Are you brainwashing your employees?

Posted on December 20, 2011.

“The best theology would need no advocates; it would prove itself.” Karl Bath

Karl Bath may have said this about religion, but the same could be said about a company. If it’s such a great place to work, why do institutions feel the need to brainwash their employees and force the corporate " kool-aid" down their throat? The sad thing is that the brainwashing is often so subliminal, the employee never realizes it until they leave.  Ever wonder if you’ve been sipping the kool-aid? Ask yourself if your company does any the following:

  • Blocks emails from trusted sources. I recently sent one of our blogs-managing others for the first time to a former colleague, and was told the company blockedit. Really? I can see blocking certain sites and spam, but business or information sites? Is the company so concerned with differing points of view, they have to block them all out?
  • Conducts “all hands” calls when major changes are announced.  There is no doubt there is a need for putting talking points in the hands of your management team when undergoing major changes. But getting everyone on a call implies that you don’t trust your leadership team to deliver the message with the right spin. 
  • Blocks all social media access including professional sites like linkedinIf you truly have a meritocracy and create a culture where everyonewants to win, people won’t waste time on these sites. Plus, if you have a sales force, social media can be a great way to expand your network and increase revenue.
  • Showcases only the good news on the company intranet. It’s great to highlight individual successes and share best practices on the company website. At the corporate level, it’s also important to highlight mistakes and what the company has done to address them and move forward.

If you’re in a position of authority, there are some ways to counteract corporate mind control:

  • Hire, encourage and listen to diversity of thought. We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again, surrounding yourself with people who always agree with you is a recipe for disaster. You need someone to tell you when an idea or a plan won’t work.
  • Filter the corporate spin and tell your employees the message behind the message. Be honest and tell them what is really happening and how they will be impacted. This takes personal courage on your part, but your employees will see you as a real leader and not just a corporate mouthpiece.
  • Don’t believe all your own PR. It’s important to send the right message internally and externally and you always want to project a positive image. But if you really believe that your company is THE only company that hires the best and brightest or innovates like no other then you’ve already ingested more kool-aid than is safe and healthy. As a manager and leader you need to separate PR from reality and send a balanced message to your team. They’ll respect you and the company more in the end.

The best corporations don’t need to brainwash their employees, they prove themselves every day by their actual success, not their hype.