Company culture is everything for a successful company. When that culture is damaged, it can cause problems for employees. When we are talking about a large chain, it may not be the entire corporate entity that is broken, but the company culture created in one store can bring a shadow that looms over the entire chain and its identity.
Earlier this month, a national grocery chain was sued by the EEOC in a lawsuit that claimed that seven employees were continually sexually harassed by the same customer since 2007. The man in question would visit the store daily, sometimes several times a day, and would make lewd comments, corner the female employees, grab them and continually harass them.
The response of the management proved the most problematic for these employees. When these employees came forward to talk about this harassment, the management dismissed their complaints as hearsay. Store security provided video evidence, however, the management decried that unless security personally witnessed this behavior from the customer, they could not remove the man from the store. This caused many of these women to suffer the harassing behavior for years.
The actions of the store management speak to the company culture of this particular store, and calls into question the need to re-build or examine how such a large corporation can gain buy in to its overall company culture ideals. It also calls into question when this type of thing occurs about whether it is an isolated incident where the culture has failed, or if perhaps the failing is more wide spread throughout the entire corporate entity, which would result in a much larger overhaul of the entire company culture from the corporate leaders down to the store level. In this particular case, it was not isolated, having had another sexual harassment case a few years prior, therefore the judge ordered a court-enforceable decree requiring the store to revamp its policies and train its staff on appropriate handling of matters of sexual harassment.
When you examine the company culture of a large retail corporation that involves many branches or stores, it is easy to see how that cultural ideology might get watered down. Ensuring that there is buy in from all levels of management and employees is the only way to make sure the culture is carried throughout. In the case of this retailer, the mid-level management is responsible for seeing that this company culture is carried throughout their stores. Unfortunately, in this instance, there seems to have been a breakdown in how the culture was lived out.
Company culture can make or break a situation and it’s important to have the proper leadership and items in place to ensure that the cultural identity is not watered down or lost. There are examples of solid organizations that employ more people than the retailer noted above that carry company culture throughout without a problem. The task is finding ways to be effective in transmitting the cultural message, and having the personnel in place to make sure it is carried throughout.