations, employee burnout can still occur. That’s why it’s imperative for leadership and management to know and identify the signs of apathy on the part of an employee.
Signs of Employee Apathy
A repeated pattern of tardiness
Poor appearance and hygiene
Complaints about lack of money and/or repeated
attempts to borrow money
Exclusive precedence on their personal life
An excess of breaks
Appearance of being busy with nothing to show
Lack of accountability, making excuses
Irrelevant preoccupation with cell phones, smart
It stands to reason that if an employee is underperforming
at their job, leadership will cut the dead weight for the good of a
corporation. There are actually three umbrella categories that are often used
to justify retaining apathetic employees: Costs, Litigation, and Personal.
The first thing leadership will think of when they notice
an apathetic employee is dollar signs. Not only is the apathetic employee hemorrhaging
their money by wasting time and resources, but the cost to replace that
apathetic employee can also be an issue. Costs are incurred to the human
resources department to find, hire, and train a replacement. Employers might
hesitate to fire an apathetic employee because of unemployment insurance rates.
Another relevant factor specifically effects small businesses, in which the
workforce is not large enough to support turnover operations.
When it’s not a matter of money, it can often be a matter
of personal feelings or relationships concerning leadership and the apathetic
employee. A manager or owner might have a personal relationship with the
employee, and their bias prevents them from pulling the trigger on termination
procedures. Personal knowledge of that employee’s personal life and their
identity as a person (rather than an employee) can color their perceptions and
increase their latitude with the employee. Avoidance behavior can also play a
role. When this happens, leadership usually resigns itself to one of two end results:
Either the employee will improve on their own without intervention from
leadership, or they will leave on their own without termination proceedings.
The independent judgement of leadership may not be the
sticking point in terminating an apathetic employee. There are often legal factors
that a corporation or organization must consider. For instance, the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act (AEDA) protects employees from being
terminated based on their age. If an apathetic employee is of a certain age,
leadership may fear legal retaliation, citing age discrimination as the reason
for their termination. In higher education, an employee may have tenure as defined
by the institution, which would prevent leadership from terminating them.
Risks in Retention
Retaining apathetic employees for any of the reasons
listed above can have serious consequences for a company who is avoiding the
issue or trying to save money. Apathetic/underperforming employees cannot
provide a customer base with quality service, leading to dissatisfaction and
consumer complaints. This can negatively impact the corporation’s brand or
campaign, with a high risk of human error, loss of valued customers, and lost
reputation. Disgruntled employees could potentially say negative things about the
corporation on their social media accounts. Perhaps most concerning, apathetic
employees can easily spread their attitude throughout a work force, and harm long-term
goals for the corporation.
Corporate Culture Audits
One apathetic employee is enough of a drain on company time and resources, but if that attitude is contagious, you could have a larger problem on your hands. Unfortunately, when it comes to employee morale and performance, you don’t know what you don’t know. That’s why so many corporations and organizations are investing in quarterly or even biannual corporate culture audits. With a corporate culture audit, an independent, third party firm, like a private investigator or security company, conducts a full overview of company operations, structure, and environment in order to identify problems at their source for the health of the corporation. With a corporate culture audit, leadership will be able to identify factors that might be contributing to employee apathy.
Over the past weekend, many Americans participated in St. Patrick’s Day festivities in their community. With the 17th of March falling on a Sunday this year, many service industry establishments held events and promotions all weekend, which for many employed individuals meant three days of imbibing and socializing. After all of the excitement and green beer, it’s no wonder that March 18th is one of the most common days for employees to call off in the entire calendar. Consequently, there is a spike in employees who are suddenly experiencing “flu-like” symptoms, including sweating, headaches, and stomach upset—employees who are calling in sick who could very well just be hung over. This is what employee malingering looks like, and it can have disastrous impact on businesses and corporations throughout the country.
Employee malingering can be a difficult subject, as it usually falls under the umbrella of other sensitive topics, such as FMLA abuse. Some companies do not feel comfortable investigating possible abuses of FMLA, and do not probe into suspicions of malingering. Often, however, sometimes it’s just a matter of an employee who has a chronic case of the “sniffles.” Malingering employees have a pattern of faking sick in order to get out of working. This can be for a single day Malingerers cost companies across the country billions of dollars a year, with exponential costs of investigation and possible litigation, laying heavy blows to a company’s profits.
Malingering is preventable, but only if an employer provides consistent and accommodating policies concerning their employees’ physical and mental health needs. These enforced policies will leave no single employee feeling victimized by a vindictive supervisor or employer. If your company requires employees to document visits to the doctor, then there should be no exceptions in to that rule, barring extenuating circumstances. After all, asking for documentation is one of the best ways to prevent malingering, because employees who would simply rather stay home will be reluctant to spend their day in the doctor’s office as an alternative. This consistent enforcement of company standards also adds another veneer of integrity that becomes valuable in later stages of any investigation. It’s also important for an employer to remember that there must always be room to accommodate an employee’s needs. Unreasonable, aggressive policies with regards to sickness can make a work environment unhealthy, both in the physical and metaphysical sense. Employees who don’t feel free to take a sick day when they have an actual illness can spread it to the entire workforce. Employees who also feel as though their needs are not being accommodated can be resentful and their work performance may suffer as a result.
Just as the case with FMLA abuse, in order to have an objective investigation into any honest suspicions of malingering, it’s crucial to retain the services of a external, third-party, private investigator. Investigators appointed from within a company to investigate suspicions of malingering may know the ins and outs of a business intimately, but are objectively useless when it comes to investigate one of their own. For starters, if this employee is well-known to much of the workforce, they will be easily spotted when conducting any surveillance on an employee who is suspected of malingering. They will be recognized and the employee will immediately be on their guard. If an internal investigator is not licensed by the state, they may not know the legality of their methods and it can taint the investigation going forward. Private investigators—while having more autonomy than law enforcement—still must operate within state and federal law. Private investigators are trained to gather and document evidence and interview witnesses to corroborate their observations of a malingering employee’s movements. Any business owner knows that investigating employees for any reason has the potential to lead to litigation, and during those proceedings, an objective, third-party investigator is the one with the most integrity during deposition or testimony, as they do not have a stake in the outcome of the case.
If you suspect an employee of yours is malingering, then lay the groundwork for a solid investigation by retaining the services of a qualified licensed investigators. When it comes to taking the steps to investigate employee malingering, an employer must begin with what’s called “honest suspicion,” which is pretty self-explanatory. When an employer investigates a malingerer with honest suspicions, the decision to hire an external investigator to do so continues the transparent narrative in which the employer acts in the best interest of the company. Hiring private investigators to maintain objectivity not only make for a quality investigation, but also foster a culture of integrity and mutual respect within any company.
When growing a business, executives and owners have to go the extra mile when it comes to protecting trade secrets. In the pursuit of their company’s business, a common practice for corporations of all sizes is implementing non-compete clauses in their employees’ contracts. This ensures, should an employee leave the company for any reason, they cannot utilize trade secrets for the purpose of building a similar business of their own. It’s in a business owner’s best interest to be preemptive in protecting themselves from client poaching, theft of company secrets, and possibly even slander when it comes to current and former employees who violate their non-compete agreements.
Though they go by several names and the laws concerning them vary state to state, non-compete agreements are generally a legally-binding contract between an employer and an employee, whereupon acceptance of a job offer by a company, an individual agrees during their employment and following their termination they will not enter into any competing business for a predetermined period of time. Whether it’s working for a company’s top competitor, or striking out in their own business, non-compete agreements protect trade secrets, sensitive company information, and prevent competing businesses from poaching successful employees with promises of a handsome pay-raise in exchange for the expertise they might have gleaned from their time at their previous position. This kind of information can range from client bases to business operations to future products and services. The duration of the non-compete agreement following an employee’s termination have to be well within reason, as no employer can permanently preclude a former employee from any line of work.
Not every company experiences difficulties by virtue of a former employee violating their non-compete agreement, and some companies do not see the need for non-compete agreements at all, but the consequences of trade secrets being used to steal a company’s business can have devastating effects, ending in the worst possible circumstances with a business closing and an owner in debt. Even if a company is able to quash a non-compete violation in court, the cost to the company in legal fees can be astronomical, especially for smaller businesses. That’s why it’s important for owners and executives to be preemptive and proactive when it comes to potential violators. Luckily, a private investigator can help at all stages of a non-compete violation investigation.
Human resource employees are the salt of the earth, and can have a great influence on how a company develops based on the individuals they select for their workforce. However, human resource employees are not lie detectors, and do not always have access to legitimate, comprehensive background screening tools. Background screenings and checks are among the most common service associated with private investigators. If there is something suspect in a candidate’s past, licensed private investigators have the tools and experience to find it out. Private investigators can pull a candidate’s criminal history, financial history, and interview persons in their lives who can speak to character and work ethic. They can also spot patterns in a person’s work history or lifestyle that could be high-risk factors in a hypothetical non-compete violation—things like transience, long periods between positions, or financial destitution.
Some malingering employees can’t wait to be terminated before violating their non-compete agreements. It’s not uncommon for these individuals to exploit trade secrets for their businesses own gain while on company time and dime. While on a business trip, an individual might use company per diem to buy drinks for a person who could be a potential investor in their new business. Employees might use company supplies to supplement their project, such as printers, fax machines, computers, and other equipment. Private investigators can conduct diligent investigations within a company’s workforce to root out the source of the theft. Private investigators can interview witnesses, including upper management and other staff, review vital documents like bank records, and conduct surveillance of the company’s operations as needed to expose the perpetrator. Their objectivity makes them an ideal candidate to conduct such an investigation because they do not have a stake in the outcome.
There are many circumstances under which a business owner might come to suspect a former employee has violated their non-compete agreement. Word might have traveled through business circles that a similar business is starting up. Employees might start disappearing in clusters. Clients may suddenly decide to sever business ties in favor of a new contender in the competition. Whatever transpires, one thing is certain—documenting and exposing this exploitation is imperative, because the consequences can be costly. Retaining a qualified private investigator who specializes in corporate crises is crucial to resolving non-compete violations quickly, before the exponential costs begin to erode profits. Private investigators can perform surveillance on suspected former employees to document their movements, record with whom they met, and collect evidence such as pictures of a brick and mortar establishment, marketing materials, vital documents, and filings with the Secretary of State. Private investigators can send undercover operatives to infiltrate a workforce to get information the business privy only to employees. They can also enlist the aid of a confidential informant—an individual already within the company to provide information. This requires quality interviewing skills and developing a natural rapport with potential witnesses, both important qualities in a qualified investigator.
When non-compete violations are at their ugliest, not only do violators seek to siphon off their former employer’s business by exploiting trade secrets and knowledge of their operations, but they can also play dirty by exposing this information publicly. Another method involves deliberately spreading lies about the competition in order to drive business towards the former employee’s company. That’s known as slander and it’s legally actionable. Documenting the perpetuation of these lies and proving they are in fact false are crucial in these cases. Diligent fact-finding is the cornerstone of any private investigator’s expertise. Private investigators can conduct cyber investigations to track down the users behind profiles that post false negative reviews, follow rumors back to their roots, and forensically track how information left the competition and made its way into the former employee’s business nucleus. They can implement many of the strategies aforementioned: surveillance, interviewing witnesses, documenting evidence. Slander cases tend to have a divisive they-said, they-said narrative, which is where a private investigator’s objectivity becomes invaluable once more. Private investigators have no stake in the solution of an investigation. Their independence coupled with their expertise and resume make them spectacular witnesses in any subsequent litigation.
When a company has a non-compete agreement in place, it’s important that executives and owners are proactive when performing a risk assessment on a potential employee. It’s important that a healthy company culture fosters good comradery, honesty, and a policy of “if you see something, say something.” Building a case against a former employee who violated their agreement can be time consuming at the expense of company resources. Dealing with the fallout from litigation can bring a reliable business to its knees. Private investigators can assist in all phases of any non-compete agreement violation, and retaining their services will go a long way towards a body of objective evidence and testimony that can resolve a company’s crisis.
If you have suspicions that a current or former employee has violated their non-compete agreement, contact Lauth Investigations International today for a free consultation on how we can help you! Call 317-955-1100 or find us online at www.lauthinvestigations.com.
Carie McMichael is the Media and Communication Specialist for Lauth Investigations International. She regularly writes on investigations, missing person, and other topics in the criminal justice system.
The growing awareness of sexual abuse in the media has the public on high alert in all walks of life—a steady stream of investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct within religious communities, sport teams and franchises, civil service, and the workplace to name a few. It seems like every week the news cycle is dominated by another story in which a religious leader is denounced following allegations of sexual abuse against minor members of congregation. Investigations into United States Olympic teams have the parents of minor athletes with their ears to the ground, as the horror of Larry Nassar’s crimes continue to shake out in civil court. Leaders within these communities are educating themselves on how the power structure of these institutions leaves minors vulnerable and in many cases are depending on the services of independent private investigators to conduct unbiased, thorough investigations.
