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The Protected Species




I wrote an article some time ago about companies with heart.  The ones that have a clear sense of purpose and values bigger than their own self interests.  Companies that know what they stand for and how they want to show up in the world. This gives them a core strength that has helped them remain standing when challenged by the winds of adversity and change.


The opposite of companies with heart are what I term Hollow Organisations.  They have nothing at the core, no sense of purpose or values.  Like a hollow tree, they can look healthy from the outside for a while, but eventually become diseased, weakened and eventually die or topple over.


These Hollow Organisations provide a comfortable home for a particular corporate type – the Protected Species.



The Protected Species – teflonis untouchables – are managers and employees who behave in damaging and dysfunctional ways, however are never challenged, performance managed, or fired, despite the damage that they do in the organisation.


Some examples of the more common protected species include bullies, sexual predators, chauvinists, and members of ‘the boys club”.


The Protected Species seem immune to ethical or social expectations, transgressing reasonable standards of behavior and conduct without consequence.  Screaming and intimidating others, making sexual innuendoes and comments, favoring ‘the boys’ over more competent and deserving employees, are just some examples of the Protected Species in action.


Without a clear sense of what its stands for, the Hollow Organisation is the perfect habitat for the Protected Species.  There are no clear standards to which it holds its employees accountable, so the protected species can live without fear of punishment or consequences to their destructive behavior.  In the Hollow Organisation they can thrive and even multiply in numbers.


So why do they survive so well in many organisations? 


Often because of the results they produce, or a unique set of skills and competencies that they possess.  Even when senior management are made aware of the issues, they are loath to take real and credible actions for fear of losing the individual from the business and incurring a direct hit on short term results. 


Sometimes the Protected Species are just too well connected, with relationships at the senior level that provide them with a level of protection from complaints made by those further down in the organisation.


It is also a danger to see them as relatively isolated examples, or as benign creatures living peacefully and symbiotically in the hollow organisation.  Oh no, their existence, even in small numbers costs the host organisation dearly.


Slowly they eat away at the living healthy tissue of the organisation, with a cultural disease and moral rot setting in.  Other employees become disenchanted and leave, or worse become helpless victims and stay.


They are dangerous to eradicate too.  Cautious when approached, they can quickly attack.  The stories that accompanied the allegations leveled at Mike Tancred at the Australian Olympic Committee and Don Burke at Channel 9 are good examples of just how nasty and vicious things can get.


Thankfully the #metoo movement has seen a lot more examples being bought to light.


But why does it take a global social media movement before so many of our corporate leaders take notice and do something about it?


Fortunately, in my practice as a coach and leadership trainer I also see positive examples of leaders confronting the Protected Species in their businesses.  It takes a lot of courage and a fierce resolve to do this work, which is why these admirable leaders are themselves clear on their purpose and what they stand for.  Unprepared to accept the status quo, or stand idly by, strong leaders remove the Protected Species and treat the cultural disease and moral rot they had created. 



What are you doing about the Protected Species in your business? 



#metoo #companieswithheart #courageousleaders #holloworganisations