How Acquiescence Now Can Weaken an Organization Overall


By Jodi O’Neill, CCEP

We’ve all been “between a rock and a hard place.” It often makes us reason out the lesser of two evils to move a project forward, fill an empty position, or give confidence that a current situation will be resolved adequately and in a timely way. We may not think of it as a compliance issue, but rather a necessary choice to fill a gap until a more appropriate course of action can be initiated.

Picking the lesser of two evils in deference to waiting for the best choice can lead to bigger problems than the gap that is looming before you. I feel there are four small consents that can lead to big challenges.

Hiring folks because of who vs. what they know

Job description compliance is especially important. While a personal reference by a current employee for a potential new hire carries a great deal of weight, the skill sets – technical and interpersonal – needed to do the job at hand should be at the top of the consideration list. Knowing the job candidate has the right skill sets needed to perform the job for which you are hiring is crucial. I know some nice folks who were highly recommended but were unable to do the job adequately due to a lack of skills or the ability and/or desire to gain these skills once hired. This causes frustration for folks who must work and count on the employee who was hired with the missing skill sets necessary.

Promising change and then not following through

No organization is perfect. But if an organization creates an initiative seeking feedback from its employees which results in a “reorganization” to fix long-held systemic issues, beware of communicating upcoming changes until they are, well, “set in stone.” Premature communication of change sets the stage for lower morale and performance issues. Folks get excited at the thought of brokenness being fixed! However, when the change does not materialize, it is soul-crushing. Morale drops. Current employees become demotivated. And those who are at the end of their tolerance level for the way things currently are stop sharing their ideas and instead put their energy into finding a new role where their skills are valued. A company’s ethical character and the trust and respect of the team take a significant blow.

Pattern of performance

There is a myriad of research and articles that detail how the lack of accountability of one employee affects the overall performance and morale of a group. This lack of accountability is often addressed through a work improvement plan (WIP); however, once a WIP is completed – successfully I might add – this issue shouldn’t need to be revisited again. At least not anytime soon. Completion of a WIP should show the issue has been addressed and that the employee has the necessary skills to perform at this level. The expectation going forward is for the employee to remain compliant with said WIP. Multiple WIPs for the same or similar issue shows a pattern of behavior in the employee. This is a compliance issue with performance. Team members who see this revolving door of non-compliance eventually feel devalued. And this leads me to my last thought.

Keeping bad employees

Perry Belcher, co-founder of, said it best, “Nothing will kill a great employee faster than watching you tolerate a bad one.” Ouch! Whether a non-compliant or ethically challenged employee stays in the same department, is transferred, or maybe even “promoted” to “another opportunity” in the organization, this has a powerful impact on staff morale within the current department and potential department to which the employee is relocated. That’s especially true if duties and tasks are reassigned to other members of the team to ensure the work gets completed. Folks being given an added workload can feel they are being punished while the employee for whom the tasks have been removed are being rewarded. Overworked employees will not feel respected or more valued by taking on someone else’s work. It is quite the opposite. They will feel devalued and used.

Compliance and ethics are so important in every detail of the corporate world. Hiring the right people, following through with what is communicated, holding staff accountable and addressing patterns of behavior instead of treating each instance as a one-off issue, and being honest with folks who might find a better fit elsewhere are critical in creating an ethical culture where both business and staff can thrive. We must be ever vigilant to compliance and ethics in how we run our businesses. Acquiescence comes at a cost. Are you willing to pay the price long-term?