In cases where there are allegations of abuse, there is an immediate division between the survivor and the alleged predator. Many of the parties involved will immediately fall on one side or the other. Employers, colleagues, and public relations representatives in the alleged abuser’s life will begin a rash of character defenses, claiming that there’s no way an individual as friendly/respected/admired as them could be capable of such disgusting actions. Parents and loved ones in the survivor’s life will rally in support as they attempt to take on not just their abuser, but potentially an entire institution as well. All of the parties directly involved have a stake in the outcome of the investigation. Institutions that are suspicious of predatory behavior in their ranks often prefer to handle the investigation in-house, using their own investigators in the form of management, attorneys, or employees in another supervisory capacity to do the fact-finding. Not only can the qualifications of these individuals range across a spectrum of investigative prowess, but because they are employed by the employer of the abuser, they likely will have some sort of bias as an investigator. This is why it’s so important to hire an independent, third party private investigator from the onset of any allegations of abuse. Like any unimpeachable structure, the integrity starts at the foundation, with thorough fact-finding by an experienced, qualified investigator. Ethically, a private investigator’s only loyalty is to the truth, and without any stake in the outcome of an investigation, their findings can withstand a higher level of scrutiny than an investigator employed by the abuser’s corporation or institution.
The most qualified private investigators for sexual abuse investigations have a wide array of experiences in multiple areas of criminal justice. Unlike the resumes of corporation and institutional employees, they will have likely majored in an area of criminal justice, have worked law enforcement, have been retained by either the prosecution or defense to assist in a case, and have an intimate knowledge of criminal procedures and investigative methods. Independent private investigators have to be able to work multiple angles in an abuse investigation, vetting every statement by survivors and witnesses, as well as doing thorough fact-finding on the alleged abuser in the form of an extensive background check, with special focus on their work history and criminal record. This kind of comprehensive groundwork lays a strong foundation for any litigation that might take place following the solution of the investigation. And because the private investigator is an objective third-party, the case will have integrity in a court of law.
Another specialty of a seasoned private investigator is surveillance and undercover operations. An investigator who is able to move through a crowd completely unnoticed, melting into the background while they keep an eye on the subject. Sometimes it’s just a matter of looking like you belong, and surveilling the subject from a short distance, or keeping a digital eye on the subject in the form of a camera or tracking device. Regardless, subjects behave most naturally when they do not know they are being watched. Hiding in plain sight, private investigators are able to document an abuser’s movements, correspondence, associates, and schedule to establish means and opportunity with regard to the allegations. Private investigators specializing in undercover operations have an advantage when interviewing witnesses and subjects, building a rapport that allows them to open up to the investigator. This form of subterfuge is often crucial in abuse investigations, particularly if the allegations have not yet become public knowledge. This time is valuable to an undercover operative, because when there are abuse allegations in an institution, there is often a circumventing culture of silence within it. Employees and associates are instructed not to speak to press or law enforcement regarding the allegations, there has not been need for any sort of legal gag order, and these potential witnesses will have their guard down. Private investigators and their field investigators can garner credible leads, leading to a more comprehensive, thorough investigation.
There have been many institutions, particularly in the Catholic faith, that have been accused of what has been characterized as a “cup and ball” routine in which supervisory entities will transfer employees or members of clergy accused of sexual abuse to remote branches of their network, often in different jurisdictions, to prevent law enforcement and investigators from doing their due-diligence. Private investigators are given an autonomy that is free from bureaucratic or jurisdictional chains. They can follow leads to track down multiple witnesses and can track an abuser’s movements—all across state lines.
Regardless of an alleged abuser’s reputation or status, allegations of abuse must always be handled with due-diligence and a sense of urgency. Corporations and institutions have it only in their own interest to eliminate potential predators in their ranks. The cost to retain a private investigator to conduct a thorough, objective investigation is a small fraction of the potential cost to these entities in the form of lawsuits that result from an investigation, usually on the part of survivors who were vindicated in their accounts of trauma and betrayal on behalf of mentors and leaders in their lives. Retaining the services of a qualified private investigator can go a long way to bringing predators to justice and preventing potential ruin of institutions that otherwise provide a great service for individuals in communities across America.
Carie McMichael is the Communication and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations International. For more information, please visit our website.