Problem: A Culture of Bullying Resulted in Failing an Accreditation Audit

At an organization whose mission was to help people with disabilities thrive in the community, the workplace bullying had become rampant. The former CEO had apparently been a real bully himself; his leadership and personality style had dripped downward into the organization, and a culture of bullying and negativity ensued.

During an annual audit by the industry’s accrediting body the negative culture came to light – the organization failed miserably and was given two years to turn things around in a major way. Staff, providers of services, families and the community were devastated. Morale was low and union activity began.

The board of directors asked the CEO to step down, and they replaced him with a new CEO who was charged with ensuring the audit would be passed, and that the organization could be restored to its original glory. The CEO listened to her managers when they asked for help, tools and ideas for resolving the problem of bullying, and she knew culture change was the ultimate solution.

Solution: A Five-Step Plan for Change

The accrediting body’s timeframe for change was a lot of pressure for the CEO, and she decided it was in the best interests of the organization to bring in an expert to help her. She called upon Civility Partners, and together, they devised a five step plan:

  1. Train the leaders, managers and supervisors in driving culture change
  2. Create a culture committee made up of people from all levels of the organization
  3. Create a social vision that would drive the new culture
  4. Update the core values so that they resonated with the employees
  5. Develop a strategic plan around the new values

After a four-hour training on culture change, a committee was indeed created by asking for volunteers as well as assigning some key organizational champions. Using input gained through various exercises with employees, the social vision, “Enhancing Lives” was eventually created, and the old core values were replaced with new ones: Integrity, Communication, Accountability, Respect, Collaboration, Professionalism.

The CEO knew that culture change couldn’t stop there, so with coaching from Civility Partners in the background, she worked with her departments to develop action items around these new values. Ultimately a strategic plan was created so that the organization would stay on track for culture change.

Key Results: Passing the Audit with a Better Place to Work

Results of these initiatives included:

  • Passing the audit with flying colors
  • Union activity ceased
  • The two worst “bullies” quit six months into the initiative, meaning the worst of the resistance to change was out of the way
  • A new, more positive work environment could be felt throughout the organization

According to the CEO, “people are smiling and looking at one another. Laughter is heard in the halls. People are able to problem solve and reach a good resolution. It has taken over a year and we are becoming, once again, a good place to work.”

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