When CEO’s Sabotage the Organization


Since all breadcrumbs lead back to the CEO, it is imperative that a CEO establishes trust.  Trust is essential in order for the organization’s Talent to accept authority.  When this happens, what transpires is what historians, criminologists, economists, and other academics refer to as the Principle of Legitimacy.  For a CEO to not enact this principle is tantamount to sabotaging the organization s/he leads.


The Principle of Legitimacy

Legitimacy is based on three factors:

1.  Voice.  If employees speak up, they will be heard. 

SABOTAGE EXAMPLE:  The Employee Engagement Survey is typically conducted annually to determine which pockets within the organization can refine its processes.  This is an opportunity for Talent to express their concerns, usually anonymously.  If leaders are instructing Talent that a marked increase in the team, departmental, or organizational score is directly tied to their bonus, how does introducing a financial conflict of interest affect purposeful, strategic input?  Aside from monetary rewards, what other pressures on placed on Talent to not express transparently their concerns?  How can the organization’s health improve if this is the case?  Is there an OD practitioner who can move forward comments, concerns, and questions? 

2.  Predictability.  There has to be a reasonable expectation that tomorrow’s and today’s rules are roughly the same. 

SABOTAGE EXAMPLE:  Transparent Succession Planning is critical in talent retention.  With a communicated succession plan, employees gain a sense of where they are in terms of possible internal promotion, and understand which areas require development prior to advancement.  If one has been created and distributed, and promotions occur outside of the plan, then however elaborate the plan may be, there is no confidence instituted due to perceived or actual cronyism.  How does lack of predictability impact an ambitious Talent culture already poised to move with agility through today’s challenging economy and dynamic changes in technology? How can an organization retain its tracked Talent, if the Talent perceives bias and intentionally misleading communication?  How can an organization keep its attrition cost low from the fall-out of distrust and lack of respect for authority?  How is an organization building on its personal branding if it speaks out of both sides of its metaphorical mouth?  Furthermore, in highly structured organizations, how does the hierarchy make it possible to raise this as an issue?…How balanced is the process?

3.  Fairness.  All groups/individuals are treated the same. 

SABOTAGE EXAMPLE:  Professional Development Plans (PDP) are individualized charts created in tandem with supervisors.  When done correctly, the direct report understands the SMART goals and how to execute upon them, resulting in a winning team – much like NFL coach and player.  If the supervisor only assigns a PDP exercise to one direct report and not to the rest of the team, then inequitable treatment is in place.  If it is done with negative intent, then s/he would not advise the direct report nor undertake any aspect of the exercise.  This is also called a “micro-inequity” – when subtle behaviors are targeted towards one or certain individuals.  How does exclusion impact the organization’s overall performance?  More specifically, how empowered would you feel if this happened to you?  What are the policies &/or communication channels in place to activate fairness when unequal standards are applied?

It is the responsibility of the CEO to maintain and improve the organization’s health by practicing the Principle of Legitimacy.  S/He can accomplish this by providing a voice to its talent, and requiring predictability and fairness at all levels.  When sabotage occurs, there are Talent Managers in place who are more like administrators than innovators.

A legitimate CEO is one who is on top of this.


Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator.  CorporateLookingGlass.com. 



Malcolm Gladwell.  David and Goliath.  Little, Brown and Company: NY, NY.  2013. Pg 207.

Patty McCord, former Chief Talent Officer, Netflix.  http://hbr.org/2014/01/how-netflix-reinvented-hr/ar/6


About Rossina

Thought Partner & Corporate Primatologist

Posted on January 12, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: