I remember vividly my first days as the new VP of Marketing and Business Development in a Wisconsin hospital. I made it a point to walk around and introduce myself in various departments. It was important for me to get to know the people and the culture.
During one of my early rounds, I discovered a custom of accepting rude behavior from a few select individuals. I learned this when I walked into a department to find the director in a heated discussion with one of the respiratory therapists. Somewhat taken aback that this discussion was happening in a customer-facing area, I paused, assuming the pair would turn their attention to me – a stranger stepping up to the front desk. They did. But instead of asking how they could help me, the director turned to me and rudely asked, “What do you want?”
I found the director’s behavior to be rude, unwelcoming and totally contradictory to the values espoused during my orientation. When I recapped this encounter to the VP of Clinical Services he replied, “That’s just Dave,” and shrugged it away.
It sounds like a little thing but it’s not. Every time we minimize undesirable behavior, we are helping to normalize it. In this case, I was being told that in this culture, and this environment, I should get used to Dave’s behavior. I learned that because of his aggressive nature, people were not likely to cross Dave and this served him well. He could do or say what he wanted because he intimidated others. Passive acceptance of rude behavior lowers the bar for everyone.
I pointed out to the VP of Clinical Services that he was letting Dave define the norm instead of making sure that the values defined the norm. It was an eye-opener and helped me to lay the groundwork for behavioral standards.
Are you harboring “Daves” in your organization? Stop making excuses and start addressing the behavior. By not dealing with it, you’re eroding your own credibility.