Failing the Culture We Build is a Moral Injury

We as organization leaders are striving to build a high performing organization that might look like this:

High-Performance Cultures
Leaders are skilled, admired, and build organizations that excel at results and at taking excellent care of their people and their customers
Clear and compelling vision, mission, goals, and strategy
Core values drive the culture and are used in decision making
Committed to excellence, ethics, and doing things right
Clear roles, responsibilities, and success criteria, and strong commitment to engaging, empowering, and developing people
Positive, can-do work environment
Open, candid, straightforward, and transparent communication
Teamwork, collaboration, and involvement are the norm
Emphasis on constant improvement and state-of-the-art knowledge and practices
Willingness to change, adapt, learn from successes and mistakes, take reasonable risk, and try new things
Attributes of a High Performing Culture

There is a dark underbelly to aspiring to this, leaders who either fail to meet these standards or demonstrate hypocrisy and “do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do” attitudes. Organizations that aspire, can easily be hoisted by their own petard, and there is an excellent term for this “Moral Injury.”

Moral injury is understood to be the strong cognitive and emotional response that can occur following events that violate a person’s moral or ethical code. Potentially morally injurious events include a person’s own or other people’s acts of omission or commission, or betrayal by a trusted person in a high-stakes situation. For example, look at healthcare staff working during the COVID-19 pandemic who experienced a moral injury because they perceive that they received inadequate protective equipment, or when their workload is such that they deliver care of a standard that falls well below what they would usually consider to be good enough. This is causing a mass exodus of employees.

Give some thought to how to resolve moral injuries when they happen. Include them in your change plan and make them sustainable. They can happen, and when they do they will cripple your organization.

4 thoughts on “Failing the Culture We Build is a Moral Injury

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