Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Culture Trumps Strategy – Mostly

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Culture trumps strategy. Three little words. Yet these words embody the collective wisdom of a growing cult of business consultants who are enlightening an increasing population of corporate disciples.

It is a phrase that I have been hearing with increased frequency of late and we all should sit up and take notice. It means different things to different people, but its basic meaning is that negative corporate cultures usually resist any strategies employed to move a company forward.

I’ve run across two examples in the news recently that involve employee security. The first concerns a wrongful death lawsuit filed last July by the family of a slain security guard against a hotel in downtown Cincinnati. The security guard was stabbed to death while on duty by a homeless man the previous December. The guard confronted the homeless man in a stairwell of the Hilton Netherland Plaza. It was the guard’s 58th birthday. Later it was learned the homeless man entered the hotel through an unlocked exit door to the stairwell. Further investigation revealed exit doors were routinely kept unlocked from the outside by employees as a matter of hotel policy.

The website, Hotel Safety, Hospitality Risk Solutions, said the suit claims in part, “the hotel was obligated to provide a safe place for its employees to work [but] . . . the outside stairwell doors were left unlocked as part of hotel policy, the suit claims the hotel’s employees routinely left exit doors to the stairwells unlocked from the outside, and the family’s attorney said this allowed the homeless man to come inside and sleep . . . the safety threat posed by the unlocked doors was foreseeable and should have been prevented.”

Without commenting on the merits of the lawsuit, if what it claims is true, we can ascertain that policy dictated culture in this situation, which trumped the precaution of locking a door to the outside, foregoing employee safety for employee convenience.

Security guards protect personnel and property. They also need the protection of a solid security system that is seamless and features a series of strategic redundancies that ensure the guards’ environment is free of any “culture” that could endanger their well-being or hamper their ability to perform their duties.

The failure to do so could very well land you in court facing a lawsuit because someone was injured.

The next situation comes from California in the form of a new law that requires employers to make “reasonable” security accommodations for victims of domestic violence. The law took effect January 1. We should pay attention to this one because unlike “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” what happens in California usually migrates eastward and costs money.

I certainly do not mean to make light of a serious situation. Domestic violence is a societal wound that usually festers behind closed doors. We see the result, but not the cause. However, when it does go public, it frequently does so as workplace violence. That makes it a problem for all of us, especially for security, which is the first responder in the workplace.

News reports say the law was passed because a former private school teacher was fired after her abusive ex-husband came to the school parking lot. That is a culture of denial. The new law provides a corrective strategy. Employees cannot be terminated or otherwise punished based on their status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

Workers seeking protection under the law must notify employers of their status and provide any court orders, police reports or other supportive documentation.

Employers are required to accommodate requests, such as changing a worker’s telephone extension, as long as it does not require the employer to assume any undue hardships on the business.

Both situations have security as the main theme and both will require a change in thought processes and culture to correct.

What is your corporate security culture? Are you allowing employees to take shortcuts by keeping doors unlocked? Are you blaming employees for being victimized by abusive spouses and terminating them to get rid of the problem?

My suggestion is to support your security team by creating an environment that protects them and enables them to provide the extra protection for your employees that is needed in contemporary society. Develop a corrective strategy and hold everyone accountable for sticking to it. It might cost you a little more, but it won’t be as costly as a lawsuit.

Oh yes, Happy New Year!

We’ll see you next time.

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