Culture themes

Reputation risk

The challenge

When a corporate scandal hits the press, it’s rarely an isolated incident, but rather a spike in a pattern of behaviour that already exists within the culture. Certain behaviours have probably been encouraged, or at least tolerated, which lead to reputational problems. The results are the same- reputation damage and financial loss.

The News of the World, FIFA, Volkswagen, BP, Nike, Enron, Lehman Brothers all suffered. Reputation damage will at best dent your performance and tarnish your name, at worse it will cause the collapse of your business.

The challenge for organisations is not to merely define corporate values and standards, but to ensure they are truly lived in the day-to-day.


Recognise the risks

  • Are there behaviours present in your business right now that may give cause for concern? Sexual harassment, gender or ethnic inequality, high risk behaviours, unethical behaviours, or even extreme achievement behaviours? If these are occurring in your business then you could be sitting on a cultural and reputation time bomb.
  • Is culture discussed? Companies that have an open dialogue about values, beliefs and behaviours are more adept at managing reputation risk.
  • What happens when performance pressure is applied? Where are the risks? How can you reassure your people that no matter the pressure, certain corporate values and standards will always be preserved?

Action checklist

  • Run an honest assessment of your current culture. You need to understand what behaviours are present in the organisation and the beliefs and values upon which they are built.
  • Define your values and standards. Make it easy for people to understand the behaviours which are going to be encouraged and discouraged. Be wary of how behaviours become tolerated over time.
  • Be overt in describing how the intended culture will impact decision-making in the business. Creating a strong culture story and communication are vital.
  • Find your culture champions, those already exhibiting the behaviours you want, and work with them to influence the rest of the organisation.

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