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Explore these 6 seriously deadly organizational sins to avoid at all costs in order to ensure that you join your organization as a leader or an employee to foster a climate that encourages exemplary behaviour and good ethics at work. In any organization, any of these 6 seriously deadly organizational sins to avoid at all costs can derail your success and ruin your reputation.


6 seriously deadly organizational sins to avoid at all costs

By Catherine Adenle

Any of these 6 seriously deadly organizational sins to avoid at all costs is a no-no for any big, medium or small organization. All organizations run the risk of personal and corporate liability in today’s increasingly tough legal environment for any unethical behaviours.

There’s no place to hide for any malpractices in organizations because of various factors, one of which is the information age. Whistle-blowers are always nanoseconds away in every organization to spill the beans. In addition, employees are far more outspoken, knowledgeable and are eager to call organizations to order.

Unethical behaviour will damage a firm’s reputation and make it less appealing to stakeholders. This also means that profits could fall.

These are the 6 seriously deadly organizational sins to avoid at all costs:

  1. Unethical Business Practices
  2. Embarking on Change Quickly and Frequently
  3. Ignoring and Shutting Down Opposing Views
  4. Not knowing what matters to employees
  5. Not Building a diverse workforce
  6. Measuring the wrong things or everything

Now, let’s delve in deeper into these 6 seriously deadly organizational sins to avoid at all costs:

  1. Unethical Business Practices

Unethical business practices are the first on the list of these 6 seriously deadly organizational sins to avoid at all costs. Why? This is simply because ethics involves the cooperation of others in any organization. Usually, it solidly reflects the values, beliefs, attitudes and behavioural patterns that define an organization’s operating culture.

There are many ways that organizations engage in unethical business practices. Some of these are organizations exploiting their workers, their customers, third-party stakeholders and even the public at large. Usually, such organizations lack moral principles. They show the unwillingness to adhere to proper rules of conduct and they don’t do things in accord with the standards of the profession they are in. Typically, greed and big profits are the organization’s largest problem when it comes to monitoring and maintaining ethical business practices. Unfortunately, this usually means that employees, customers, and the world, in general, will suffer because of such an organization.

Here are a few examples that illustrate types of unethical business practices in organizations:

  • Exploiting workers or coercing an injured worker not to report a work injury to workers’ compensation by threatening him with the loss of a job or benefits.
  • Using bait and switch or false advertising tactics to lure customers in or convince them to buy a product.
  • Over-billing customers.
  • Exploiting tax loopholes.
  • Dumping pollutants or toxins into the air or water supply rather than cleaning up the pollution properly or above what is permitted by the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Prescribing unnecessary medical procedures.
  • Covering up car defects.
  • Designing phones so that users accidentally accept data charges.
  • Engaging in price-fixing.
  • Refusing to honour a warranty claim on a defective product

To foster a climate that encourages exemplary behaviour, organizations need a comprehensive approach that goes beyond the often-punitive legal compliance stance. An integrity-based approach to ethics management must combine a concern for the law with an emphasis on managerial responsibility for ethical behaviour and respect for lives, people, and the environment.

From the perspective of integrity, the task of ethics management is to define and give life to an organization’s guiding values, to create an environment that supports ethically sound behaviour, and to instil a sense of shared accountability among employees. The need to obey the law must be viewed as a positive aspect of organizational life, rather than an unwelcome constraint imposed by external authorities.

Per BusinessPundit, Chevron has been caught trying to evade paying millions in taxes and has been accused of 18 years of unethical practices in a 42-page affidavit detailing their cruel and selfish methods.

Chevron attempted to undermine the Ecuadorian court when a lawsuit was brought against them for deliberately dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into the South American rainforest, creating the “Amazon Chernobyl.” Amazingly, they went on to try and hide behind US courts and deny any involvement despite overwhelming scientific evidence of their responsibility in this atrocity.

Chevron is also accused of faking a letter from the Ecuadorian ambassador which falsely dismissed the lawsuit, of attempting to destroy all documents relating to the spill, blocking the gathering of scientific evidence, and refusing to pay court experts. Per BusinessPundit, they even went so far as to hire a drug dealer to try and create an unlawful sting operation against the judge presiding over the case to discredit him. It didn’t work, but the trial was delayed an extra two years.

