A main factor contributing to the problem of poor behavior is that we’ve made ethics, compliance, and daily behavioral standards too complex. By trying to convey too much, we accomplish too little. Thus “teach little, remember much” is a better mantra than “teach much, remember little.”
The more effective approach is to be as brazen in our simplicity and consistency as are the lawsuits and ethical lapses that make the headlines every day. We need to establish a few limited rules with clear language, explain the consequences to the person and the business of violating these rules, enforce them, and then repeat the pattern over and over again.
Be brazen in your simplicity and consistency
Rather than get trapped into a pattern of overwhelming complexity, make my motto your new mantra: Make it Matter. Make it Simple.® Make it Stick. Applying that simple phrase to any change and learning initiative will help translate your values and goals into enduring behavioral and cultural change.
Resisting the Siren Call of a Quick Fix
You know the drill: Somebody, somewhere in an organization misbehaves and everyone gets to go through more training. Doing “more training” is a quick x that many organizations are addicted to. That path is understandable: providing check-the-box training programs makes it easy to reach lots of people quickly and provide affirmative defenses should there be lawsuits in the future.
Quick fixes can support messages when used as reinforcement, but they would only work as the first or sole means of education if the following assumptions were true (which they aren’t):
1. If people know what to do, they will do it.
2. The problem is with a few individuals.
3. The issues are cut-and-dried.
When it comes to creating a more civil workplace, the challenge cannot be addressed through any quick x. Communicating information is the easy part of the job. The hardest part by far is persuading people to change. To achieve that goal, you need to look at what will be most effective not what is most convenient. The goals becomes not just teaching employees what you expect but giving them tools and reinforcement that help change behavior day in and day out.