Culture of dishonesty can poison an organisation

Computer error or a demonstration of rotten organisational culture?Mistakes,  lack of ownership & faulty organisational culture

Am I being too precious or thinking too deeply about this rotten culture thing?

Is it me being paranoid again? It can’t just be me can it?

Please let me know what you think.

The inciting event

My wife and I were in our local branch of our building society, I won’t bother naming them but they are a big outfit here in Wales, and encountered an intriguing incident.

It is not even the event itself which is of interest/concern/annoyance to me but the underlying systemic issues it points to.

Our teller was so busy trying to up-sell/push various financial items to us – none of which we wanted – that she messed up the cheque we were supposed to get and instead printed the passbook update all over the cheque.

Here is the cause for concern. It was fairly obvious that she had messed this sequence up. I make mistakes all the time. Everyone does. If she had taken responsibility and fessed up I would have happily accepted it and let her make the necessary corrections.  We all make mistakes and nobody is perfect. Least of all me .

Here’s the thing. Instead of fessing up she straight away said the computer had made a mistake and that it had never done this before. The computer department would have to be informed. Really? It was the dishonest excuses and buck passing which really took the jam out of my doughnut. Is this an organisational culture thing here – I think it might well be.

The deeper issues

Here are the problems as I see them:


She assumed her customer was ignorant to the extent they might not be aware that she was using a dumb terminal and, as no one else was having any problems, it must have been her error. This excuse might have worked back in the 80’s but not now.

This shows a serious lack of understanding of her customers and/or a complete disregard for them.


She believes there really is a terminal issue which indicates a severe lack of training in this branch at least.


There is a strong blame culture within the organisation and admitting an error will lead to a reprimand rather than a learning experience. There is therefore no impetus or encouragement to do the right thing and be honest with customers.


Too busy up-selling (perhaps for commission) rather than paying attention to and tackling the job at hand in the best way possible.


The whole financially based organisational culture is as rotten as every other financial institution and cares not a jot for its customers.

My belief and the possible solution

I suspect a mixture of all these and perhaps a few others as well.

The solution would be a top-down examination of organisational culture with the emphasis on installing and improving the  levels of emotional intelligence in both the organisation, leaders, managers and all employees.

They are a business which relies on people so start treating people as thinking feeling creatures rather than simple numbers and annoying interruptions to their busy working day.

If it is just me overreacting please let me know. I believe it all points to a more sinister reason. I believe there is a fundamental total and systemic lack of genuine customer care in many modern financial organisations. It can be fixed but only if they choose to fix it themselves or are forced to fix it by us.