Here are a few examples from organizations I’ve worked with that have been plagued by weeds:
The Mourner Weed: After a particularly traumatic downsizing of a company, one department had a particularly difficult time accepting the change and supporting the new direction. The entire department including the manager expressed their dissatisfaction by securing and retaining the nameplates of all the former employees and displaying them on the outside of the department area.
Understandable grieving? Absolutely. But when it went unchecked for months, the culture of discontent took on a life of its own and disrupted the team’s ability to succeed.
Gardening Lesson: Conduct a downsizing with respect for the dignity of all affected individuals including both the departing and the remaining employees. Extra attention to those remaining – in the form of communication, resources, and articulating their connection to the future of the organization – is essential. If counterproductive attitudes and activities persist, deal with it early on.
The Loyalty Weed: One organization struggled mightily with a division whose leader was focused more on division success than on organizational success. Employees were instructed not to share information with other departments, to agree with but not to follow through on organizational initiatives and to report positively on employee satisfaction surveys (else be sought out and punished for their transgression). The problem was that the leader was considered critical to the success of the organization in terms of client and industry relationships.
When employees are employed and rewarded based on loyalty to the leader rather then on the meeting of shared and transparent organizational performance metrics the garden can get ugly.
Gardening Lesson: Weeds can have deceivingly beautiful flowers, making it easy to believe that they are adding value. Out of sight, however, under the soil, their roots are spreading and choking out those of other “good” plants. You have two choices: get rid of the behavior or get rid of the weed.
But the really tough weeds take an honest and committed gardener.