See 10 Most Unethical Business Practices in Big Business

  1. Embarking on Change Quickly and Frequently

New technology, reactions to external pressures, mergers and acquisitions etc., all prompt organizations to change. An effective and well-executed change helps organizations to stay ahead of competitors. However, pushing too many change initiatives too quickly from the top is the next top sin of these 6 seriously deadly organizational sins to avoid at all costs. No organization should embark on change if the business environment doesn’t demand it or if there’s no vision behind the change. The idea that an organization needs change for its own sake often provokes scepticism among employees.

Agreed, a company periodically needs to shake itself up, regardless of the competitive landscape. Still, it is important that there should be a compelling reason for the change. Emotional distress comes with any change introduced in organizations, why inflict all that pain on employees and other stakeholders if an organization doesn’t have to?

Change mostly involves staff reduction targets, cost-cutting, outsourcing of major piece of work, and mergers or acquisitions. However, the change will only succeed when it is well thought of, planned, executed, measured and maintained. The people aspect of change is the most difficult aspect of change. Why? It involves peoples’ deep emotions and livelihoods.

See the 4 Components (Infographic) of Successful Change Implementation in Organizations

While change signals progress to some employees as they see their organization invest in fixing issues that stall effectiveness, to others, change is painful and causes unnecessary disruptions. Nonetheless, any effective change initiative must incorporate feedback from employees. This is a critical part of getting change right the first time.  When employees can voice their concerns about any change, they will feel part of it and they will often identify needed changes that are unrelated to an ongoing initiative. However, leaders must be aware and not indulge in change for change sake. Frequent uncoordinated change that’s forced down from the top is an organizational sin because it sets all up to fail.

Successful Change Implementation in Organizations (Infographic)

When change is frequent and quickly executed without proper planning, it usually fails. For this type of change, leaders will feel poorly prepared and they usually make decisions that are frowned upon by employees. Cautiously executed long-term change that is completed is better than too many successful initiatives that will drag and be too many to manage.

See How Not to Implement Change in Organizations: 20 Ways

  1. Ignoring and shutting down opposing views

The idea that only leaders in organizations know all the answers is dead and left in the dark ages. In all organizations, good leaders must be open to opposing views, opinions and thoughts especially from their employees and external stakeholders. On the list of 6 seriously deadly organizational sins, this is vital too.

An organization must be responsive to receiving news or information that runs contrary to what it believes to be true. Although organizations should also be confident and have the courage in their own convictions they must also possess a level of trust in the people they do business with, others and the employees they have hired to work for them. Good organizations consistently respond respectfully and considerately to the people who voice opposing view, even if it will not ultimately affect their already planned actions.

The moment an organization becomes convinced that they know it all and have learned it all is the moment they lose themselves to their pride. And pride comes before a fall. Such organizations will create a wall that limits their potential to understand another viewpoint. There is one benefit amongst many to organizations listening to others with opposing views. However, this is only true for those who base their opinions on facts, evidence or strong deduction. It provides the opportunity to challenge their own beliefs as an organization. A strong argument against such an organization’s opinion expands its knowledge as an organization about the subject matter gives them a fresh perspective and offers them the chance to re-evaluate their belief.

6 Seriously Deadly Organizational Sins to Avoid at All Costs (Infographic)
6 seriously Deadly Organizational Sins_Infographic

  1. Not knowing what matters to employees

An organization’s most important asset is its employees. The people doing the work and generating profits through sheer diligence and integrity. There is no excuse for any organization not to know what matters most to its employees. This is another no-no on the list of 6 seriously deadly organizational sins to avoid at all costs.

Ironically, some organizations believe that compensation is at the top of most employees’ lists of what they value most at work. So, intuitively, they think that a higher pay or bonus at work should produce great motivation, lots of happiness and better results at the end of their financial year. That is why some leaders get frustrated when they think they pay their employees well and yet, the level of engagement is noticeably low. However, scientific evidence indicates that the link between compensation, happiness at work, motivation, and performance is much more complex than we think.

