If a company’s leadership has intentions from the beginning to operate a fast-growing business in an unethical and illegal manner, while maintaining a positive public image, I have observed one possible sadistic model that can be successful, at least on a short term basis.
The CEO needs to be a well-liked, mild-mannered, suave, polished and articulate business person. His second in command, on the other hand, should be a domineering, short-tempered, intimidating, executive bully who doesn’t take no for an answer. It’s his way or the highway and he drives the truck that runs over you. The second in command essentially takes direction from the CEO and barks out orders and creates fear across the organization.
The second in command is seen as someone to be feared and most people will never cross him nor question the direction of the company, even if it is unethical or illegal. All this while the CEO looks like the good guy and the company is considered an excellent corporate citizen. It’s the corporate version of good cop, bad cop. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the C-Suite. This leadership model is confusing to employees on the inside but the public never notices the sadistic practices of the operation.
According to the 2007 National Business Ethics Survey published by the Ethics Resource Center, the second most observed ethical violation is abusive or intimidating behavior observed by twenty-one percent of employees. That means one out of every five employees routinely observe the use of abusive or intimidating behavior in the workplace.
Abusive and intimidating behavior is evil, wrong and has no place in the business world. Bullies use the resulting fear to prevent employees from questioning unethical or illegal decisions or methods. According to the Ethics Resource Center, almost thirteen percent of employees experience retaliation for reporting misconduct. If you work for Evil Inc. the leaders get what they want and nobody dare stop them. Employees and middle management lack the nerve to question their methods because fear is the weapon of choice at Evil Inc.
Evil Inc., however, is not a long-term going business concern. Typically the business owners, who are narcissistic and ruthless, run the business long enough to make as much money as possible for themselves before the company folds. One day everything seems fine to the public then suddenly the company files bankruptcy or closes its doors. Their voodoo business act is over. The curtain falls on their bipolar management style and operations stop as quickly as they started. Sadly, the last chapter of Evil Inc.’s story is never a happy ending.