I recently started working with an organization who wanted “Customer Service Training”. Commonly I find that what an organization thinks they need and what they really need are 2 different things… CYA- “cover your ass”.
- massive quantities of cc:-ing, bcc:-ing and reply all on emails.
- people being involved in meetings when they don’t need to be there.
- high levels of self-preservation, information withholding, and mistrust.
- an absence of creative thought, innovative initiatives and risk-taking.
- a constant narrative of blame by employees at every level to their peers about how they “told employee x that we shouldn’t do this, but THEY didn’t listen to ME so now… <insert undesirable outcome here>.”
- an environment where ev
Due in large part to their current culture, business has fallen off over the last 5 years. Management perceived this to be a “Customer Service” problem and they were partially correct, but the root cause is this CYA mentality. The organizational culture assessment revealed that there was a major issue with the “tone” employees use to communicate, both internally as well as externally to customers. Traits such as anger, resentment, bitterness, helplessness and perceived ineptitude are commonplace. This CYA culture has absolutely killed employee morale. And now business is suffering because their customers feel this negativity through their interactions with the staff.
The costs associated with a CYA culture are high. CYA is time-consuming, exhausting, and breeds paranoia and mistrust in organizations. It costs the company through high percentages of disengaged employees and low productivity. These variables lead to lost customers, clients and revenue. And many employees report personal health problems like chronic stress and high blood pressure.
Instead of doing everything they are capable of, these employees are hiding. They do only what they are told, take no responsibility for their work, and spend all of their time trying to deflect and not get in trouble.
Doing great work involves grit, tenacity, resilience, fearlessness and innovation.
These traits aren’t found in organizations that play it safe. (Think Blockbuster Video and Borders.) If you want to thrive you have to be willing to take a chance, to fail, to persist in the face of that failure, and to be accountable — for the good and the bad. And organizationally, you have to examine mistakes and failures for the lessons learned, and not as a vehicle for scapegoating, punishment or blame.
If you are tired of your CYA workplace and you are ready to contribute more, perhaps it’s time for a new job? One where you can thrive and accomplish great things as part of a healthy work team. There are lots of places out there that need your ideas, energy, talents and skills, and where you won’t have to play defense all of the time.
And if you are leading an organization with a CYA culture, what steps can you take TODAY to begin to change from a culture of covering, to a culture of accountability so that you don’t lose your best employees (and customers)? You’ll have mountains of time and energy to accomplish great things together once you empower your staff to make decisions, provide them with leadership and support, and stop keeping score.
Do you work in a CYA culture? If so, I’d love to hear some examples from you about how that shows up in your organization, and what steps you could take — regardless of your position — to change it.
Every thought and potential action needs to be run through Legal and/or Risk Management.