From the questionable recruiting practices of Yahoo, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Apple, and Genentech to corporate bribes by Sun Microsystems and Intel's EU anti-trust charges, a number of the valley's top companies appear to have lost their way.
Our discussion turned to whether the global recession had shifted the moral compass needle with fearful employees more willing to cross the lines in order to keep their jobs.
I argued that these behaviors were likely entrenched long before the economy took a dive, but that the tanking global economy might have exacerbated an already bleak situation.
I was out voted and accused of naivete. Personal responsibility was not even on the table for discussion!
Granted these are ex-employees whose loyalty to their former employers went out the door when they were shown the door, but I was still taken aback by their perspective.
Now, I’m all for breaking the rules when it makes sense to do so—in fact I built an entire business around risktaking and innovation.
Realizing that companies don’t lose their way without employees losing theirs, I created a business model of Responsible Risktaking™ that takes into account the upstream and downstream risks and opportunities associated with decision points made by individuals.
It’s been over a decade since I worked for Intel as a Supply Chain Strategic Ops manager. As part of my role I accepted responsibility for not putting the company at risk and clearly understood the boundaries and consequences for not doing my job.
This included staying within the limits of the company’s $25 gift limit policy.
I was frequently invited by suppliers to golfing weekends in Palm Springs, offered boxed seats to sports events, tickets to conferences, etc. Turning them down even became a joke when one of our suppliers gave me as a Christmas gift a mug with individually stamped colored pencils totaling $24.95 (I accepted it with great humor).
Knowing that I was clearly in alignment with my chain of command and purchasing rep made it easier to be personally responsible. But even if they hadn’t been, I could still choose how I would behave.
There are deeper organizational shifts when leaders lose their way and compromise their company’s cultural values, something that an uptick in the economy won’t solve.
This is why Intel’s woes are on a more personal level for me. I saw the early unraveling of the company’s strong moral compass over a decade ago, when certain groups and their leaders felt entitled to break the ethics and policy rules without consequences.
It obviously sent a clear message that it was okay to muddy the waters.