Preaching Virtue but Practicing Vice

Over the last decade, we have witnessed strong storms blow, disorienting big and small fishes alike in corporate Ghana leaving behind debris that has not be restored till today. Are these failures the result of poor governance structure or the exhibition of unethical behaviours at the workplace?

We see fancy and beautiful display of organizational values on pull-up stands, ceiling drops and walls in reception areas, offices, board and conference rooms. Values such as integrity, speed, honesty, respect and passion are quite common. These values are to guide behaviours at the workplace.

The recent storms in corporate Ghana raised a lot of eye brow about preaching and boldly displaying these values in organizations to make it look like our lives depend on it. It shows how hypocritical we are as a people when it comes to preaching and not practicing what we preach. It means that corporate governance and ethics in business is not adhered to and people generally are not sensitive to them.

Behind closed doors we go against these very values we preach to our team and clients in the name of profit making or keeping the organization alive.

Heads of Accounts are directed by top management members on what to do in preparing financial statements to make organization’s look good in the eye of regulators and customers. In fact different management accounts are prepared for different stakeholders when bidding for the same project. When the Head of Account expresses misgivings about such practices, he/she is given the ‘get out of the kitchen if you find it too hot’. Where is your value of integrity?

Your production team take up overtime assignments only for you to refuse to pay them the approved rate. Your mood and desire to make profit determines the rate and not what is approved. Honesty is shoved out of the window in this scenario I guess, it just needs to be hanged on the ceiling and displayed for people to see but not act it out.

You indicate your disdain for preferential treatment at the workplace time and time again. Yet vacancies in the organization are filled by your friends and family. The organisation’s neatly written recruitment and selection policy is of no relevance here too.

When staff are nominated for external training programmes as part of the organization’s learning & development policy you refuse. Even internal training with external facilitator’s are not regular. All this happens in the context of the organization recording high profits.

There are cases where employee salaries are not increased  for over 5 years. The excuse being ‘there is no money’. Yet employees see senior managers and their family living affluent lives.

It has been observed that managers receive low scores even when sales performance is overachieved by over 120%. The motive is to avoid increasing their salary and to eventually reduce cost. Fairness & Equity doesn’t really matter.

During  your presentation on corruption and anti-bribery at this year’s  Business Executives Summit, you expressly showed your concern on the effect this is having on our society. Great presentation by all standards. As a further step to illustrate your commitment to fighting bribery and corruption, you have also signed several anticorruption/bribery policies that are beautifully framed and displayed in your reception and office. In fact, staff are required to take a compliance anti-bribery and corruption test on an annual basis. How then do you direct your Marketing Director to ‘find’ something for the Procurement Manager of that institution to influence the award of that contract in your favour? How then is it the practice in your organization to pay ‘facilitation fees’, ‘donations’ and all manner of ‘sponsorship’ to other persons for conducting one business or the other with your organization? What happened to the anti-bribery and corruption policy? I guess it doesn’t apply here because in your opinion if business is not approached that way ‘nothing’ will happen.

An organization’s values determine its accepted behaviours and ultimately its culture. When an organization’s values are weak, one does not need to think too far about practices that pertain in the organization. Senior Management for that matter play a crucial role to achieve this. In most SME’s the culture of the organization is determined by the Chief Executive Officer. It therefore means leadership should be strong enough to hold such values in high esteem and live it in the day-to-day operations of the company.

Leadership now cannot be separated from values of an organization. Your personal values as a leader of an organization must tie in with that of your organization. That is  how it must be to develop a value-based business leader. It is not enough to be just a lip-service leader anymore. If you don’t believe in those values please don’t have them visibly displayed and please don’t preach it!  We cannot be led to believe that only ruthlessness and profit can enable us run businesses successfully in this country.