In fact, research suggests that even if organizations let their employees decide how much they should earn yearly, they would probably not enjoy their job more than employees who get paid what the organizations think they should earn. When it comes to the things that matter to employees at work, even those who highlight the motivational effects of money accept that employees valuing pay alone is out of the question.

6 Deadly Organizational Sins to Avoid at all Costs_not caring about employees

For all employees, especially highly talented ones, workplace values are the guiding principles that determine how they perceive satisfaction at work. These employees use these deeply held principles to choose between what they value or see as right and wrong ways of how an organization should function. Then, they use their beliefs to make important career decisions and employer choices.

For this reason, a great organization will seek to know what employees value most. For any organization, their values are deeply set in their culture, and they identify what the organization cares about. It’s crucial that employees’ values align with organizations values. The reason for this is that when there’s an alignment, employees love and value where they work. They are passionate about the work they do, they understand one another, they see everyone doing the right things for the right reasons. This common understanding and purpose help employees to build great working relationships. Values alignment helps an organization to achieve its core mission.

See 20 Things Employees Value

  1. Not Building a diverse workforce

Today, there’s simply no excuse for an organization not to have a diverse workforce. Most businesses are rapidly growing due to globalization, tech advancement and other factors. Not expanding and embracing a diverse workforce will adversely affect any organization. There’s no reason for this point on the list of 6 seriously deadly organizational sins to avoid at all costs to be happening in any organization.

Frankly, if everyone or every employee were the same, the world or workplace would be a boring place! It’s important in business to always progress and come up with innovative ideas, products, and services. Put simply, diversity equals creativity. If everyone in an organization was from the same background, if they were of a similar age or gender, they would mostly have similar views and the same ways of thinking. This may be perfect for autonomy, but it isn’t great for innovation and growth.

A diverse workforce brings different ideas and new ways of thinking to the table and to business in general. A diverse workforce can better serve a global client or customer base. Members of staff that come from a range of backgrounds will have had different experiences, giving them a greater understanding of different points of views. This can be useful for empathizing or problem-solving in various situations, offering more tailored support or approach to clients or customers.

Truthfully, supporting diversity opens an organization up to a bigger and more creative talent pool. An organization that discriminates or purely recruit with a strict set of criteria in mind, will lose out on talented candidates. By widening the search and embracing diversity, organizations find talented employees.

A diverse workforce will add to an organization’s employer brand and company culture. Today’s professionals, especially millennials appreciate diversification and want to work for exciting, forward-thinking companies. By creating this kind of workforce, an organization will attract talented candidates, as well as retain existing members of staff who will be glad to remain a part of an exciting company.

 See Reaping the Benefits of Diversity for Modern Business Innovation


  1. Measuring the wrong things or everything

Agreed, you can’t monitor what you don’t measure. However, not knowing what to measure and thereby measuring everything is overkill in any organization. The misstep of measuring absolutely everything or not knowing what to measure is rooted in the misconception that success is based solely on measurement.

Success is not measured by the number of things you measure as an organization. Boiling all measurements down to money also doesn’t work for an organization. A company can make millions in profit yet not fulfil its purpose, ultimately failing miserably. Knowing exactly what to measure, when, how and why are the key factors for measuring success for organizations. Unless the sole purpose of an organization is to report findings on everything, there’s no viable reason for measuring everything.

Good measurements are key to the success of any organization. To effectively measure ROI/ROE, all internal departments need to ask themselves critical questions. Otherwise measuring incessantly is a waste of money and time. Above all, it’s one of the 6 seriously deadly organizational sins to avoid at all costs.

See Measuring Your Organization’s Performance

Business Ethics: Corporate Social Responsibility

Now that you have explored these 6 seriously deadly organizational sins to avoid at all costs, what can you add? There are many more organizational sins apart from these 6 deadly organizational sins to avoid at all costs. Let us hear about the rest from you.

Leave your comments below.


Catherine Adenle
Founder, Catherine's Career Corner. The career site empowering and inspiring ambitious candidates of all ages and professions to thrive and work smarter on their careers. Gladly helping all career-minded people worldwide to explore their career, manage change and understand how new technologies are changing and enhancing the future of work.
Catherine Adenle
Catherine Adenle

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