Is it an isolated incident, or evidence of systemic workplace problems?

Picture this – a single employee comes forward and alleges their manager is frequently abrupt when speaking to them and others. They’ve documented interactions and state other employees feel the same way but won’t speak up out of fear.

The HR representative commences an investigation and as part of that, interviews the remainder of the team. On paper everything points to this being an isolated incident with this particular employee, the manager is counselled on appropriate interactions. Close the book, move on.

Pretty routine. Open & shut right? Let’s widen the lens and take a holistic look at the team.

Turnover is pretty steady and sits in the high 30%’s – but that’s normal right? People chase more money elsewhere & besides, young people are afraid of a bit of hard work.

Absentee rates are pretty high – but as I just said people just don’t want to work these days.

Team meetings are pretty quick because there’s no interaction. The manager speaks to a sea of downcast faces then back to work.

Feedback on performance is done annually, the manager speaks and the employee listens. The employee has no opportunity to set their own goals for the next 12 months and overall the process is seen as a massive waste of time.

The longest serving employee has been there 3 years.

Now let’s widen the scope and look at the entire organisation.

Turnover is high at 30% +. Most of the turnover occurs in the first 12 months of employment. If they happen to employ a good fit for a role they quickly move on, but no one can work out why. Rarely do people stick around for 5 years or more.

The number of overall applicants for vacant positions is low, suitably qualified applicants are non existent. As a result only a small amount of people are talented enough to achieve the operational goals.

There is no little focus on wellbeing, executive management might talk a big game but on the ground that messaging is nowhere to be found. After all, they are relying on a few to prop the team up which manifests burnout and anxiety.

The organisation makes no secret of the fact that their management style is profit over people. Growth at all costs.

Instead of dealing with problematic leaders they’ll just shift them into another job.

And around and around we go.

This fictional company is built on a house of cards, and without intervention it will collapse.